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Cyclops Marine 2023 November - LEADERBOARD

Sailing with a Purpose by The Cruising Kiwis

by Rachel Hamill of The Cruising Kiwis 6 Apr 00:01 UTC
The Hamill family minus Finn (who has NZL Rowing Team duties) © The Cruising Kiwis

Embarking on a journey that spans the world's oceans is more than a mere adventure — it's a profound exploration of life's complexities, resilience, and the uncharted territories that define our existence. The allure of crossing an ocean by yacht lies in the unparalleled solitude it offers, where sea and sky stretch endlessly in every direction, disconnecting travellers from the digital noise and placing them at the mercy of the vessel beneath. In 2018, this became our reality as my husband, our three boys, and I set sail on Javelot, our 43-foot catamaran, ushering in a new chapter as full-time liveaboard sailors.

Our initial foray into ocean sailing was not a leap into the unknown; it followed a year in 2018 spent acquainting ourselves with Javelot along New Zealand's northeast coast and a seven-month adventure to the South Pacific. Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia became the backdrop to our family's trip. However, it was during this time that we realized we were not alone in our love for oceanic exploration. A vibrant community of fellow sailors and adventurers illuminated the vast possibilities that lay ahead, encouraging us to make the sea a permanent part of our lives.

For my husband, Rob, the ocean was more than a journey; it was an integral part of his upbringing. Raised near the Whakatane River in New Zealand, he learned to surf and sail against the backdrop of his father's maritime tales from World War II and family fishing trips on board his motorboat.

In August of 1978, when Rob was just 14 years old, his elder brother Kerry embarked on an extraordinary adventure that would later unfold into a tragic tale. Kerry, along with a friend, set sail on a 28-foot Malaysian built double ended Bedar, "Foxy Lady," voyaging through Southeast Asia. This daring journey took them through uncharted waters and diverse cultures, with Rob's family back home eagerly anticipating the letters that Kerry sent home, detailing his experiences. Rob talks about his story, of losing his brother Kerry and their subsequent visit to Cambodia

In this first episode

and also this episode from our channel.

However, Kerry's letters abruptly halted in August of the same year, leaving the Hamill family in a state of uncertainty about Kerry’s safety. Sixteen agonizing months later, when Rob was 16, the family learned the grim truth about Kerry's fate. His yacht had inadvertently strayed into Cambodian waters during the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. A Khmer Rouge naval gunboat attacked them, resulting in the tragic death of Kerry's Canadian friend Stuart Glass, while Kerry and another crew member, John Dewhirst, were taken captive, bound with ropes, and transported back to Phnom Penh, where they were incarcerated in the notorious S21, Tuol Sleng prison. For two months, they endured starvation, torture, and coercion to sign false confessions branding them as CIA operatives.

Decades later, we revisited Cambodia as a family. Rob, having previously been to Cambodia in 2009 for the ECCC (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia) war crimes tribunal, had already walked through the sombre halls of Tuol Sleng prison, confronting the painful reality that a family member had been part of the horrors that unfolded within those walls. Yet it was important for our children to understand that atrocities that had not only been bestowed upon our family but also on the Cambodian people.

Kerry's story remains an indelible chapter in our family's history, shaping our perspective on life, adventure, and the fragility of human existence. The sailing journey we embarked upon, retracing Kerry's route and revisiting the last-known destination, became a poignant tribute and a means of navigating through the complex emotions tied to this tragic tale.

Our sailing odyssey is not just about navigation; it's a tapestry woven with highs and lows, unexpected detours, and uncharted territories. Six years into this transformative journey, the wisdom gained surpasses the challenges faced. As we traverse the globe, we've amassed cherished memories, remarkable stories, and invaluable lessons, all shared through The Cruising Kiwis. Travel, for us, has become a teacher, revealing the shared humanity beyond political borders.

Life aboard a sailboat demands an appreciation for simplicity. The ocean itself becomes our classroom, offering lessons in geography, history, culture, and languages. Every setback, whether it's a torn sail or a lightning strike (such as the one we faced in Australia in December 2019), becomes an opportunity for personal growth. Onboard, personal possessions are minimal, and water conservation measures replace the luxury of long showers—an insignificant trade for the freedom the open sea provides.

As our journey continues, we share our experiences with an open heart and an open mind, embracing the spontaneity of life at sea. Adapting to unfamiliar environments, connecting with diverse individuals, and exploring the uncharted waters of existence have become the hallmarks of our family's trip. Life aboard a sailboat isn't always smooth sailing, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges, making it a voyage of self-discovery and boundless exploration.

The Hamill boys, Declan and Ivan, are also building a successful TikTok and YouTube following. Declan's intro video below explains their lifestyle and growing up on a boat.

You can follow Rachel and her family, The Cruising Kiwis, where they document their life on the water.

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