How this couple escaped the city to work from their yacht

How to sail away without quitting your life: advice from a couple who’ve done it. Patrick and Sheila Dixon explain how to make ‘hybrid cruising’ work

Seven years ago, as a pair of empty-nesters living in London, Sheila and I embarked on an impulsive sailing adventure. I was working at a frenetic pace, flying all over the world advising global corporations on future trends. Meanwhile Sheila was running our company, working as a magistrate, and holding everything else together.

We were looking to slow down a bit, and also to develop new skills, reinvent our future and rejuvenate ourselves. But we were worried about damaging the business, neglecting family, wrecking our bank balance and risking a host of other things. Could we make it work by spending a third of each year aboard, as ‘hybrid sailors’?

Making the leap

It was a huge step to buy our own yacht after chartering a few times. “I thought Patrick was mad at first,” Sheila admits, “but in the end I was the keenest on the whole idea. My father owned yachts but by 70 was unsteady at sea and losing his nerve.”

Sheila’s mother had memory loss by 69, while my father died of cancer at the same age. My early years as a hospice doctor had also shown us both that life is far too short to waste a single day doing things you don’t believe in – or don’t actually need to do. We both believe in seizing the day: when life is uncertain, ‘eat dessert first’!

Even remote anchorages – here Sandy Spit in the BVIs – can offer enough connectivity to work effectively. Photo: Christian Wheatley/Getty

When we made the decision to buy Moxie (then berthed in Lagos, Portugal) we initially assumed we’d bring her back to the UK. But the lure of sunshine, warm seas and the fascination of the many countries along the Mediterranean coast persuaded us to sail east instead.

We flew out to Lagos several times in the three months before setting off. It was a very busy period, equipping Moxie and getting her ready, but ‘normal life’ continued: the day to day running of our company, client calls, lecture bookings, relentless answering emails and, for myself, travelling to speaking events, wherever in the world they might be.

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