Welcome to our trawler cruising blog! We hope you will enjoy reading our site which we have created to log the fulfilment of our life-long dream of liveaboard world cruising in a Selene Ocean Trawler – how ever far we can get.
Our Journey with Selene
We are Ed and Christine van Zadelhoff – we’re were in our mid-50’s when we finally started on this journey to build a boat to explore the world in comfort. Our journey with Selene started already back in 2008 years ago when we went looking for a 45ft trawler … and came across the Selene 60 Ocean Trawler for the first time. When we first stepped aboard, it seemed like a huge boat that could never be within our reach but gradually after we looked at the 48 model we had intended to buy, we fell in love with the 60 and decided that was the one to fulfil our world cruising dream.
Having decided to buy, we spent a long time planning and thinking back in 2008 and the project became almost an obsession for Ed. However, unfortunately the Gods who control life and destiny decided that it was not our time. The economic recession hit and we had no choice but to cancel our plans and channel all our money into keeping our business afloat through the recession. This was a devastating blow at the time – and one we didn’t think we’d recover from. For several years, we couldn’t even think about world cruising as it seemed impossible to ever achieve. Looking back, we would not have enjoyed it as we can now – we still had so much to learn. There is always a reason for things not going to plan!
We’ve always had boats …. and world cruising is all we ever wanted to do
Being on the water has always been a big part of our life together – our business was winter ski holidays and we worked 18 hour days from October until April without any days off. The summers were always holy – and our whole reason for buying the winter seasonal business in the first place was so we could spend the summer liveaboard on the water each year. A few weeks holiday from a normal job was never enough! We could have bought a sailing company instead – but experience has taught us you should never create a business from your hobby as your hobby will then cease to exist. We ran our ski business for 20 years, building it up from a small family firm to one of the most successful companies in its market – we sold the company in December 2018 and are now finally able to begin our new adventure.
We started out with a small 16.5 ft speed boat which we towed behind our camper van to Croatia and to Spain – Ed has had boats all his life on the rivers of Holland but his previous wife was not so keen, so he never really got to do the things he wanted to do. For me, when we met, it was an exciting thing that I loved from the first time I stepped aboard and I’m even more obsessive about the boat and water than Ed is now. We are always people who push the limits and we wanted to explore further afield all the time, never wanting to return to base every night. We decided to buy a small 24ft box cruiser so we could have a “caravan on water” – and ended up with a 27ft speed cruiser which was the largest possible to tow. As always, pushing the limits!
We quickly upgraded to 31ft and then 40ft over the next few years with engines capable of 30-40 knots. Hauling a motor cruiser on the trailer was not very practical anyway and this way we never had to return to any base, even at the end of the season. We covered the coasts of Slovenia, Croatia and Greece several times – liveaboard all summer, mainly at anchor, for many years for 4-5 months each year – reluctantly heading back to the Alps to work flat out until we could be back on board again the following summer.
We also flew to Florida one summer and chartered a Selene 53 – which we cruised down the ICW to the Florida Keys and Miami over the course of three weeks. This holiday was really the start of our trawler cruising project.
As we got a bit older, the ridiculous costs of the fuel began to dawn on us – it hit home the day we filled our 40ft cruiser twice in one day, for the sum total of 2000 euros when we crossed from Dubrovnik to Brindisi then back across the Adriatic to Corfu in one go. At 30 knots, this 400 miles is possible in one day – but the costs were crazy! Definitely no world cruising possibilities with that sort of boat.
Learning to sail …
Due to some technical issues with the last motor cruiser, we were without a boat for a couple of years. We tried to convince ourselves we could have fun in our camper van and riding our motorbikes around the Alps but this was short lived and we were both craving to be back on the water. In 2013, we were still not in a position to think about the Selene so we decided to buy an “interim boat” – something cheap and second hand, we said, just to get back on the water. We thought it would be a good idea to buy a sailboat as they are cheap to run and cheaper to buy – we had no intention of actually sailing though … ha ha!! Why not just motor around without putting up the sails – we had absolutely no idea what to do with sails!
Convinced this was a great idea, we decided to bare-boat charter a sailboat for three weeks in Croatia – an area we knew like the back of our hands. However, the crunch came after we had paid for the charter when the company asked for our skipper licence. Of course we both have a skipper licence …. but it was only for powerboats. The charter company wouldn’t allow us to charter a sailboat, even if we did intend to just motor around. So the choice was either to lose the several thousand euros we had paid for the charter – or to learn to sail …. PRONTO!
Three weeks before our holiday, we managed to get booked onto a RYA Day Skipper course in the UK. Phew! We couldn’t work out why there was still an empty boat available at peak season – but this soon became obvious when we realised we were learning to sail in the Solent during Cowes week. At least we had plenty of boats to avoid (including at one point having Ellen McArthur’s trimaran fly past us on one hull!) and to learn to manoeuvre around – and of course, being the UK, the weather was horrendous. Stepping onto the boat on the Sunday afternoon to meet Alistair, the instructor, was fun ….
You mean you’ve NEVER set foot on a sailboat?
Generally it’s the done thing to have years of sailing experience before going to the Day Skipper course – as crew, or with your own boat (as licences aren’t required in the UK). Alistair had never had to teach people who were stepping on a sailboat for the first time in their lives! This was a huge challenge and one he did not think would be possible – but with a combination of dedication from both of us, and persistence from Alistair, along with very long days – Ed managed to scrape through on the first go. Somehow we had managed to learn all about points of sail, wind awareness, heeling, tacking, jibing, how to use a winch, how to hoist sails and what to do with them …. oh … and also what all the millions of ropes (sorry, lines!) are for in the cockpit.
It was the most difficult week of my life and I ended up in tears of frustration and exhaustion many times! Of course we BOTH had to do ALL the tasks – whereas I had always been the navigator and Ed always had the wheel. All of a sudden I had to dock the boat and Ed had to know how to read a chart. We had swotted and crammed the theory exam just before the week of practical – much of it was the same as we had done for years with the motor cruiser so for me the theory was quite easy and Ed managed to scrape through as well – although I’m not sure he really ever understood how to calculate a course to steer manually 🙂
In the end, Ed passed the practical exam but I failed the first time because of my lack of wind awareness (just couldn’t work out where the wind was coming from :). In the usual RYA style, we weren’t allowed to use electronics, or useful gadgets like GPS or a windlass for the anchor (although the instructor was sneakily navigating on his iPhone Navionics app every time we came into harbour!) We did not have the lovely wind dial that every sail boat has – so had to work out the wind with a combination of flags, and sail responses and feeling which I never quite got the hang of. We did everything by hand including laying out metres of heavy chain down the decks and hauling it back onboard without a windlass. My man over-board test didn’t go well either. We agreed with the training school that I would come back after our holiday and would resit the test over a weekend.
Ed having gained the licence meant we took our holiday in Croatia – and what an amazing time we had! All of a sudden, we were doing 5-6 knots instead of 30-40 knots but the challenge was to trim trim trim to get another knot out of the boat, and to race ourselves on the tacks and try not to lose speed. We loved it.
When we went back to the UK, I passed my skippers licence and we went ahead and bought that sailboat. It was not the cheap second-hand one we had planned – we bought a brand new Bavaria 40 Avantgarde Cruiser (Special Edition) and proceeded to kit it out with all the equipment we would have put on the Selene 60. So we ended up with “Liberation” – the most highly equipped Bavaria in the Med! Although we are very excited about the arrival of Destiny, we were very sad to say goodbye to our amazing sailing yacht … there were for sure some tears when I drove away from Cleopatra Marina on Christmas Eve of 2019 and left her behind for the last time.
Living aboard our sailboat
For six years we happily lived aboard Liberation and have sailed further afield than would ever have been possible in the speed cruisers – again starting in Slovenia, Croatia, Ionian Islands of Greece, around the Greek Peloponnese, across to Crete into the southern Aegean and over to Turkey. From there we went on to Cyprus, and returned to do the coast of Turkey and the Greek Dodecanese Islands, across the Aegean again but higher up – and then in 2017 we headed North to the Halkidiki Peninsulas and Thessaloniki. We learned to handle a yacht in all conditions – from fair weather motoring and living on the hook, to dealing with the Meltemi, gale force winds, Medicanes and high seas. We learned about storms, long passages, slow travel, wind and the power of the ocean. If you’re interested, you can read our sailing blog which has come to an end. When I find some time, I will fill in all the gaps of our blogs to cover our sailing life.
In 2018, the business sale was all consuming and we didn’t manage to sail more than a few days – but we did add Malta and Sicily to our log with a 3 day passage from Greece and few days sailing locally in Malta where we now live. At the end of the summer Liberation crossed to Marina di Ragusa in Sicily, awaiting our return to prepare her for sale.
World cruising is normally done on a sailboat – but as much as we love sailing, Liberation was always an “interim boat” and our hearts have always been set on the Selene 60 Ocean Trawler. When the bad weather comes in, we’ve been longing for the pilot house and windscreen wipers to replace the oilies and freezing cold. Our business did well over the last years and we saved every penny we earned and put it aside for the Selene so we could keep our world cruising plan alive. Finally, in May 2018, we had enough saved up – topped up with the sale of the company – and we decided it was time to take the step again.
In the summer of 2019, we didn’t get to sail very far either – due to some issues with the new owner of our business (long and irrelevant story!) and the time we needed to project manage the build of Destiny. We made several trips to China over the summer and as the build progressed, Ed needed to be there for longer periods of time and I remained on Liberation drawing design schematics, researching and looking after the boat. We had some bad weather that summer and autumn – and eventually we decided the best place to sell was back in Greece. Plans had been continually changing but the weather changed most of them! So at the end of November, we made the crossing back from Sicily to Greece in day-hops up the coast of Italy, looking for weather windows. An enjoyable last voyage on Liberation – we lifted for the last time at Cleopatra Marina in Preveza and Ed headed almost straight back to China while I closed down Liberation for the last time and drove home to France alone on Christmas Eve. She sold very quickly and we were sorry to see her go – but in a few months we expected to be starting our new liveaboard adventure in the Far East.
Selene 6043 on it’s way
Originally we had planned to buy a second-hand Selene but after looking at several for sale across the world, we happened to be chatting on Facebook with Brian Calvert who had been our contact at Selene Seattle in 2008. Brian has now relocated to the Philippines and is a Selene introduction agent for customers looking to buy direct from the factory and commission in the Philippines. We had asked for his opinion and insider knowledge about a used Selene for sale in Langkawe (Thailand) and he suggested that we should get a quotation for a new model as well, as we may be surprised with the result. In the end, we decided this was the way to go. Jet Tern laid the hull at the end of May 2018 and the build process should have taken around 18 months (or a bit less). We decided to take delivery in Hong Kong to avoid any heavy freight costs or VAT costs in Europe – after all, it didn’t really matter where we started our trawler cruise. Those costs alone made the boat more than 30% cheaper – topped with the good deal from the shipyard on the basic boat price for direct supply, opting for a new model was a no-brainer.
The intention was to head first for the Philippines where we would complete the commissioning ourselves with the assistance of Brian and his army of local helpers. Of course, in the end, all our plans were changed by the Covid-19 pandemic – but the basics remain the same. We are always very hands-on with our boat and do everything ourselves as we are almost never happy with the quality of work from contractors. The Selene will be the biggest challenge yet due to the size and complexity. We may stay in the Philippines for a season or two while we finish getting the boat ready for world cruising and we hear there are 700 or more beautiful islands to explore there.
We planned trips to China to the Jet Tern Marine (Selene) factory in Zhuhai every three months throughout the build to work with the designers and specialists. The idea was to discuss each step of the build to make sure we ended up with the perfect boat. As is usually the case with any build project (boat or house!), things take longer than anticipated – and we also ended up designing a very complicated boat. We were very clear about what we wanted, but a lot of this was a new experience for Selene – so we did have some major hurdles to overcome on the way. It became obvious that Ed needed to spend longer periods of time there than the 3-day trips we had anticipated. However, we had not planned on Covid-19 breaking out and a global pandemic closing borders for more than two years!
Destiny was first launched in December 2019 – she should have been ready for delivery by the end of March 2020 – which was already a delay on the original completion date – but the pandemic brought the factory to a halt. Having come back to Europe for a few weeks over Chinese New Year in February 2020, Ed was travelling back to China in mid-March just as all the borders closed – and he ended up stuck in Hong Kong for several months in semi-lockdown in a hotel on his own. He finally arrived back at the yard in July 2020 and work could begin again – but the ongoing pandemic caused endless issues with the supply chain and the availability of specialist engineers, with China keeping it’s borders closed to all but a very few number of people who were admitted on a case-by-case basis.
I got stuck in Europe with the pandemic so we ended up being apart for 18 months with no signs for a very long time of me being able to travel to the Far East. Ed had a special business visa to stay in China and worked full time with the shipyard on commissioning and doing all the things which you normally do in the first year or two of owning a boat. He can’t leave – or he won’t be allowed back again. So he was just stuck there! The pandemic caused all sorts of issues with essential suppliers and engineers not being able to get into China. So we just took each day as it came and we didn’t make any plans.
We used my enforced stay in Europe to bring forward our plans for completing the sale of our business assets. We had intended to leave our ski properties under lease to the tour operating company we sold, and to live from the rental income. However, when the tour operator went bust under the new management (unbelievably – twice in two years!), we were left in a difficult situation with the travel industry in turmoil from Covid-19 – so we decided just to sell everything up and remove risk.
Silver linings – and making the most of a bad situation
The tour operator had unfortunately left all the properties in an extremely bad state of repair – so this meant a massive project of repair and renovation was needed before they could be sold, and having to find a big chunk of money when we had no income any longer. We also decided to sell our own house, which was halfway through renovation as well. I spent 6 months working to put everything back in order and, in the absence of Ed, had to learn a whole load of new skills and spend a fair amount of money for external help as I could not do it all alone.
In the end, everything was done – albeit not to the standard we would have liked and with a huge amount of stress and physical exhaustion. The properties were sold for good prices and, for now, we just stashed all our money in the bank! We had intended to return to France to do this in a few years’ time – after having lived aboard for a while. At least now, we will not need to go back again once Destiny is underway – so we will gain back some cruising time which would otherwise have been lost to the pandemic.
Finally back together
With the sale of all our business assets, for the first time in our lives we had everything in one place and just one rented home in Malta where we had moved in 2018. In July 2021, I loaded my little car with as much as I could fit (leaving the rest behind in France in a storage locker) and drove from the Alps to our flat in Malta. A little bit sad to see the end of an era and leave behind the home which had been in my family for what seemed like a lifetime. The plan was just to wait out the situation, until I was able to get to the Far East.
I didn’t have long to wait as in August 2021, Hong Kong finally eased some of their entry regulations and opened the borders to non-residents under some very strict conditions. I grabbed the opportunity – packed up the flat, and flew to Hong Kong on 5th September. After two weeks in hotel quarantine, I was released on the same day Ed had to leave China – when his seemingly endless monthly visa renewals finally coming to a halt. At last we were together again and we could work together to bring the project to a close.
It seems to be the story of our lives that we have to deal with curve-ball after curve-ball and nothing has ever gone how we planned it. I’ve always seen it as “character building” 🙂 – just sometimes it would be nice for something to go right. Back together again – but plagued with some fairly serious health issues for both of us, and continued issues with completion of the boat. It surprised us both how much a person can age in just a few years.
Our blog “catch-ups” give more detail but suffice to say that it still took many months before we finally got our boat. We are back to the continual worry of monthly visa renewals – this time in Hong Kong. There are still many issues to solve – health ones, technical boat ones, practical ones – but together we’ll work it out 🙂
Follow our progress on our blog – we will be posting loads of information on the build process, the things we have learned, the places we visit and the issues we face. It will take some time to complete, but we plan to provide detailed information on all our technical solutions – bear with me as I gradually build up our technical library. Feel free to email us or comment on the blog if you want to get in touch – we are more than happy to share our ideas and knowledge and we hope we will come across other world cruisers on our journey.
Ed and Christine