Thursday, 17 December 2009

Four and a half years on a catamaran!

Family of four back in Hong Kong after epic voyage

Arni Highfield and his family have just completed an epic four and half years at sea, living and sailing on a catamaran halfway around the world. They returned to Hong Kong two days ago to a world that their daughter Molly (11) said was 'unfamiliar' in her blog even as she was thrilled to be back in Hong Kong.

Arni, a former British merchant mariner and retired Hong Kong marine police officer, his wife Cam, a Hong Kong Chinese who was once a Cable News reporter, have visited twenty countries along with their daughters Molly and Nancy in their herculean voyage. Their path took them to the South Pacific, Guam and Micronesia, Japan and South Korea, with long halts in many places. The daughters were homeschooled by Cam aboard the Jade; Cam says, laconically, that it was just like school except that they did not have any classmates.

It was always Arni Highfield's dream to travel around the world in a yacht and "to go to places and meet people together as a family." Nearing retirement, Arni read 'mountains of yachting magazines', finally buying a yacht called Paloma at the Hebe Haven Yacht Club in Hong Kong, which he later swapped for the Rafiki, a 40 foot yacht, before finally deciding to buy a 42 foot catamaran from the United States, one that he eventually christened "Jade". The entire family sailed out of Hong Kong for England on the QEII; the voyage on the liner was a benefit given to Arni on retirement. They then flew to Florida to take over Jade, setting sail from the US in the summer of 2005.

They traveled up and down the East Coast of the United States before moving south through the Panama Canal. They then followed the West Coast of South America, before sailing on to the Galapagos Islands, Micronesia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Australia. From there they sailed to Guam and Japan, and on to South Korea and Taiwan.

They returned from their fascinating journey this month, safely arriving in Hong Kong at after a scary three day 30 to 40 knots downwind voyage from Kenting, Taiwan. They had many cherished moments on their voyage but some of the most fascinating were the wild animals of the Galapagos, the people in the Cook Islands and Guam, and the culture in Vanuatu.

For now, they plan to remain in Hong Kong for a while living on board the Jade, and see if they can adjust to life in their homeport. In any case, their once in a lifetime voyage will be a tough act to follow.

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