So, who are 'us'? Good question, but easily answered...
We're Dick McClary, Mary
Swift McClary (after 30+ years of togetherness, we married in September 2020) and our sailboat Alacazam.
When Mary and I met, back in 1989, I owned a Nicholson 32 sailboat 'Jalingo 2' which I'd sailed largely single-handed from Poole in the UK to the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. Mary had never sailed anything anywhere but, so she said, was keen to "give it a go." Hmm...
As it happened, I was planning to sail 'Jalingo' back to the UK, and invited Mary to crew for me on the first leg from Mallorca to Gibraltar.
If Mary didn't take to sailing, the relationship wasn't going to work, so unbeknown to Mary this was something of a test.
We set off in mid-December. It was cold, wet, windy and decidedly uncomfortable, but Mary passed the 'test' with honours - and we've been partners in all things ever since.
'Jalingo' was a fine boat for a single-hander; safe, sturdy and predictable but heavy and slow in light airs. I wanted a little more space and performance.
A good pal, Andrew Simpson (irritatingly well-qualified as a yacht designer, marine surveyor, sailing journalist, author and illustrator) readily agreed to design a light displacement, 38ft (11.5m) fast cruising boat for us. And so the concept of 'Alacazam' was born.
Incidentally, it's Andrew's artwork that graces many of the pages of this website.
'Alacazam's hull lines and hydrostats were developed using Vacanti's 'Prolines' design software and the construction drawings done with 'AutoCad'.
She was constructed as a 'cedar-stripper', using Western Red Cedar from California with bi-axial woven rovings and epoxy sheathing to the inside and outside of the hull. 'Alacazam' turned out to be immensely strong, light - and quick. Excellent!
Now with 'Alacazam' moored on the River Tamar close to our Plymouth home, we spent the first sailing season exploring the West Country ports and anchorages, together with the Channel Islands and Brittany.
I was already an RYA Yachtmaster (Ocean) and Mary got started on the RYA Sailing Courses - Competent Crew, Day Skipper and eventually Yachtmaster Offshore.
Our sailing ambitions gathered momentum...
Fortuitously, we both had the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy from our jobs - an offer which was accompanied by an attractive lump sum payment. Mary's house was developed into two flats, and together with 'mine' - which Mary now shared - let out to tenants. With our cruising plans reasonably well financed we moved aboard 'Alacazam' and set off for warmer climes.
We were in no rush. We explored the coasts of Brittany and languished long in Northern Spain - still one of our favourite cruising areas - and south to Portugal and the Algarve. At this stage, the plan was to get back into the Mediterranean. But we had a chat...
We had a capable boat and time on our hands, so why not cross the Atlantic and spend some time cruising the warm waters of the Caribbean?
Which is what we did. The first leg was Portugal to Madeira, then Madeira to the Canary Islands, followed by the big one - the classic tradewind passage to the West Indies.
A passage of 3,000 odd nautical miles, which we did in 18 days - not bad for a 38 footer with a crew of two.
Which is where we find ourselves now, cruising the islands between Anguilla in the north and Trinidad in the south - and very pleasant it is too.
Mary and I bale out of the Caribbean for the hurricane season and return to the UK, where I spend my time writing magazine articles, eBooks and website pages.*
*Note: This annual routine has been currently interrupted by the Covid pandemic - we very much hope we can re-establish it in 2021.
Return to:~ Sailboat Cruising (Home Page)