Born in 1956 in a suburb of Birmingham, United Kingdom, I was raised by hard working parents in a working class environment. I was always an entrepreneurial kind of lad, knitting ties when I was just 10 years old and trying to sell them in my mothers shop, buying pens and pencils at the warehouse and selling them for a few pence more to anyone I could, washing and polishing cars in the back yard for a few shillings and I even had a go at rabbit farming when I was 16, but soon learnt the hard way that everyone wasn’t as honest as I was and my small business came to an abrupt end when the money owed to me was never paid. Life is a roller coaster ride of ups and downs and I firmly believe, that for the most part, you make your own luck in life. Learn from your mistakes, be a good person, work hard and one day you will surely succeed with your ambitions in life.
I met Julie when she was 16, we married when she was 21 and have 35 years of marriage under our belts. We have led, and still lead, a very busy and exciting life. Soon after we married we bought a derelict barn with 100 acres of land in the Welsh hills. Not being farmers or builders, we soon learned the hard way that you can’t catch sheep in a 100 acre field or mix concrete when it’s 5 degrees below freezing. We must have amused our neighbours more than a few times with our sheep catching skills and our determination to get a roof over our heads. One year we had over 10’ of snow and were still trying to carry bags of cement, over fields, 1/4 mile from the nearest road. Can you picture what happens in 10’ of soft snow when you are carrying a bag of cement? Yes, that happened to us and we never found the cement to this day.
We were happy and life on our 100 acre estate farm was magical. The land, untouched for more than 30 years, was a natural wilderness teaming with wildlife, birds and old growth trees that were hundreds of years old. Our green and ethical lifestyle together with our environmental beliefs were satisfied in every way and over the years we slowly converted the derelict barn into a family home. We were blessed with three daughters and life was busy, but fun and full of hard work with never enough hours in the day. Our business of manufacturing and selling equestrian products, situated on a two acre site some 18 miles away, was forever growing at an exponential rate and we were employing over 50 people.
Over the years we managed to find some time to escape the pressures of work and were lucky enough to spend 6 months pursuing our interests of exploring and living in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea and Borneo. We lived with some of the last nomadic tribes on Earth and spent many a night sleeping in a hastily built night shelter, eating blowpipe caught tree squirrels with our nomadic friends dressed in nothing but a loin cloth. Unfortunately the rainforests were being cut down at an alarming rate and the policies of corrupt officials and governments meant little thought was ever given to the tribal communities that sustainably lived in these incredible forests. Over a 3 year period we filmed, photographed and documented the indigenous populations and rainforests being destroyed, the destruction being total and complete in every sense of the word. Some of the filming we did, driving and walking along the logging tracks, would no doubt have been illegal. We filmed huge trees being chain sawed to the ground. Saw logging blockades being set up by local tribes people, who were eventually taken away and put in jail hundreds of miles away from home, with no idea of where they were or with any means to find their way back. Their families were left in the forest, and with no one to look after them, their wives and children would suffer and starve. Some would leave the forest to work in logging camps and local towns with many being forced into slave labour and prostitution. The scenes were brutal and upsetting and for a few nights we hid in the forest or at peoples night shelters avoiding the government soldiers who were scouring the area looking for outsiders (namely us) who didn’t have permission to be there.
Our environmental concerns were now deeply embedded into our lives and each time we returned to the UK we were looking to escape the forever increasing bureaucratic and consumer lead lifestyle that was slowly taking over our lives.
Trying to fit in the family, the farm and the business was a balancing act and as the years slowly past we found ourselves working longer and longer hours under an ever increasing amount of pressure.
Our children were spending more and more time at child minders and with the enormous pressures from work, we decided our lifestyle and quality of life was no longer sustainable. After 23 years we decided we had had enough and sold the company. Not for a huge amount of money, but enough to pay off our mortgage, buy a sailing yacht and have enough left over to have an adventure and follow a dream, yet to be discovered.
We set sail in 1996 for our inaugural sail across the Atlantic Ocean and made landfall in St Lucia around 4 weeks later. The Ocean crossing was a roller coast ride of excitement and fear and opened our eyes to the realities of life on-board a sailing yacht. We sailed the Caribbean for 2 years and often visited Bequia where we could drop the anchor in the most beautiful environment imaginable. Our three daughters were enrolled in a UK correspondence course and Julie had the enviable job of being both teacher and mother on board.
Life was good, sailing from island to island, exploring the beaches, swimming, snorkelling, catching fish and having a barbecue in the evening with a few cold beers. One day we were offered an Island tour of Bequia by Elson a local taxi driver. We accepted and fell in love with the island and after 6 months of searching we found the most magical piece of land for sale, overlooking the Caribbean Sea and Admiralty Bay with views of our yacht at anchor. The small pot of money being held back for an unknown adventure was now committed and to this day that Island tour in Elson’s taxi cab was the most expensive ride we have ever had.
Having committed to a world circumnavigation, we set sail from Bequia in 1998 and spent the next three years sailing around the world with our three young daughters aged 9, 12 and 13. We visited hundreds of white sand, sun-drenched, tropical islands but always thought of Bequia as an exceptional island in a stunning part of the world.
After completing our circumnavigation and sailing across the Atlantic Ocean for the second time, we returned to Bequia in 2001 to embark on our next adventure and this is where we pass you over to our recently published book ‘The Building of Tropical Hideaway’.
We hope one day soon to publish our book about the adventures of sailing around the world with our three young daughters. For an absolutely compelling story that will send a shiver up your spine, make you cry with fear and laugh with happiness ….. watch this space.
You can also read our daughter’s online diary with numerous photographs and comments about her building experiences. Available at www.buildinginbequia.com.