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Of love and the open sea

31 Jan 2019

Of love and the open sea Image

By Jessica Carrascalao Heard

Love at first sight is rare, but that’s exactly how Melburnian Leanne Grant felt when she stepped on to her beloved boat “Caprice” for the first time.

“I fell in love. Loved her. And I knew she was going to be safe … a strong ocean-blue boat which would get me home safely,” she said.

It was November 2016. Leanne was in Connecticut in the US to buy the boat she hoped would take her on an adventure.

It took more than a year of preparation and setbacks, but finally in June last year Leanne and her companions, set sail from Florida, bound for Docklands.

For six months Caprice and her crew, which fluctuated between two and five members on different legs of the journey, meandered through the deep blue waters of the Bahamas and the Caribbean, traversed the locks of the Panama Canal, and then set sail across the South Pacific.

The journey ended in December, with rough, blue-grey waters greeting Caprice at Port Phillip Heads.

They arrived home just in time for Leanne to see her teenage son for Christmas, after being away from him for eight months.

Caprice is moored at Docklands, which Leanne said was always going to be her final destination.

“Docklands is magnificent. It’s so beautiful and it’s right in the middle of the city. It’s got everything you could possibly need right on your doorstep,” she said.

The six months at sea for Leanne was living her dream. She has two big passions: sailing and travel, both of which she loves for the freedom they bring.

“Oh my gosh, I loved it,” she said, while describing 31 uninterrupted days on open water, sailing across the South Pacific Ocean to Tahiti.

“I loved being out at sea. It was magical. So beautiful and just, to be switched off from everything … the weather was spectacular. We had no storms, no pirates. We just had beautiful sailing literally the whole way.”

Love was a recurring theme on the trip.

Aside from crewing for yacht racing at Sandringham, Leanne didn’t have much sailing experience before the big voyage.

She knew she needed help, so she asked a friend from Sandringham to go through his contacts list to find people who would have the time, resources and sailing experience to help her on her journey.

One of the contacts he came up with was Gordon Buchan, who recently crewed on the Hartbreaker at last year’s Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

On the trip, Leanne and Gordon fell in love, and are now in a relationship.

Leanne said she knew that if she took a chance to take the trip, doors would open.

“Take a risk. Go do something that’s really different. It’s something that’s going to fulfil your dream and just see what doors do open,” she said.

In another life, Leanne worked in customer service and management roles in the health industry.

Although she’s always loved travel, she said one of the catalysts that prompted her to seek this adventure was her son’s decision to live with his dad.

“I said to him, ‘Well, I’m going to have a broken heart, so how about I go and have an adventure’?”she said.

As they had been taking annual holidays together since he was young, her son was well aware of her passion for travelling.

“And he was like, ‘Go for it.’ So off I went,” she said.

It was not long before she had bought Caprice, which she said had been on the market for two years.

The fifty-two foot vessel was originally custom-built for a cool US$1.5 million in Finland in the mid-1990s for the then-chairman of KONE Elevators, Pekka Herlin.

It’s this Finnish connection that Leanne hopes will help shape the next chapter in Caprice’s life, in a way that allows her to combine her passion with paid work.

Key to Leanne’s plans is connecting with Finnish tourists and the Finnish community.

She said she wanted to host VIP charters with beautiful champagne and catering, and to “let them have a sail on Pekka Herlin’s last toy”.

“If we can just get her back to her former glory, which won’t take much at all, we can take people out on amazing charters and share her with them,” she said.

Doing what she loves is important to Leanne, not just for herself, but as a role model for her son.

“I want him to find that thing that he loves to do, that at the end of the work week he feels like, ‘Well, that didn’t even feel like I was at work. I loved it’,” she said.

It’s that feeling she wants to share with people.

“If we can all find that passion, and do that, then it’s going to make a lot less depression and a lot more happiness, you know?” she said.

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