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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Travelling Around The World In 36 Years: Couple who cast off rat race in 70s and embarked on a 100,000 mile odyssey

Abandoning the rat race and sailing off into the sunset is the stuff of daydreams for many.

But Bill Cooper and his wife Laurel actually did it – and, 36 years later, can say they have lived the dream.

Mr Cooper, 83, a former City broker who used to advise Harold Wilson, decided to cast off for good as he made his daily commute to work in 1974.

He returned home from the railway station and asked Mrs Cooper to call his office and tell his colleagues he would not be coming in. Ever.

Over the next two years, they built a boat before selling their house, bidding farewell to family and friends, and setting sail for a life of adventure.

Now, after an odyssey spanning more than three decades and 100,000 miles, berthing in 45 different countries, they have returned to drop anchor back home.

Age and ill-health have brought their astonishing journey to an end, although they still plan to remain afloat – on the calmer waters of the River Medway in Rochester, Kent.

It is a well-deserved rest for a couple who have crossed seven seas, negotiated 22,000 miles of canals and rivers, and coped with storms bringing 25ft waves and 100mph winds.

Funded by a Navy pension and the proceeds of selling Mr Cooper’s partnership, they set sail on their 50ft steel ketch Fare Well and never looked back. The first ten years were spent sailing the Mediterranean and Caribbean, across the Atlantic and along the American Intracoastal Waterway from New York to Florida.

The pair, who once kept a one-eyed cat called Nelson on board, even received a medal for crewing the only vessel to survive the devastating Hurricane Alberto north of Bermuda in 1982 without calling a lifeboat for help.

In 1986, they bought a new vessel, an 87ft former industrial barge which they named Hosanna. They then spent the next two decades cruising around canals in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and sailing the Aegean.


After sailing 100,000 nautical miles in boats they made themselves, Bill and Laurel have travelled to varied and unusual locations around the globe, taking in sights that many of us can only dream of.

The countries they have visited include:

Gibraltar, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Crete, Turkey, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Sicily, Sardinia, Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Canary Islands, Caribbean islands, Rhode Island, the US coast, Portugal, Cadiz, Morocco, Greek islands, Monaco, Azores, Lowestoft, Corsica, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Tunisia and Cambrai


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