Meet the couple who sailed across the Atlantic on a 35ft Sailing yacht and returned on an 80-meter Superyacht.
Adam met Doug in Australia while they both completed their yacht master. We caught up with Doug and Kim in Antibes, France during a rare day off for the sea going couple. It was so great to catch up and talk about life, adventure and plans for the future. We love sharing other people’s stories about alternative living and Doug and Kim are an awesome example.
Let's start with your name...
Tell us who you both are and a little about yourself? How would you introduce yourself at a party... full of really cool people who you're definitely going to get on with!
Hello, firstly thank you so much for inviting us to talk about Adventure Ache, curing that Ache is something we both feel really strongly about, which will hopefully transpire as we answer these questions… We’re Kim and Douglas Guthrie, otherwise known as @theguthries. I, Kim, do most of our writing, social media, and day dreaming, with Doug the engineer providing realistic goals and plans as to how we’re going to achieve the cure.
Have you both always had Adventure Ache?
Or is someone the driving force? As a kid were you already getting out there?
I was brought up in the Cairngorms by parents who love adventure. Childhood was spent camping, walking, climbing, cycling, skiing, canoeing and sailing, all made possible by my dad working at Lagganlia Outdoor Learning Centre and borrowing their equipment. By my teens, sailing had become the real focus, spending every weekend and a few nights a week racing and training in dinghies across the UK. I think this definitely resulted in a feeling of unease and discontent (Adventure Ache) whenever I stayed in the same place for too long, or spent too much time in the city during my Uni years. Someone once said to me after a busy Christmas holiday “it’ll be good to get back to a routine” and I distinctly remember thinking “but I don’t want a routine, I’ve enjoyed this transient few weeks of living out of my bag”.
Doug started sailing, mountain biking and snowboarding as a kid, really falling in love with sailing during his first time at uni. After his degree (Biomedical Science) he jetted off to Australia to complete his Yachtmaster before working on yachts around the globe, including sailing into New York, dodging icebergs and crossing the Atlantic from west to east on a 60ft yacht before returning to Uni in his late twenties to study Naval Architecture.
It was just before returning to student life that we got together, although our lives had actually crossed over ten years before as we used to race dinghies against each other as kids. Over ten years later, we both found ourselves teaching for the Aberdeenshire Sailing Trust and quickly realised we had a lot in common, in particular our love of sailing and the outdoors.
Our first dates were spent travelling down to the Clyde to race and cruise Doug’s little yacht, a 23ft Sonata, which we renamed ‘Vamonos’, meaning “let’s go!” in Spanish.
It was during these trips that we started dreaming of further horizons, and discussed the possibility of circumnavigating Scotland, which was to become our first big sailing trip together, lasting seven weeks (mostly raining) and our first time living a minimal lifestyle in a small space. So, long story short, I would say that we have both always sought adventure, and it was this that ultimately brought us together!
You recently sailed across the Atlantic, twice. . .
But under very different circumstances can you tell us a little about that?
Yes! Such different circumstances only a few months apart. It’s probably best to start by explaining how we ended up on the other side of the Atlantic to begin with… Doug and I had been chatting during a drive back to Glasgow from the Highlands about how amazing it would be to sail my parent’s yacht ‘Oran Mor’, a Hallberg Rassy 352, across the Atlantic and spend a few months cruising the Caribbean for our honeymoon. We were fed up with the daily commute, tiredness and routine of city life and it had been a couple of years since our round Scotland sailing trip, so one night I casually mentioned it to my dad to see what he would say, after all it would save him some money in wintering fees as he wouldn’t have to store the boat in Scotland. Well, he thought it was a great idea and that it was something he had always wanted to do too, but that we couldn’t leave my mum behind. So that was that! 9 months later, after our wedding and lots of weekends getting the boat ready, we had left our careers and were setting sail on a 7,000 mile, 5 month journey from Scotland to St Lucia with my parents. Not quite the honeymoon we had imagined but an incredible adventure nonetheless. After a few months sailing the Caribbean Doug and I decided it was time to start earning a bit of money again so looked for superyacht work when we reached Antigua, ending up aboard an 80 metre motor yacht with 24 crew. Two months and a couple of guest trips later, we crossed back across the Atlantic, leaving my parents to continue cruising together aboard Oran Mor.
What was your BEST and WORST day crossing the Atlantic in the small boat?
During our three weeks at sea, days definitely started to merge together, but there were a few stand-out moments. The best day was saving a leatherback turtle which was tangled in a fishing net. My mum spotted it floating near us as we sailed by, so we quickly rolled away the sails and started the engine, heading back to have a closer look. Doug grabbed his snorkel gear and a knife and jumped in to try to cut it free but with no success. Thinking quickly, as the turtle was clearly in distress, Doug climbed back on board and we scooped the turtle up in a bucket onto the deck. After around 20 minutes of careful work with sewing scissors, the fishing net and line was cut away and we were able to return the turtle to the ocean, where it quickly dived below the waves.
The very next day turned out to be our worst, as during our routine checks of the mast, Doug noticed a crack in part of the rigging. We had to act really quickly as we were really worried we were going to lose the whole mast and we still had well over 1000 miles to go until we reached St Lucia. It made us feel very vulnerable and cautious, and we ended up only using one sail (the jib) for the remainder of the journey which added on a couple of days. Overall, negatives are sometimes remembered more clearly: the incessant severe rocking making everyday tasks seem arduous, the loud noises and lack of sleep. The overall feeling, however, is of a great sense of achievement for sailing so far in a little boat and overcoming challenges that were thrown in our way.
What did you eat during your Atlantic crossing?
This was a question we got asked often, particularly from my pupils, when we told them about our trip. I wasn’t very sure how to provision for 3-4 weeks for 4 people with only a small fridge and limited storage but in hindsight I think I did an ok job! Over the last few years, Doug and I have moved towards eating a mostly vegan/vegetarian diet, predominantly for environmental reasons. My parents agreed that during the ocean crossing, it would be easier to run a vegetarian boat, as they wouldn’t have to worry so much about dodgy meat as the temperatures started to rise or if the fridge packed in. We also agreed that it would be easiest to cook one-pot meals, so dinners were versions of bean chilli, potato & chickpea curry, dhal, pasta & pesto and fajitas on rotation. Before provisioning, I wrote down all the ingredients for each meal on a spreadsheet then scaled up by six (30 meals x 4 people = a LOT of tins, jars and carbs!). Fajita night was hilarious, requiring great skill and patience as the boat rocks from 35 degrees one way to 20 degrees the other, with guac, salsa, wraps and filling carefully placed on the table flying onto laps and the cockpit floor if not careful. On our half-way night, I managed to treat everyone to homemade pizza, from scratch, which was a real treat. As we slowly started running out of fresh food, lunches moved from salads to biscuits and cheese and crisps, and breakfast from cereal and yogurt to par-baked rolls heated in the oven. We bought 50 big oranges and green apples, only losing a few to mould, and far too much humous, which we had to eat at a rapid pace before it went out of date. Finally the treat “box” (a whole cupboard) was an essential for keeping spirits and energy levels high, and included cereal bars, chocolate, nuts and cakes.
What did a typical day sailing the Atlantic look like?
Most days were pretty similar, with each of us doing solo watches of 3 hours on with 9 hours off. These long, indulgent hours of rest were used to read and listen to audio books and trying to sleep. Every 5 days we changed the clocks back by 1 hour, had a very quick shower (we only had 300 litres of water to last us the whole crossing as we didn’t have a water maker) and switched shifts.
How did you end up working on a super yacht?
What can you tell us about the yacht you are working on? Size, crew numbers etc?
It was kind of always our plan to pick up some super yacht work towards the end of our time in the Caribbean and although we envisioned it to be on a sailing yacht, we were very grateful to find work so quickly together on the same boat, an 80 metre motor yacht with 24 crew. Our time in Antigua looking for work and then once we had day work felt like the longest we’d stayed in one place for years but it was actually only 3 weeks. It definitely felt a little like our wings had been clipped, and at the time we really missed our roaming care-free adventure days but we were still glad to be in sunny climes with a great crew.
What does a typical day on a super yacht look like?
For me it depends whether the owners are on board or not. If they’re not around, we’re preparing the boat by deep cleaning, making beds and sometimes doing training like flower arranging and cocktail making. We also do fire drills and abandon ship drills, which involved jumping in from the main deck in our immersion suits and lifejackets. When guests are on board we’re at their beck and call! Cleaning toilets, showers, cabins etc. as soon as they’ve been used… It’s very different from my previous work as a teacher! Doug is the Second Engineer on board so he’s kept busy with everything from the engines and generators to the fridges and sewerage systems. It’s working well for us at the moment, we’re able to save money for future adventures as we have virtually no expenses, Doug is gaining his sea-time to get his next certificate so he can move to a rotational position (2 months on, 2 months off) and we’re still enjoying the beautiful Mediterranean weather.
How do you both cope living in a small space?
You have had a bit of practice!
We’ve found that we get on best when working and living together, especially during our liveaboard days. When we sailed round Scotland in our small yacht we were both tired at the same time, hungry at the same time and soggy from all the rain at the same time. Sharing all these experiences with each other made them feel not so bad. Also, of course, you also share all the great things about nomadic life too, like experiencing amazing places and meeting great people. We also have come to realise that you don’t need that much ‘stuff’, and when you live quite minimally, it becomes easier to fit into pretty small spaces together. At the moment we’re even sharing a single bed as we don’t really want to sleep in the separate bunk beds in our crew cabin!
What did life look like before you left on your adventure across the sea and what made you take the plunge?
We were living in a flat in Glasgow and both doing quite well at work. I was working as a secondary teacher and had recently been promoted to a Principal Teacher position. I had great colleagues and the kids were awesome. Doug was working as a Naval Architect over in Rosyth and was involved in some really interesting projects. But, he had over an hour’s commute each way, leaving the flat before 6am and regularly not returning home until 8pm. I was at my desk by 7am and often was often not home long before Doug. The commute was tiring, city life wasn’t doing anything for us anymore and we missed spending time together outdoors, so it was an easy decision to hand in our notices.
What has been the toughest part about living an alternative lifestyle?
Without doubt the toughest part is missing people from home. We miss our families, seeing our nephew grow up and celebrating birthdays, Christmas’s and weddings.
DINNER PARTY QUESTIONS
Some More Questions About Stuff We Like To Know About People! Ask These questions next time your at a party!
What is the best or most valuable investment you have ever made?
ie. Education, travel, self growth, material item or other.
Learning how to sail when we were kids is probably the thing that has had most impact on both of our lives. Chances are we wouldn’t have met otherwise! It’s also led us to some pretty awesome places, both in Scotland and now across the Atlantic.
Sea or Mountains?
We would definitely have to say the sea! So many possibilities for places to explore! So long as the views are good and we’re outside though, we’re happy… Actually, the best is when you have both; mountains that reach all the way down to the sea like some of the sea lochs on the north west coast of Scotland, or volcanic islands like Dominica or St Lucia in the Caribbean. So dramatic!
Winter or Summer?
Summer, we’re in endless summer mode at the moment, having gone from last year’s amazing Scottish summer (I got burnt on our wedding day!) to a roasting hot Caribbean winter, and now back to a heatwave in the Med. We do both love skiing though, so we’re hoping to get some time in the mountains this winter.
Where would you revisit?
We absolutely loved Dominica and St Vincent & the Grenadines (especially Union Island and Bequia). So many amazing volcanic hikes, waterfalls and beautiful beaches. Dominica was smashed to pieces by Hurricane Maria two years ago, and the local communities were so appreciative that boats are stopping by, showing real hospitality. They’re so resilient and proud of their country. It’s also got some amazing volcanic features, like the world’s second largest boiling lake which we reached after a 6 hour hike through the Valley of Desolation, which looked like the moon!
Where would you most like to go?
We talk about this a lot, and think at the moment it would be somewhere in South America, but we’re really open to suggestions. Sometimes you don’t even need to go far, we’d love to explore more of Scotland as well.
Most listened to song?
Definitely ‘I would do anything for you’ by Foster the People – it was our first dance at our wedding!
What can you not live without when you are traveling?
Phone. Sunglasses. Toothbrush. And each other (aw).
What advice would you give your 20 year old self?
Keep sailing. Run more. Go on more micro-adventures. Stretch.
We’ve watched a lot of environmental documentaries which inspired us to live a more sustainable lifestyle… ones like Blackfish, Before the Flood, Forks over Knives and The True Cost have all had a big impact on the way we try to live our lives.
Favourite books to inspire your adventures?
As teenager we read a lot of the same books about sailing around the world. I love Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi, about a woman who sailed solo round the world but when she started she didn’t even know how to sail!
What’s the big dream?
Woah. Big question. We would love to sail around the world, but also have a base in Scotland. Keep living an alternative lifestyle and hopefully keep working together.
What helps you cure your Adventure Ache?
Getting outside away from urban life. Sailing, salty sea swims and climbing mountains.
Follow Kim and Doug on their sailing and super yacht adventures on Instagram @theguthries