Chris and Mark Dewey on swapping Winchester for life on the ocean wave
PUBLISHED: 16:43 08 July 2014 | UPDATED: 13:58 25 March 2015
Chris & Mark Dewey
Chris and Mark Dewey swapped Winchester for the world, creating a home from home on board their yacht; they chat to Emma Caulton
Chris and Mark Dewey are regaling me with tales of life at sea. They describe being able to see the whole horizon with nothing else in sight. Hundreds of curious dolphins criss-crossing their boat, jumping up to look at them. A whale swimming alongside them before returning, with a heavy flick, into the depths. Phenomenal night watches, smelling land long before you see it, and the sound of the sea - “The best sound in the world,” says Mark.
The couple have been living the dream – sailing around the world. Their memories seem magical. In comparison Southampton’s Ocean Village Marina, where the couple recently bought an apartment that can easily be locked up so they can go off on their boat, seems prosaic.
The adventure started back in Winchester where they then lived. They had been sailing for some 30 years, but that had been confined to the Solent and short trips to the Channel Islands and France. The furthest they had sailed was crossing the Bay of Biscay.
Mark was immersed in running his own company, but had always said that when he didn’t enjoy it any more he’d pack it in. Then that day arrived.
Mark recalls: “I just said ‘let’s go off around the world!’ I had never been interested in crossing an ocean before, but I felt ready for it.”
Chris smiles: “I thought, oh my God, just the two of us stuck on a boat! I wasn’t too sure about it.”
Then she read an article in Yachting Monthly about the Blue Water Rally - an organised biannual circumnavigation of the world in a group, and the idea seemed more achievable.
So Chris did her Yachtmaster Ocean course and they both took various safety courses.
Then there was the boat: a Discovery 55 (that means it is 55 feet long for those not in the know) built by Discovery Yachts specifically for couples like Chris and Mark.
Discovery Yachts was established by John Charnley and his wife Caroline in the mid-1990s when they couldn’t find a suitable cruising yacht for the two of them to sail. So they commissioned Ron Holland, renowned for designing superyachts, to build them a boat. It was ten years before they managed to go off sailing in one of their own boats; in the meantime they found themselves running a thriving business building ten bespoke yachts each year and employing an impressive team of around 100 encompassing in-house naval architects, designers and specialist craftsmen.
The yachts are built at Marchwood, near Southampton, but although 80 per cent are sold to Brits, few stay in the UK. They’re mostly found in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and South America...these are yachts for people with a sense of adventure. All are built for smooth, safe sailing with sturdy, stable hulls, electric winches and lots of other high-tech features which make them both robust enough and manageable enough to be sailed by two.
What Chris and Mark particularly liked was that although designed for serious sailing, they’re also very sociable boats with many home comforts. Chris comments: “I said if we’re going around the world it’s got to be a home from home.”
From the spacious cockpit, there are just three wide, superyacht-style steps into a generous saloon with panoramic windows for amazing sea views - this was one of the main features that attracted Chris and Mark. Luxuries include a big slide-up TV screen and a wine cabinet tucked under the table.
Chris claims the galley is as nice as her kitchen at home. It has a big fridge and an equally big freezer (essential when crossing the Pacific where there are no marina and scarce provisions). The gas oven and hob, supported by gimbals, self-levels regardless of the angle of the boat, and there are three sinks – the shallowest used as a catch-all whenserving up.
“We never spilt a thing – everyone else ended up with dinner on the floor at some stage,” says Chris, referring to the other boats in the Rally. “We didn’t.”
There’s a normal-size domestic Zanussi washing machine - “although we lived in shorts and swimming costumes”. While the stylish shower rooms come complete with proper showers, flush loos and heated towel rails; and there’s a king size bed in the master suite, the same size as the one Mark and Chris have at home.
With enough accommodation to sleep six, there’s room for family, friends or crew. Alternatively a cabin can be adapted into an office as many owners work from their yacht – including Chris: “I was still sending out invoices; nobody knows where you are.”
Everywhere you look the attention to detail impresses, right down to the seating in the cockpit being at the most ergonomic angle for comfort at sea.
An unexpected feature is a bath in the cockpit. Chris says: “We really liked having our bath and we really did use it.” Filled with fresh water (there is not only a generator on board, but a water-maker making up to 120 litres of fresh water per hour), it was used to soak diving gear. Filled with sea water it was used to release a baby turtle from a sanctuary out to sea.
Mark recalls: “David, on another Discovery 55 Roundabout, caught a five foot tuna in the Atlantic and gutted it in his bath. Every time we stopped for a barbecue it was tuna; I can’t eat tuna any more.”
They were one of 20 boats that set off from Gibraltar as part of the Rally, encountering their first big seas sailing to the San Blas islands, just off Panama. The waves were 8.5 metres high – “As high as that building there,” says Mark, pointing to a three-story-high edifice. “But after three or four days you gain in confidence. Several other boats had a ‘knock-down’, that’s the mast ending up in the water, but we didn’t. The only time we got wet was when wind threw the spray in.”
They sailed to the Galapagos Islands, which they describe as “amazing - you swim with penguins and hammer head sharks”, the Great Barrier Reef and Thailand. They visited places too remote to reach without a boat, such as atolls reached by tidal streams. Mark recalls dolphins appearing to leap either side of the boat and guide them through one particularly tricky channel.
Chris says: “The one thing you can never prepare yourself for is the fact you are now responsible for everything. This is your home, your car, your life, and all in a salt water environment. If the generator fails, you have to fix it, there’s no choice. And it always seems to happen mid-ocean!”
But there is help – at the end of the satellite phone – in the form of Discovery Yacht’s Owner Care team.
Mark says: “Discovery Yachts got back to us straightaway with an answer and a solution; these guys know the boat inside and out. I did things I never thought I’d be able to do.” Chris agrees: “We’ve both become more practical.”
However the Rally came to an unexpected end due to the pirate situation off Somalia when four people were killed on one of the boats – two of them Chris and Mark had known for a long time.
Chris says: “I’d never been frightened until then, and that had nothing to do with the boat.”
The route was changed with the yachts being transported by container ship from Oman to Turkey.
Regardless, their love of life at sea continues. Since then they’ve continued sailing in Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Croatia and Malta – navigating the boat from the saloon if the weather gets bad.
“It goes against the grain, but you can do everything from inside.”
Chris adds: “We can have the heating on, DVD playing... You forget you are at sea and then you open the hatch and it’s pouring down!”
Sound like a dream life? Find out more about owning your own boat at Discovery Yachts
Marchwood, Southampton, 02380 865555; www.discoveryyachts.com