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Soulmate's Jackie Follows the Dream

by Nancy Knudsen on 11 Oct 2007
Jackie Hope on Soulmate in Vuda Marina, Fiji BW Media
Why do people leave home and go long range cruising? Surprisingly, it is rare to find the long range cruiser who has had a lifelong passion for the sea.

Sometimes they wish to escape the rat race to a simpler cleaner way of living. Sometimes they have been yearning all their lives to see a wider world, sometimes the yacht is just a substitute for retirement and a motor home. So it's a delight to meet a sailor who just 'wants to go to sea'.

Jacqueline Hope is one of these. When she was seven she had already been drawn to the sea and spent much of her leisure time poking around the shores of her seaside home in Bucklands Beach in New Zealand. However, when her father one day showed her older brother and her a tiny P Class sailing boat, and said 'Whoever can sail this first can have it.', her fate was sealed.

Jackie smiles when she remembers the incident today. 'I remember my brother said, 'You can have it' – he wasn't really interested – I knew I had my very own sailing boat.'

Jackie taught herself to sail, and from that day the overriding passion of her life was born. 'I sailed every single day after school – always solo – and sailed longer and longer distances.'

Part of a blended family of six children, 'two of his, two of hers and two of theirs' she also found in her sailing boat an escape and solace from an over-charged home atmosphere. By the time she was sixteen, after upgrading by buying, repairing and selling several dinghies, Jackie had graduated to a trailer-sailer boat, the new love of her life.

She was adventurous, too adventurous sometimes, and was several times rescued by fishermen out at sea. As they would be in the middle of a fishing trip, Jackie would have to remain in the fishing boat until the end of their journey. 'I learned so much about seamanship from these guys,' she says, ' and loved listening to their tales of the sea and far-off places they had visited.'

One bad stormy day she defied her father's instruction to stay at home, and sailed her boat from Mansion House Bay into one of the worst storms in New Zealand's history. During the storm she suffered a series of misadventures including losing the dinghy which wrecked on a reef and tearing the mainsail. Then, unable to sail the boat with the torn main, she was forced to anchor on a lee shore. The situation became dangerous when the main anchor rode broke. By aiming at an apparent 'hole' in the reef, she managed to get her sailing boat out of the horrendous seas into a lagoon. It was later while trying to reach and salvage her dinghy that she injured herself, again reached the shore, but collapsed unconscious on the sand.

The young sailor was unconscious on that remote shore for three days. A search was called off owing to the treacherous seas, and the world believed that Jackie had been lost at sea. When she finally woke and walked to get help, not realising it was three days later, it was considered a miracle by the New Zealand press and she had a few weeks of fame, appearing on the front page of several national newspapers.

'However, my father was not amused,' remembers Jackie, and he forbade her to ever sail solo in a sailing boat again.

'So I left home.' was Jackie's passionate and simple solution. Leaving home at sixteen is a difficult call even for a self reliant young woman, and Jackie's life for many years after that seems as confused as a scattered ant's nest. She lived off an on with her estranged mother, moved to Melbourne, had myriads of unskilled jobs, sailed on other people's boats, met a 'much older' man – an artist – moved to Sydney and lived there for several years in 'a pretty arty community.' Growing older she married several times, had four children, and from there her life was dominated by being a mother.


Now her history starts to read like a cross between a Supermum story and that of a driven soul looking for a personal paradise. During these childrearing years, as well as buying and upgrading sailing boats, she indulged her love of education – cut off by her early departure from home. While raising children and working at mundane jobs, she finished high school, completed an undergraduate degree with straight A's, became qualified as a secondary and then primary school teacher, finally as a librarian. Not finished there, she became the librarian at a Naturapath School in order to qualify as a naturapath .

Finally, after practicing as a naturapath for several years, and in her leisures time owning and sailing small boats with a new life partner, she struck gold. She had invented a natural product which relieved sufferers of cirrhosis more effectively than the existing steroid based treatments. Over a period of a couple of years – she describes it as 'a roller coaster ride', the product was first successful in Australia, then the USA Federal Drug Administration accepted it, and finally it gained world-wide market.

'The growth of my small factory was fantastic' she remembers. 'We used to make 20,000 items about every three months. Then, after some television coverage, we sold 20,000 in one weekend – and that was only the beginning.'

Suddenly, unexpectedly, Jackie was making lots of money - lots and lots of money.

However, within a short period of time, she had sold the business and bought the next keel boat of her dreams. 'With my partner at that time we had often talked about the dream of just sailing away one day, but the lure of the dollar and growing the business was greater for him. He was bitterly disappointed that I sold the business instead of building it. However, money only meant one thing to me – boat, boat, boat, and the chance to go sailing again.'

So two years ago, all her children now grown and left home, Jackie took the big step and left Melbourne on the largest boat she had ever owned – a J40 called Soulmate. Her children, Pandora, David, Shoni and Michelle support her passion, but occasionally send postcards which say 'Come home silly Mummy.'

Since that departure she has circumnavigated both Tasmania and New Zealand, in spite of the initial doubts of her home yacht club – Sandringham, who wondered whether she had enough experience for such large journeys. She has also sailed backwards and forwards between New Zealand and the cruising grounds of the South Pacific.

She has occasional crew – 'Sometimes they are good, sometimes I would be better without them. On one occasion I took a crew member who stayed seasick for the whole of our voyage. So I had to sail the boat solo, and care for him at the same time.'

There's a lightheartedness about Jackie's approach to her future today. 'Yes I want to circumnavigate the world,' she grins mischievously, ' but I don't know where exactly to go yet. Remember I've only been long range cruising for two years. I'm still in kindergarten.'

Jackie's modesty is belied by her confident and efficient attitude to everything she does. Soulmate is sleek and well cared for on the outside, a cosy colourful home on the inside.

The day that we meet, Jackie is waiting for new crew to arrive by aeroplane into Fiji, to sail once again back to New Zealand. 'Yes, I want to circumnavigate the world, and I will – maybe next year, maybe even this year. Right now, I have to go meet my new crew – hope he's better than the last one.'

As Jackie runs off jauntily to meet her 'new crew', I have no doubt that she will achieve her dream and sail away from Antipodean shores, headed for new adventures in Asia, the Indian Ocean and parts ever westward.

There are only a few people who dare to follow their dreams in life, and Jackie, I am sure, is one of them.


Watch this space...fo/u

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