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Flashback to 1998: Not quite plain sailing

By Toby Neal | Nostalgia | Published:

The adventurous Edington family of Broseley Wood had not even got out of their garden before hitting a snag at the start of their epic journey to the other side of the world.

Suzy, Sally and Peter Edington with, front, Sophie, in the Gambia.

Their 56ft yacht, loaded on a special transporter, was hemmed in by overhanging trees.

"Obviously the trees had grown a lot more than we had thought,” said Peter Edington, 47, who with wife Sally and daughters Suzy, 16, and Sophie, 13, were leaving Shropshire on August 4, 1998, on their voyage to Australia.

That first leg involved transporting their yacht Loquax by road to Plymouth.

The solution to that tree problem was simple – saw off the branches.

On our way... Loquax sails out of Plymouth harbour

Then they had to navigate the narrow streets, which proved a tight squeeze as the yacht, under police escort, passed between some houses in Broseley with only inches to spare, with traffic being brought to a standstill.

Telephone cables were held aloft to allow the yacht to pass underneath.

A crowd of onlookers had earlier watched as the 16 tonne sloop was carefully lifted from the Edingtons’ garden by crane and on to the lorry.

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Peter had told his neighbours that it was his ambition to build his own boat and sail it round the world, and they had followed his progress with interest.

Chopping and changing

The family's plan had been to sail to Africa before crossing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to end their epic journey at Australia in the millennium year 2000.

The home-built Loquax had been completed in 1992 and had already proven itself, taking the family on previous ocean adventures.

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They did not have to wait long to be put to the test on the Australian journey, as they were battered by storms and at the outset high winds ripped the main sail in the Bay of Biscay.

Reaching Gambia, in a link-up with the charity Sightsavers International, they sailed nearly 200 miles up the River Gambia to take medical supplies and equipment to bush hospitals where local eye surgeons performed nearly 300 operations on local Gambians blinded by cataracts.

Their trek then took them across the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal into the Pacific and stops at places like the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, and Vanuatu.

In the vastness of the Pacific they were becalmed with dwindling fuel and water supplies and a container ship came to their aid. At one point their satellite telephone failed. At another, the auto pilot failed.

Trees had to be cut back so the yacht could get out

The crew saw some chopping and changing during the course of the voyage. For instance, Sally had had commitments back home so rejoined the family when they arrived at Barbados.

After 14 months at sea covering nearly 19,000 miles they made landfall in December 1999 at the small Australian town of Bundaberg, north of Brisbane.

They made their way to Sydney in time for the spectacular celebrations there to mark the new millennium, moored just a stone's throw from Sydney Opera House with an unrivalled view of the breathtaking fireworks.

Journey's end also marked a new beginning for the family. They loved Australia so much that they settled there.

In the years that followed Peter and Sally worked to raise awareness of the effect of global warming on developing island nations, and on world poverty.

Peter now runs a sailing school in Sydney, Australia, and Loquax is owned by a non-profit club and he and Sally invite people from all walks of life to join them on board to experience the thrill of ocean sailing.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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