Emsworth dentist bitten by sailing bug

Sam and Fin with a yellow fin tuna they caught
Sam and Fin with a yellow fin tuna they caught

DENTIST Stephenie Dickinson has been round the world and back, having been bitten by the sailing bug.

Now, she is back at enVisage, in High Street, Emsworth, as an associate, after five years on the high seas.

Meeting the wildlife on the beach at Deal Island in Tasmania

Meeting the wildlife on the beach at Deal Island in Tasmania

Stephenie and her husband Tim, an oral surgeon, started the practice from scratch in 2001. They sold it in 2008 but stayed on until 2009.

They had moved down from London because of their love of sailing. It had quickly expanded to be a three-surgery practice and they also had two sons to care for.

“It was brilliant, a real success story, but totally full on,” said Stephenie. “Tim was working at St Richard’s Hospital as well.

“We came to this quite difficult decision to sell the practice with a view to having time out together. We bought a boat and went off sailing.

The family enjoying life on their boat, Bonaire

The family enjoying life on their boat, Bonaire

“We set off with the option of a five-year plan but said we would definitely do at least a year. By that time we are having a lovely time so decided to do the full five years.”

Sam was four and Fin six when they set out, so home schooling added to the challenge.

“For them, it was just their life, it didn’t seem exceptional to them,” said Stephenie. “On the boat, they did schooling in the morning and were free to swim or snorkel in the afternoon.

“When we got back, they were so excited about going to proper school and have settle in amazingly well because children are very adaptable.”

Experienced sailors, Stephenie and Tim chose to head west, going down through Europe to The Canaries and then the Caribbean.

Stephenie explained: “Typically, people head west because then the trade winds are behind you and it is downwind sailing.”

By the end of the first year, they had crossed the North Atlantic.

“At that point, we had to make the decision on whether to go back via Bermuda to the Azores, or to carry on through the Panama Canal,” said Stephenie.

“Once you start crossing the Pacific, there is no easy way back. We knew once we went through the canal, we had to keep going but we arrived and we loved it.”

Some of the passages covered thousands of miles at a time and the longest took three weeks.

“We lived on the boat, which is 15m long, and it was very comfortable. It is a very simple existence. You go for long periods not knowing when the next provisions will be available, so we did lots of fishing and caught some stunning fish. They were delicious.

“Villagers were delighted to see us, you get welcomed in as part of the family. The boys were welcomed into schools, even in Fiji on a remote island where you have to go to see the chief for permission to stay.”

Stephenie went home briefly after her gran died but the rest of the family was on the boat the whole time.

“The boys did not really remember much about life before the trip but quickly settled into school on their return,” she said.

The family, who live on Hayling Island and are members of Hayling Island Sailing Club, arrived back into Chichester Harbour last summer.

During their travels, they had a close encounter with a water spout, which came out of nowhere in Columbia, and two sleepless nights when they were in danger of being dragged on to rocks, but generally the conditions were fairly stable.