Meet Karin & Tony

Gods Window, South Africa


Who is Karin?

My Oma always said…..”you never know what life will bring”……and was she ever right!  A girl from southern Ontario with Austrian roots,  never in my wildest imagination would I ever have believed that a South Seas ocean adventure on a – gulp – 38 foot sailboat, was to be part of my future.  But then I met Tony, the love of my life, and everything changed.

It didn’t take long after we met in 2009 to realize that we share a love of travelling and adventure.  Neither one of us wants to waste one precious moment.  Life is short.    We started to plan all the places we wanted to visit together.  A National Geographic map adorns our dining room wall and we sit and dream about travelling the world together over dinner and a glass of wine, pushing in pins to mark the spots!

I discovered early on that Tony had a deep love of sailing, but it took some time for him to share with me an adventure that he had desperately wanted to undertake in his earlier life which was a 5 year sailing trip around the world.  The reasons no longer matter, but his dream never came true and he has carried this loss with him ever since, over 30 years ago.  I knew that without an intention, dreams have a way of withering and dying.

This is when the “gulp” sort of happened.  On the one hand I had little boating experience, virtually no sailing experience, and the thought of being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a small sail boat scared the crap out of me.  On the other hand, life is short, I love to travel, am always looking for adventures, and I love this man with all my heart.  How could I not do everything in my power to help him make his lost dream, at least in part, come true.

Given my lack of sailing experience, I thought a bit of hands on experience would be in order.  I took the Competant Crew course with Jim McLauchlan at Oak Bay Sailing School in Victoria.  I knew that Tony would take over, being the patient sort he is, and carry on the lessons from there on in.  Tony and I were fortunate enough to become part of a group sharing the use of a Catalina 36 owned by Roger who lives in Ottawa, Ontario who decided that it would be best to have his boat used and ready for his use whenever he decided to visit Victoria for a sailing trip.  We were very fortunate and made good use of the Catalina 36, Andante, including a trip up to Desolation Sound in 2011.

Learning to be a coastal skipper
Learning to be a coastal skipper

I also participated with the Turkey Head Sailing Association and crewed in the Golden Weasel on a 24′ Moore with a great captain Eric.  It was a blast and we blew into the Inner Harbour at 12 knots!  During May of 2013, Tony and I crewed for our friend Keith on his Island Packet 38.  We sailed from Port Hardy around Cape Scott, back to Victoria around the outside of Vancouver Island.  I wanted to see how I would make out off shore, including some overnight sails.  I did great – not one bit of sea sickness or fear, even though we had some rough seas.  What a relief!  How terrible would that be to undertake an extensive off shore trip and be sick all of the time.  Tony continues to be a great teacher, letting me take the helm and make decisions.  What a star he is!

My sailing experiences so far have sealed the deal for me.  I was ready to commit.  Being a planner at heart, I encouraged Tony to come around to the idea that we could in fact make an attempt at a multi year sailing trip to the South Pacific.  It wasn’t easy for him at first as he didn’t want to get hurt again.  Eventually he came around, and the planning began.  I still gulp at times, but mostly I am just really excited and can hardly wait to leave the dock in Victoria for the last time.

Here we come South Pacific!

Adventia before Dementia!


 Who is Tony?

What an interesting challenge to write this summary entitled “Who is Tony?”    Just a short 5 years ago I didn’t even know who Tony was. It is only now during the last 3 years that I am emerging (with some help) to discover who I really am!

I was born at a very young age in Durban, South Africa during the last few days of WWII.   I guess I was also introduced to boating activities at a very young age when I was still knee-high to a grasshopper.   My first ever recollection of being on the water was sailing offshore from Durban, South Africa, at about the age of 3 or 4.   I subsequently learned that the “St Ives” was a 35 foot motor-sailor which although seaworthy, encountered huge rolling waves the moment it left the harbour.   I remember clinging to something upright (the mast maybe?) and insisted that I be “put-off on land immediately”.

How different those days were from today, particularly relative to attitudes about safety. My father bought me an old flat bottomed skiff with a small Seagull outboard motor because at 6 years old I was too light to pull the starter-cord of anything bigger than a 2 HP engine.   By the time I was eight I had spent most of my Saturdays bobbing around Durban bay trying to fish, albeit somewhat unsuccessfully.   There was never a thought for safety compared to this modern day and age. No PFD, no radio, no GPS, no safety instructions, but I suppose all things being considered, somebody was looking out for me.   It’s totally surprising that over the years I have never had even a close shave, but did run out of fuel, lost a propeller and an oar or two maybe.

After the decommissioning of an old commercial fishing vessel, I sort of “inherited” the ship’s derelict life boat.   It was old and dilapidated, with some rotten planking, but it was absolutely beautiful to my naive young eyes.

Lifeboat Conversion

I spent several months after school fixing, caulking, sanding and painting my dream.  I built a little cabin shelter to protect me from the wind and hot African sun.  This “monster” was too heavy for the little Seagull engine and so my father had no option but to upgrade it to a shiny new Mercury 6hp.   I was blissfully in sailor’s heaven and used the boat at each and every opportunity. As I progressed to middle school, my father in his wisdom, persuaded me to sell the boat to create a small window of opportunity for me to pursue scholastic activities instead.   It seemed as if every waking moment was consumed with thoughts of the next outing on the water.

TRearlydays0003The years went by quickly as I doodled drawings of boats in the inside back covers of my various school books; drawings of  “the one” that I would eventually build!   And I did design and build it from scratch in my teen years, but since it was yet another power-boat, that is another story entirely and better left untold in this particular tome.

During my university years I developed an interest in sailing and joined the Natal Yacht Club as a junior member and later the Point Yacht Club.   There I was introduced to the wonderful wild and wet adventures of Goodrick dinghies.  Soon I graduated to sail as crew on a Fireball.   From that point on, I was totally hooked!   Within a year or two I started crewing offshore round-the-buoys for a work buddy on his Miller and Whitworth 35.   Seasickness and I were unfortunately never far apart.   For several years I had worked during school vacations on both hand-line fishing boats and also larger deep-water lobster trawlers.   I much preferred the 2 to 3 weeks at sea on the trawlers because I was delighted that after 24 hours at sea all thoughts of mal-de-mer suddenly and miraculously disappeared, until the next time of course!   Sailing around the buoys on a Saturday afternoon left me feeling debilitated.   It was another few years before I became relatively immune from sea-sickness.   Offshore sailing totally captured my young imagination after completing a few significant ocean passages.

TRearlydays0002Time marched on, I married, and we produced four beautiful daughters.   The notion of sailing around the world on my own vessel began to gain momentum and began to take on a life of its own.   In retrospect, it was most likely fueled by the fact that I loathed my chosen career of professional accountancy.   Due to fortuitous financial success with a small business venture however, I was able to commission the building of an Endurance 42’ ketch designed by the respected Peter Ibold.   The construction process was carried out primarily by Rennies Marine Ltd, in Durban under license from Windboats Marine of Wroxham in the U.K.   We managed to get the ferro-cement hull officially “Lloyds certified” (a very rare thing) and fitted out the boat as close as I could afford to Lloyds 100A1 standards.   I helped in the construction process of fitting-out during 1970 to 1973 because as a business owner at the time I was able to absent myself sufficiently to do that.   As the project neared completion however it became increasingly obvious to me that it was my dream, and my dream only. My family had certainly not embraced this concept of sailing off into the sunset.   When that sunk in properly, I sold the business that had proved so lucrative for the last few years and returned to work as a “bean-counter” in the industry that I knew best; pharmaceuticals.   Instead of sailing off into the sunset, my beloved Endurance was sold to a friend who subsequently completed two circumnavigations.   Much to my annoyance, he used to send me postcards from exotic places while I was stuffed into an office buried up to my waist in paper.   The grief process of a “dream shattered” lingered on for many years.   It’s hard to move on beyond something that had been one’s passion for so many years.

Fast-forward a few more years, a few sailboats later, and immigrating to Canada in 1983.   Bringing up my family in the very volatile and crime-ridden environment of SA at that time was simply a risk too great, and Canada seemed a wonderful alternative, particularly the Pacific Northwest after visiting it a few prior times.   Fast-forward yet a few more boats in the 27 to 33 foot range, purchased, renovated, and enjoyed here in the Pacific Northwest.   Fast forward yet another few years, some consulting gigs, a year off in 1990 to RV through 29 states in the U.S.A. and home-schooling the two youngest whilst the two oldest attended University in Victoria on Vancouver Island. After attending theological college and gathering a small initial group of like minded believers, I became a part-time pastor for 12 years, grew a congregation, became a commercially certified skipper and started a whale watching outfit which grew to 4 high-speed vessels.  Within a few years I had logged more than 45,000 sea miles.

Nobody can even remotely suggest that my life has ever been dull.   Once the kids were out of the home, a review and reassessment of my life brought some painful realizations.   Although I was now in my 60s, any hope and vision for the future had shrivelled and died.  I was not looking forward to retirement at all.   For me, working long hours was simply a form of escape.

Change is a very painful process.   Major change can be totally devastating, not only to oneself, but to those who are dearest and closest to you, who think they really know who you are.  How could anyone know who I was?  I didn’t even know who I was! It seemed I had been living too many years fulfilling other peoples expectations of who I should be.  My life was devoid of authenticity.  Hesitating on the brink of change is frightening beyond words.  The alternative, which is no change at all, has led many people to insanity or early death.  Being married to a great woman who was a fantastic mother to our four wonderful girls should have been enough.   Watching my girls blossom into successful adulthood should have been enough. The continual stress however of a highly conflicted relationship proved to be more than I was able to endure.

Fast-forward yet again to 2013.  Here I am on the cusp of seeing an old dream revived!  Karin, my new life-partner, and companion extraordinaire for the past several years, has prodded and provoked me to set some fresh life goals.   Real goals and targets, not just dreams!   A dream remains just a dream until it is attached to a date.   A date transforms a dream into a plan!   (to learn about the “plan” see “The Making of an Adventure“)

One of the biggest surprises in this new phase of life for me took place over a lunch.  I had been researching Karin “on-line” to discover who she was.  I thought I would surprise her with a big revelation that I discovered:  “I found an amazing coincidence” I said;  “Would you believe, that contrary to your assertion that you are the only person remaining in Canada with your last name of Lengger (maiden name), there is indeed someone else!”  A worried look crossed her face. I continued to explain ever so casually that somebody with a same name was looking for a crew position to sail the 2010 Vic-Maui Yacht Race of well over 2,000 gruelling miles.  Of course I knew it couldn’t be her, because I knew she had no real interest in sailing.  Her face aways reveals everything however … and with a sheepish smile she explained that she had made the posting on my behalf to challenge me with an opportunity for another ocean passage after all these years!

Posed crew 4
Arrival in Lahaina, Maui – everyone totally exhausted, but happy!

Well, the dream didn’t come together in 2010, but it did come true in 2012 as the race takes place every second year. I was selected as “first mate” on BIG BEN, a Beneteau Oceanis 50.  Just 48 hours before the race in July 2012, the skipper and owner, Jim McLauchlan was declared medically unfit to participate and was unfortunately admitted into hospital.  Jim, with huge courage, and an even bigger heart, passed the baton onto me, and so by default, I became the “skipper”!  As a crew of seven we sailed a valiant race, finishing in 20 days, 10 hours, using white sails only and not even having a whisker-pole to stabilize the genoa!

The rest is history.  Tony recently earned his “ISPA (International Sail and Power Association) Yachtmaster Offshore” certification.  The dream has been reborn.    Thank you Karin!

Adventia before Dementia!