When John Marcous landed his first job out of college and relocated from Massachusetts to Sausalito, Calif., he bought a boat instead of renting an apartment.
He didn't know anything about boats.
He didn't know anything about sailing.
But he bought a boat.
"It was kind of a leap of faith," John said, laughing.
He lived aboard his boat, a 40-foot sloop named Limerick, from 1996 to 1999 when his employer transferred him to Australia for a year. He was newly married to his wife, Hayley, and the newlyweds set off for an adventure Down Under. After their brief stint in Australia the couple decided it was time to rent an apartment, but not because they were sick of their sea legs. Instead they were preparing for the journey of a lifetime.
They were going to move back to the East Coast, not by plane or a cross-country drive, but by sailing.
"We planned to do a long trip," Hayley said. "We talked about it even before we were married."
John said they decided to move back east because that was where their families lived.
From 2000 to 2002 the couple lived on land in an apartment, but it was only so they could prepare the boat.
"There's a whole laundry list of things you have to do in order to make the ocean safer," Hayley said. "We had to have a mast refitted and we had to get new sails. We had to do a lot of preparation."
In total, they probably spent about $10,000 in preparing the boat for the trip, but fixing up the boat wasn't the only way they prepared.
"We did a lot of off-shore racing in San Francisco leading up to the trip," Hayley said.
They left port in Sausalito in September 2002 and hopped down the California coast through the fall, flying back to San Francisco occasionally for work.
They stopped in port at Monta Rey, Santa Monica, and San Diego before finally departing for the long part of their journey, which began with a two-week cruising trip called the Baja Haha which is organized by Latitude 38, which took them from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
They left the boat in Cabo San Lucas from Thanksgiving until Christmas, and then sailed to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. From there, the couple went to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, and then spent an extended stay in Costa Rica, for about three weeks.
They stopped in El Salvador, the Gulf of Canseco, and then went down to Panama for about 10 days. They traveled through the Panama Canal some time in March 2003.
"Going through the Panama Canal was possibly a once in a life time experience," John said. "And we got to experience it on the Pacific side of the canal where it was a great city and very safe, and on the Caribbean side where it was still kind of dangerous and Wild West."
The trip wasn't all smooth sailing, though. From Panama, the couple had to travel passed Nicaragua, where it was safer to stay near the coast. However, they heard several stories of pirates near the coast and decided to travel by night.
"We turned all of our lights off and just sailed quietly," Hayley said.
They successfully missed the pirates, but could not escape the weather.
"We were in a little anchorage called Moneypenny in the Gulf of Fonseca where the wind changed overnight and we almost lost the boat," Hayley said. "I think we would have been fine because the wind was pushing us to shore, but we did almost lose the boat."
After Moneypenny, they went to the island of Utila in Honduras, where they spent a week getting their diving certifications.
"We got to see whales and exotic snakes, and go swimming with tortoise. There was amazing snorkeling and diving," Hayley said, adding that John also went swimming with blue shark, tarpon and barracudas.
From Utila the couple spent some time in Belize and then spent some time at the Havana Yacht Club in Cuba where they were sponsored to visit Cuba legally by an Austrian crew mate named Babsi.
They then went to the Bahamas for a few days, where they got to have dinner on the boat of the CEO of Domino Sugar.
"He was actually very instrumental in lowering the cost of sugar in the U.S. and you kind of got to see capitalism versus communism," John said.
The couple re-entered the United States in Charleston, S.C., where they sailed up to Martha's Vineyard before sailing back to New York City. They lived on the boat until they purchased their home in Darien.
They chose Darien because it was a small, coastal community, and they were ready to settle down and have a family. They joined the Darien Boat Club a few days after moving into town and have been members ever since.
Today John and Hayley have two kids, Wyatt, 8, and Amelia, "Milly," 7, who both attend Holmes Elementary School. Wyatt participated in his first Darien Junior Sailing competition this year.
Someday John hopes to bring his children to sail around the world.
"I thought it would be a good experience to take them out of school and sail around the world, and have them experience different culture, and not grow up worrying about who had the best sneakers or the best video game console," John said.
Looking back on their adventure, Hayley said it was "lots of silly times of water skiing with surfboards and campfires on random islands with other blue water boats that you just meet on the way."
John said it was a big learning experience.
"As a warm-up for circumnavigating it was a great experience, and we sort of remain excited about the fact that it would be a very positive thing for your family to engage in."
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