“This is a sad times for me. I wasn’t yet in a relationship with Marie although we knew each other through work. In the meantime my marriage had collapsed in heartbreak. Of course, I wasn’t breaking new ground in any of this… too many marriages don’t last these days which is undeniably wrong. It was a traumatic time, it affected me in many ways… some of which I didn’t quite realise at the time. I have three lovely daughters with whom I have good relationships, but I also suffered the loss of my six year old daughter to leukaemia in 1999. For some instinctive reason I felt it was the right time to move on. I dropped out of my business because my head wasn’t in the right place and I bought a boat. I named her Sänna in memory of my daughter Sanni. Unknown to me at the time, Marie also was experiencing a torrid time, her marriage was breaking up and, cruelly, she was in the middle of losing both her mother and her father to cancer and altzeimers – so no one can argue that we should not have got together to sail Sänna around-the-world. Has it solved the problems that mess around with our heads? I don’t know… perhaps we never will.” Dave
I bought Suzerain 6 as she was then named whilst she lay in Dubrovnik, Croatia, a beautiful country still recovering from the ravages of the Balkan wars. She’d been sailed there from Jersey and the UK by her previous owner Michael Le Suer through the French canals and the Mediterranean. She was three years old and came recommended by a good friend, a yacht designer and surveyor who knew his ocean-going yachts. This boat, he said, was a special blue water build – built to order for Le Suer by Bavaria, a German production boat builder that also commissioned special builds. There are only seventeen rear cockpit Ocean design boats in existence.Exactly one week after completing the purchase in 2003 the Dubrovnik Marina dropped another yacht from their travel-hoist which damaged Sänna severely, requiring new mast, rigging and sails… repairs that took three months and a tremendous amount of bother dealing with the Croatian authorities plus two insurance companies, some incompetent contractors and a war ravaged economy. They say it’s always bad luck to rename a vessel and I’d officially re-registered Suzerain with the name Sänna only the previous day. This was an auspicious beginning to my first sailing boat ownership and our ultimate round-the-world adventure.
The second problem was that my wife told me straightaway that she would divorce me if I bought the boat in Croatia. That and the fact my daughter had died in Finland. She did not relish sailing and had no intention in participating in something I’d loved since crewing for my friend Dermot in his Dufour 30 Kitty in northwest Scotland. I’d also sailed extensively in the northern Baltic during my time working in Scandinavia so it was not some new fad idea I’d suddenly jumped into. I’d been a keen sailor for many years.
Our marriage had not been good for a while and my wife carried out her threat which, on hindsight, I don’t blame her for unduly. She’d clearly suffered on my behalf, something in my conscience I’ll forever regret. Before that I’d spent four wonderful months with my three daughters and my father sailing Sänna around the incredible Croatian Islands in the Adriatic Sea. We moored and anchored in some incredibly beautiful harbours throughout the stunning Balkan islands of Brac, Kortula and Hvar, making our way north from Dubrovnik to Split and Trogir whilst my relationship with my father developed significantly from the somewhat auspicious beginnings when I was a young boy. The dynamics between the five of us justified our time together and undeniably bought me closer to my now grown up girls. I know my father treasured every minute. I then returned to England and suffered a terrible time whilst my divorce finally went through, something in my life I’m not proud of as I believe strongly that marriages should be forever.
My business was going well though but I decided to find someone to manage the company on my behalf so that I could drop out for a year, taking a years sabbatical as they call it to finally sort out my head. I never went back. To make matters worse, my young daughter in Finland had sadly lost her battle with leukaemia a few years before which was a traumatic time that also involved an awful court case… a long and complicated story not meant for these pages. My boat was named in memory of Sanni and so I finally disappeared on my long life-changing adventure to try and put everything behind me, to start a new life – or a new beginning as they say.
Strangely, my young daughter seems to have sailed with me. In times of great stress – usually in the midst of some terrible storm or something… right when I think we may not survive, she’s suddenly there, talking to me to reassure me that everything will be ok. Some of you may think this spooky or weird and you may well be right, I myself do not generally believe in ghosts or anything like that, but on each and every occasion things have turned out as they should. My gut feeling is that something happens which I can’t explain.
Unbeknown to me Marie’s own marriage was breaking up too. We knew each other through my work although not closely but I got involved in sorting some work issues resulting from her near breakdown – her mother to whom she was very close was extremely ill and dying with cancer. Her mum sadly died and then her husband took up with the woman he’d met and so it’s fair to say she was having a terrible time of her own, especially as her young son Henry was only three years old at the time. Marie and I became close friends but it seemed at that time there could be nothing between us because my plan was to spend my time finally fixing my boat and sail around the Mediterranean. She had a young child and her life was a mess – I had my own plans and thought I had everything worked out.
But, as every sailor knows, a plan is never more than a line in the sand at low tide…