A couple who left the UK to sail around the world ‘for a few years’ in 2011 are still going – and have got married and had three children along the way.
Jess Lloyd-Mostyn, now 36, from London, had never even stepped foot on a boat when she ‘joked’ to her then boyfriend James, now her husband, that they should buy a yacht and circumnavigate the globe.
However, less than a year – and a few sailing courses – later, the couple left Falmouth and set off for the adventure of a lifetime.
They have so far visited 36 countries and covered 26,000 miles in eight years – and have no plans to come home.
The couple left their careers – Jess as an artist and James, 48, as an architect with four degrees between them – and rented out their London house and a flat, to help fund the trip.
They used the money they had saved to build an extension to buy a £35,000, 42ft Crossbow 42 “that needed a lot of work’”
Not only did Jess – who suffers with seasickness – and James fall in love with their new way of life, which has seen them visit the Caribbean, Tahiti, New Zealand and Fiji, they decided to start a family on board.
Two years after setting sail, Rocket, now five, was born in Mexico after Jess went into labour during a six-hour bus ride en route to the birthing centre.
Indigo, three, was born in a house sit in New Zealand in 2015, and Autumn was born during a visit back to London last year.
Jess and James now homeschool their two eldest children, but they don’t follow a curriculum and instead focus on ‘interest-based learning’.
Talking about their decision to set sail, Jess said: “Neither of us had any real reason to leave; our jobs, home and friendships were all ticking along quite contently.
“We were visiting family in Cornwall and were having a lovely cliff-top walk.
“I looked out to sea and sighed wistfully and said “do you know what darling, we could just buy a boat and sail around the world”.
“And he laughed at me, which was quite right as I’d never even been on a sail boat when I said it. It was a year later that we left.
“We left thinking that the challenge we had was to sail around the world in roughly two-and-a-half years and then return to London, our heads full of experiences.
“After crossing the Atlantic and enjoying several months in the Caribbean we reached Panama, where we decided to start a family.”
Jess admits that ‘not many’ people who go sailing around the world “decide to have a baby while sailing and carry on”.
The couple’s first child was born in Mexico after they agreed not to risk sailing across the Pacific Ocean while Jess was pregnant.
They had planned it so that they would arrive at the birthing centre in Guadalajara with plenty of time before Jess’s due date.
However, when Jess stepped on board the bus for the six-hour journey travelling 300 miles inland, she went into labour.
She said: “It wasn’t until I was lying on the floor of the aisle of the bus on a towel going “oh my god” that I thought “this is really happening”.
“We managed to make it to Guadalajara and we’re in a taxi and I’m on all fours when I heard a police car… the taxi had flagged us down a police escort and we ran through every red light in the city, and we made it to the centre on time.”
Jess had a natural birth and Rocket was born three weeks early weighing just 5lbs 2oz, but healthy.
So they spent five weeks in a hostel in Mexico before their families arrived to see the new arrival.
Jess said: “Mexicans have a tradition where the baby and mother don’t leave the house for first 40 days and we were out and about on day two and nobody had seen a baby out and about.
“Mexican men are soppy as hell, they really value family there.
“It was fathers and grandfathers and young men stopping us in the streets and saying “oh my goodness, what a gorgeous baby you are so blessed”.”
It was then time to get back on board their yacht, sailing from Mexico to New Zealand with their eight-month-old on board, exploring all the South Pacific islands in between.
The first passage to the Marquesas in French Polynesia was 26 days and 2,850 miles – although Jess admits for long stretches at sea, they do hire crew to come on board with them.
So how did they adjust to being a family of three with a very young new crew member?
Jess, who says she ‘never argues’ with James said: “Boats in general are very baby-proof from the start.
“No cupboards or drawers can open or fly out at sea so they all already have safety catches.
“Plus there weren’t any sharp edges to begin with so the transition to a family home has been very easy.
“There are some people who think a sail boat is really unsafe for a child. But on a good day, our sail boat averages five miles an hour. There are kids in cars in motorways every day.
“Obviously learning to swim is of paramount importance to us. Our kids had life jackets rather than cribs and buggies.
“It doesn’t mean you get nonchalant about any of the safety kit. It’s just very different kit from your average baby in London.”
One of the things that having a baby on board made Jess and James think about was the amount of rubbish they produce.
Already very eco-friendly, choosing to mainly sail by wind power rather than using the boat’s motor, the couple had to think about the baby’s waste and how to deal with it.
Jess said they decided to use cloth nappies for that reason, adding that living on a boat had made them more “environmentally aware”.
As well as earning money from renting out their house and flat Jess and James also make cash along the way by writing a blog along with freelance writing and photography, which they share on Instagram .
Jess admits they live very frugally and make things like bread and cake from scratch.
She says although they have mortgages on both properties, by being mindful of how they spend their money, they have actually managed to save cash while they’ve been away.
The initial outlay for the boat and its repairs and everything to get them started was around £60,000.
She says the living costs ‘vary wildly’ from place to place but they spend just over £20,000 a year, which includes all their living costs.
They also review products for the boat and the babies, and champion eco-minded solutions.
Jess said: “We’ve never had a cot or a buggy – we had to figure out what works in our world.
“That’s how we got involved with Sleepyhead. On the boat, there’s no room for a cot, we wanted to co-sleep with our baby and we felt with a Sleepyhead we could do this safely.”
Jess said the family spend their time exploring different countries, kayaking, doing yoga or swimming.
It was en route to New Zealand that Jess and James decided to get married – just 16 hours before tying the knot.
But instead of having the lavish white-sand nuptials everyone back home expected the couple to have, they opted for a ‘simple and humble’ ceremony in Fiji in 2014 that set them back a mere £18.
Their daughter Rocket was their only guest, “and she slept through the whole thing!”.
It was also en route to New Zealand that the couple decided to try for another baby.
Jess said: “When we started sailing with a baby it’s relatively straight forward, and it’s all lovely and static.
“We left Mexico with Rocket when she was just eight months old – it was our biggest crossing with 28 days at sea.
“She got her crawling down when we were on that crossing. Had her first birthday in Bora Bora, started walking in the Kingdom of Tonga.
“I now identify all these child milestones with where we were.
“It’s strange because that whole transition period of going from crawling to walking coincided with us saying “let’s do it again”.”
The couple decided to do a house sit in New Zealand around Jess’s due date.
However, the location was quite rural and the birthing clinic was undergoing renovations, which meant Jess would need to make her way to the nearest hospital more than an hour away.
With a toddler, the couple decided not to risk it, and Jess opted for a home birth instead.
Their son, Indigo, was born in a waterbirth in the bathroom in the house sit – with Jess deciding not to have any drugs.
Jess said: “It felt amazing. I’m not a tough cookie, but I did it without any medical set up.
“It was an incredible rush of hormones and endorphins and I felt like I could do anything.’
She admits that sailing with both a toddler and a newborn was ‘interesting’.
Jess said: “We had a toddler who was walking and questioning and asking and engaging with the sailing and not a static passenger.
“So we had a lot of time cruising around New Zealand, adapting to things like harnesses for them if they were in the cockpit when we were under way.”
Jess explains that although they were sailing around as a family of four, the boat never felt cramped.
It has two double cabins, a single ‘studio’ that’s used as a workshop for boat projects, a main living space, and a galley, which has a “really well-thought-out space… that allows us to eat like kings”.
And although the couple didn’t set off with the intension of having children on board, the space ‘works amazingly well’.
Also on board they have a dinghy, a two-man kayak and an inflatable paddleboard.
Jess says rather than having a rigid routine, much of sailing life is “lazing at anchor by a fab beach somewhere or you’re at a harbour getting to know the local community and customs”.
The family have spent lots of time on land, exploring different countries, and the children often make friends with other local kids.
And she says her children do get an education.
Jess added: “Our main table is our dining room table but it’s also our painting table our making table it’s where they are learning as they are home schooled.
“The boat is incredibly stimulating. Let’s say you’re in French Polynesia studying French foreign policy; let’s look at while sharks and rays; let’s look at the geography of how an atoll is formed. It’s a never-ending source.
“Rather than following a curriculum, we go with interest-based learning and it’s something that’s only come about recently formally.
“We try to always make things relevant to our lives. So it’s not “let’s sit down and have a maths lesson”.
“It’s we need to bake some bread today so how do we do that, how much flour do we need how much water do we need.
“It’s not a move against the standard education system. Any form of education that involves two parents who are totally engaged with it will hopefully be a positive thing.”
The family of four then set sail from New Zealand back to the South Pacific and onward into South East Asia.
They planned their third child and left their boat in Indonesia to head back to London to complete an extension on their house and Jess gave birth to a baby girl, Autumn, in October last year.
They plan to set sail again next month and say they “currently have no plans to return to normal”.
Jess said: “Some people work their whole lives to get a retirement together, that they maybe also don’t get to have.
“We’re greedy in terms of the amount of time we get all together as a family. We want to be together
“It’s utter chaos at times but it’s a really fulfilling chaos, and to me that’s worth the career we don’t end up having or the pots of money we don’t end up making.
“Most people work really hard to have that two-week holiday of the year that we have all the time.”
So what’s next?
Jess says the family will spend some time “getting back to our usual life of turquoise water and swimming with rays” and then head to Malaysia and Thailand after leaving the UK in April.
But she admits they might not always stay at sea.
Jess added: “It would most likely to be planning how to we get hold of a school bus and convert it and drive around South America.
“Or finding ourselves a plot of land and build a treehouse there.”
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