Mother-of-three Erin Carey tells Dick Durham how she and her husband ditched their jobs, sold their house, and emigrated to find blue water.
When teenager Erin Carey started sailing on a muddy pond in the Australian bush town of Wagga Wagga, she dreamed of going shopping with her two sisters instead. She became even more disenchanted when the local boys who drove speedboats called her ‘sailor girl.’
“I went sailing under sufferance and they would deliberately bully me,” she told Ocean Sailor magazine, “calling me this name. It was mortifying and as soon as I could get away, I did.”
Her father, Trevor, a sales rep, had dreams of sailing and camping aboard his 16ft Hartley trailer-sailer, but they were not shared by his wife Jenny or his three daughters.
Aged 19, Erin met Dave Carey, an aircraft technician, at the Royal Australian Air Force base where he worked as an aircraft technician and she as an office clerk.
Six years later they married and soon started a family. They have three boys, Hamish, now 12, 11-year-old Jack and Christian, 7. They were happy, but there was something missing. Both Erin and Dave loved to travel and although they made trips to Europe, South America and Asia, they felt the need for a bigger adventure and that there was more to life than living on an airbase.
Then in 2015 they sat and watched a documentary, Maidentrip, about Laura Dekker, the New Zealand-born Dutch sailor who made a solo circumnavigation at the age of 16.
Their life changed instantly.
“We started researching that same night,” said Erin, now 40, “and we soon discovered there were lots of families going off sailing and so there was no looking back.”
They started saving a ‘cruising kitty’ as they called it, and they met sailing film-maker Brian Trautman aboard Delos, a yachtsman who has been featured in a previous issue of Ocean Sailor, as well as featuring in our most recent Ocean Sailor podcast which you can listen to here.
“The Delos team are so knowledgeable, so with their help, we bought our boat Roam” said Erin.
They paid $90,000 (US) for the boat, a 1984 Moody 47, before the advent of skimpy lay-up.
“She’d crossed the Atlantic seven times, so was clearly a tough boat,” Erin said.
Next, the pair took a two-year, unpaid sabbatical from their RAAF jobs, flew to Grenada in the Caribbean and set off “without even knowing how to move her,” said Erin.
In 2019 they decided the sailing life was for them and quit their jobs completely, preparing to set off from St Martin in the Caribbean to cross the Atlantic.
They decided to take a couple on as crew, but at the last minute the guy pulled out, leaving them with a novice 24-year-old girl, “which stressed us out.”
The first week was like sailing on a lake, but after that, the wind started to rise, the seas started to build, and their genoa started to delaminate with threads entangled around the furler. Nevertheless, Dave turned in after his watch saying he would sort the problem out in the morning.
Long before that, however, the sail blew out leaving “taffeta” like shreds of sail tangled around the forestay.
Try as he might, Dave could not free it so they altered course for Bermuda, 300 miles away. After 18 hours of motor-sailing in the wrong direction, Erin encouraged Dave, who had awakened from a good sleep to have one last go as it was his birthday!
In a two-metre sea, armed with a knife lashed to a broom handle, which was, in turn, lashed to a boat hook, he managed to cut it clear. They set the spare and changed course back towards the Azores.
The next problem was the generator which packed up due to an electrical problem, meaning they had to ration their fresh water, with onboard showers banned.
‘Worse things happen at sea’ some say, and others say that they ‘come in threes’. The next issue facing the Atlantic newbies was a weather warning from their weather router, Chris Parker.
“He told us to make a beeline for the Azores as there was a huge low pressure coming towards us. So, we motor-sailed and fried the batteries in doing so and had to rely on sails alone again. But we did beat the anticyclone into Horta, although the skies were very dark as we approached and the sailors who followed us in went through 50-knot winds.”
While in the Azores they met their heroine, Laura Dekker, and told her she was responsible for inspiring their dream.
They laid their boat up in the Azores and flew home to Australia to sort out various shoreside responsibilities.
Then COVID-19 arrived and their plan to continue into the Mediterranean was aborted as the Australian government would not let them leave the country.
Fortunately, while back in the Caribbean, Erin noticed how they were rapidly running low on funds and started writing articles for various yachting magazines including the Caribbean Compass. She wrote a piece on the aforementioned Delos and when Brian Trautman saw what she had done asked her to handle his PR.
Suddenly Erin realised she had a natural aptitude for public relations and this, combined with her writing skills saw her set up her own agency, named after their boat.
“Being marooned in Australia was a blessing in disguise,” she said, “because it enabled me to do courses in PR and to consolidate my business. It was helpful that Dave was happy in the house husband role.”
But the pressure was on to return to the boat. The only way they could obtain permission to leave Australia was to sell their house and all their belongings which they promptly did, hoping the need to return would not arise as it would mean a $3,000 (Aus) per person quarantine bill.
“We feel lucky to have escaped at that time,” Erin said, “everyone there was petrified. My dad wouldn’t even go out to the hardware store for the things he needed for his beloved DIY.”
Eventually, they flew back to the Azores in February 2021 and sailed into the Med visiting Portugal, Gibraltar, Spain, Tunisia, Malta and Sicily where they were as we went to press.
This summer they plan to sail to Greece and Turkey.
As a journalist with almost half a century of interviews, articles, campaigns and investigations behind me, I can say in common with all reporters, that Public Relations officers are seen as the bogie man in my trade.
They are there to take the flack, to disassemble, to camouflage, and let’s face it, to lie on behalf of their employer. No hack wants the PR over the principal of the company, political department or institution.
That said there are some who are well-briefed, helpful, who understand the reporter’s needs and who bother to find out what the reporter wants to know.
In my dealings with Erin Carey, long before I conducted this interview, she proved she had all of the above virtues and none of the vices.
Check out Erin at roamgeneration.com