WORLD WAS THEIR OYSTER: Duncan and Caroline Woodhead have returned to Ballina after sailing around the world for more than five years on the Maggie Drum.
WORLD WAS THEIR OYSTER: Duncan and Caroline Woodhead have returned to Ballina after sailing around the world for more than five years on the Maggie Drum. Marc Stapelberg

Couple share their oceanic odyssey

INNER strength.

That's what you need if you're going to sail around the world according to Ballina couple Duncan and Caroline Woodhead, who have just anchored home after five and a half years doing just that.

Since leaving Ballina in May 2013 onboard their Whitby 42 sailboat, Maggie Drum, the couple have been to Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, France, England, Ireland, Morocco, other glorious spots in Europe and more - just to name a few, and have crossed both "unnervingly shallow" and eerie, endlessly deep waters to do so.

Challenging, rewarding, exciting; put on the spot, that's how the couple summed up their epic 27,000 nautical mile adventure.

They got plenty of land adventures in too from hiking in Morocco, horse riding in Panama, to driving around Ireland.

While it was mostly smooth sailing, there were ripped sails, broken water pumps, huge ships and unkind winds to battle while at sea.

"It's you with a boat against the weather," Mrs Woodhead said.

"We had a water pump break down so the engine wouldn't work basically and we had never touched the water pumped and we're thinking 'How does this work?'.

"You're in the middle of the ocean and you know it's going to be a long while before we can call a mechanic."

That is where spares are vital, they said.

"There are days you're thinking get me out of here and you're not enjoying it so much," Mr Woodhead said.

"When you cruise you wait for the weather window to be right. And with dangerous areas we just kept well off the coast.

"Coming across the pacific you're at sea for three weeks. But you're changing sails and you have to be up for 24 hours a day doing the shifts.

"But it's a long time to keep yourself occupied at sea.

"The fresh fruit only lasts so long then you're looking at the canned food.

Preparing for a round-the-world sailing trip is not an easy task, they said.

"We bought the boat in New Zealand in 2009 with a shallow draught so we could go through the French Canals," Mr Woodhead said.

"We sailed up and down the coast here to get used to it and we've sailed around the Pacific before.

"So it took us a while planning where we wanted to go and we've always said when the kids were old enough to leave we would do it.

They also had to include in their plan how to keep their business (Alstonville Country Cottages) running for five years.

But no matter how prepared you are -"things will still go wrong".

"Pick your boat carefully. Watch the weather. Be careful with the boats you get on to. Take it slowly," was their advice.

It's no light task and life was good for the pair in Australia, but they wanted a challenge.

"Mind you we could probably do a bit wit a bit less challenge at the moment. We've done five and a half years of challenge," Mr Woodhead said.

So what's next for the couple? - land travel and horse riding.



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