It is said that true love has no borders. In the case of Hadley Eames and Simon Wilson, that truth is lived far beyond the prescribed boundaries of dry land and restrictions of political geography. Aboard their 38 ft. steel yacht Oumâ, the only confines these oceangoing circumnavigators know are the limitations of their imagination and how far they can push their sense of adventure. The sea is in their souls, and through the power of love, Little Compton native Eames and New Zealander Wilson met thousands of miles from the respective shores they once called home. In a brief pause, we caught-up with the globetrotting explorers undertaking repairs on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.
Amadeus Finlay (Motif): What inspired you to take up circumnavigation as a career?
Hadley Eames: Woo-wee! That’s a thought-provoking question! If you had asked Simon this question 10 years ago, he would be surprised it took him this long to get to the Pacific on his own boat, as he has been dreaming of doing this since he was 13 years old. If you had asked me this question 10 years ago back in Rhode Island, I would have looked at you like you were absolutely bonkers. New Zealanders are bred to be sailors, and the inspiration to work and travel around the world on a sailboat was ingrained in Simon at a young age. “Self-Inspiration,” he calls it. My inspiration came from Simon’s passion and vast knowledge of the sailing industry. I didn’t know exactly what our life on a tilt would entail, but I was determined to be by his side; learning from him and becoming the person in whom he trusts his life out at sea.
AF: How did you meet?
HE: Simon was hired as first mate on a 130-foot sailboat that was going through some modifications in a boat yard in Portsmouth. I was hired to cook for the crew in a crew house, as there were up to 20 people working for the boat at times. It took him two days to ask me out for a drink, and a couple months later we were looking at our first 38-foot sailboat.
AF: What’s the most dangerous situation you’ve ever found yourselves in on the open seas?
HE: As professional yacht crew, we are trained to avoid getting into dangerous situations … so we like to take that knowledge with us to our own boat. Simon always says, “It’s never one decision that causes a bad scenario; it’s usually a series of bad decisions,” while our favorite saying as a couple is, “We aren’t getting paid to do this,” so we don’t.
Our first offshore passage on Oumâ was an 800-mile trip from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to Turks & Caicos in the Caribbean. We hit some unforecasted winds three days into our nine-day passage, and had about 50 knots of wind from behind causing 15-foot waves to crash into the cockpit. Since it’s only the two of us, we sail on shifts of two hours on and then two hours off. On one particular shift, I poked myself in the eye with the extension handle that clips onto our tiller, lost my contact lens and then crash jibed the boat. I proceeded to break into hysterics. When Simon felt the boat jibe, he came up to check on me, gave me a pep talk, and left me at the helm to go back to sleep. As much as I wanted him there for emotional support, I knew he needed to sleep in order to drive for his next two-hour shift. The storm lasted a further two days and we eventually made it to port in one piece … all that being said, there are times where we look at each other with a better-to-be-lucky-than-good look!
Simon Wilson: We don’t even know where to begin … this past year we sailed over the Equator and the International Date Line, so a lot of miles have been covered! There truly have been some beautiful sights, our favorite so far being the South Pacific. People really don’t understand how remote it is, and I don’t think they will unless they go there. It’s really hard to explain that you won’t have Internet for almost three months and that you learn to unplug and take in what’s around you. There are always plenty of other opportunities to bug our followers with Instagram stories! We have been anchored off uninhabited islands, and have gone without seeing another person for weeks. We were even lucky enough to dive with more than 1,000 sharks in the famous Fakarava south pass, which is in the Tuamotus, French Polynesia.
AF: Incredible experiences! But how do you manage a relationship in such small places, especially when you always have to be ready to cooperate?
SW: The key to a happy relationship in 10 feet of living space is … lots of hugs? There have definitely been disagreements along the way, but we have read many articles about couples doing what we are doing and they tend to glorify certain aspects. We can’t help but sort of roll our eyes; after a day of sanding, painting, being covered in grease, hanging upside down in a bilge or getting completely dumped on by sea water, is not a belly full of laughs. But we do know we are a team, and not to sound cheesy, we genuinely love being around each other and are each other’s best friend. After a long day, a wet night or just a crappy situation, we hug it out and remind ourselves not only why we are doing this, but also why we are doing it together.
HE: Absolutely. Front opening refrigeration, beds that you can walk around, and flushing toilets ARE a thing. We do have plans to have our cake and eat it too one day, with a house and a boat, that we can continue around the world on. If we decide to have children in the future, it is very important to us that they are exposed to the part of world travel that we have worked so hard to experience. And in case you were wondering, Little Rhody is our top pick for residency!
AF: And finally, do you think your story is worthy of a documentary?
SW: Our story is definitely unique, I would agree. The only reason why I would feel our story is worthier of a documentary than the next couple who sail around the world together, is because we do it differently. There are couples our age who have funded their cruising with YouTube videos as well as other forms of social media, but there isn’t an emphasis on the daily challenges of a floating home. So yes, I do think our story is a worthy one. We also think we are pretty funny, so why not?