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Throw off the Bowlines by Doug Sutherland

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines,  sail away from the safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore, Dream, Discover. –  Mark Twain

Picture this:  A successful  Johannesburg businessman of 35, with an accomplished young wife of 30, and three children aged 8, 6 and 3, suddenly sells everything – house in Rivonia, shares in the business, cars, the lot – and with his family embarks on an adventure most of us can only dream of!

The year is 1976, and the Sutherland family are away – they buy a world-famous 36-ton, 50 foot (16 m) yacht named Gaucho in Buenos Aires and set off on a four-year adventure, sailing up the coast of South America and all around the Caribbean!

As Doug puts it: “As I stood on the deck at the start of our first solo voyage, with the Sugar Loaf Mountain passing on our starboard side, I thought ‘How did the five of us come to be facing the huge Atlantic Ocean all alone?’ ”

The story of this epic adventure is wonderfully and intimately told through the medium of dozens of letters the couple wrote home to concerned and disbelieving parents back in South Africa.

Storms and even hurricanes, many windless and frustrating days, stunningly beautiful anchorages and islands, eccentric fellow “yachties”, close encounters with the Queen, Princess Margaret and Robert de Niro, vexatious bureaucrats, a robust social life while in port, (even a revolution!) and the challenges of feeding, raising and educating three lively and energetic young children within the confines of a 16 m yacht, are all part of this great story.

The adventure ends when Gaucho is sold in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands, in 1979, and the family returns to a “normal” life in South Africa, having forged a bond often denied most families.

Throw off the Bowlines