As we prepare for the trip of a lifetime!

Posted: 25th March 2013.

Sydney couple Gordon and Lou Coates previously owned and loved their Fountaine Pajot Orana 44 “La Rochelle”, but have recently decided to upgrade to the new model Hélia 44. Instead of having the boat shipped to Australia (as they did with “La Rochelle”), they have chosen to pick up their new boat ex-factory in France. An enormous amount of decision making and planning has been necessary to undertake their trip of a lifetime. Here is their story so far written by Lou….


The idea was put to us whilst we were at the Sydney Boat Show 2010 that we could sell our Orana 44 in Australia and purchase a new 44ft catamaran from the factory in France. With the strong Australian dollar the upgrade would cost us very little. The only requirement was that we had to sail it home!

We said, “Yes, let’s do it!”

The Orana, (La Rochelle) took quite some time to sell which was probably a good thing because it gave us all time to get used to the idea. It was sad handing her over to the new owners, but we felt great excitement and anticipation, although we did have to be patient because the completion date was over 12 months away. Never the less, we both felt ready for such an adventure.


It is mid 2012 as I write this, as we await the full details of our new boat, the Helia 44. Our first glimpses of the new model show a lovely design with features that will make living aboard and sailing comfortable and efficient.

We think that we have found a name for the boat – ‘The Larrikin’, a good Ausie name! An explanation we found says; “The Australian Larrikin: strong, bold, bluntly honest with an endearing sense of mischief and fun. Larrikin captures the spirit of mateship. The Larrikin is the maverick who became an integral part of this nation’s folklore. Laid back and loyal, he represents the class-free culture that has stamped Australia’s identity on the world.”

We are both very excited and looking forward to the adventure that lies ahead. It will be hard to leave the family. I will miss my beautiful girls, my parents and my sisters and their families, and our friends, but I will especially miss our gorgeous grandson. Gordon and I so want to have this adventure, and if we don’t do it now, we fear that we will never do it. We are still young enough, fit enough and will just have to trust that our family will understand and come to share in our enthusiasm and excitement. We will be back periodically and let’s face it; we intend to have many, many years ahead to share life with them.

Initially we want to cruise for around seven months in the Med, then put the boat into a safe port for the winter in Europe and fly home for Christmas. We will return the following year to live aboard to cruise the Med before setting out to cross the oceans for home. If this works, we may take a few years to get home, and hopefully, be able to juggle both cruising and home life. We also want to have family and friends join us along the way. Let’s see what happens!

Over the past few years, life on board La Rochelle has introduced to us many new experiences. We both agree how much fun it can be meeting new people and seeing new places. Many people that we meet are like-minded and at a similar stage in life. We all have a history and many stories to share with each other about our homes, families, careers and experiences. When we are cruising, meeting people for the first time, often in new surroundings, there is a certain freedom. We are able to be ourselves, sometimes taking on gregarious and convivial behaviour allowing us all to have fun. Sometimes we feel like we are once again playing like children, totally carefree and spontaneous. It is a wonderfully light hearted way to look at life with fresh eyes. We are so lucky to have our health and the resources to be able to do all this in our retirement.

By the end of February we feel that everything is coming together. We have been sent photos of our new boat which is ready to leave the factory. I must admit, that when I saw it, I almost cried. It was a mixture of emotions. It was the reality that the time is finally here; the anticipation of this great adventure, and the sight of what will now become our home whilst we are away.

Gordon has researched and discussed all the options available to us in regard to communication systems on board and for our time in Europe. It is important to us that we can keep in contact with our family and friends whilst we are travelling. We want to share our adventure and at the same time still feel connected to everyone as they too go about their daily lives. Options available to us include email, cell phone, sat phone, Facebook, video Skype and Face Time. Some of these things are recent innovations and didn’t exist, even 15 years ago! So, as to being in touch with family and friends… cruising has never been better than right now.

It has been important to plan what equipment we need installed on the boat, especially for the longer passages across the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. The team at Multihull Solutions have been fantastic with their advice. We feel most confident that the boat is set up with safety and comfort as a priority. With their support and information gathered from other people who have already done the exercise, we feel happy with the decisions that we have made.

We want to reassure our family that modern equipment allows the sailors of today great insight into weather and sea conditions. It is easier than ever now to get information to plan your voyage. Weather info is getting better and better. Storms can be avoided in many instances thanks to vastly improved access to forecasts at sea. Many people have said to us, “but what about pirates?” Although pirates seem to be getting more airtime than ever, the truth is they are mainly confined to specific areas which are mostly avoidable and not even on the route we plan to take.

We are so looking forward to the time ahead as we settle into experiencing the cruising lifestyle – we want to assure everyone that it isn’t all storms, high seas adventure and pirates. There are great people in foreign ports, interesting cultures to be discovered and new friends waiting to be made!

Gordon and Lou

Gordon and Lou enjoying their beloved Orana 44 "La Rochelle"



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