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We've been adopted by a town, and it feels good

by Rob Hedelt 9 Sep 2018 04:57 UTC
Crystal Blues anchored in the British Virgin Islands © Neil Langford

Though I've never done much deep-sea, blue-water boating, there's something magical about the thought of circling the world on a stout ship.

Meeting Neil and Ley Langford—who've done just that, logging some 60,000 nautical miles in 13 years of circumnavigating the globe—just added to the mystique of that idea.

I connected with the couple from Melbourne, Australia, several weeks back at the tip of the Northern Neck, in the town menhaden fishing made famous, Reedville.

The connection happened because I was in the Reedville Fishermen's Museum when Neil Langford popped in one morning.

Museum Director Lee Langston–Harrison, a former neighbor of mine here in Fredericksburg, explained when the blue-water sailor left that the Langfords had sort of adopted the town as a summertime port of call. They were back this summer after first arriving the same time last year.

That piqued my interest enough to set up a time to talk with the couple a week or so later, arriving at the dock where their steel-hulled, sloop-rigged 50-foot sailboat, Crystal Blues, was moored on a toasty summer day.

Taking a break from some boat maintenance—the couple does almost all of their own work, with Ley being the real mechanic after growing up the daughter of a father with a tool-making business—they shared their amazing story so far of life on the bounding main.

The couple noted that their life was much more typical until 2005, when they made a decision to trade the 9-to-5 grind for a sailboat and a dream of really seeing the world over the next horizon.

Neil said he sold an IT and AV business to his employees and the couple's house as well. Ley, a teacher, finished up her job. The couple, who had gotten a feel for the boat by sailing up and down the coast of Australia, headed off to see the world.

They'd learned to sail, navigate and communicate with an array of tools and electronics aboard the sailboat, which has everything from heat and AC to fully functioning head and shower and even a machine that converts sea water to drinking water.

"We had no established plan other than knowing we wanted to head to Asia and spend time there," said Neil.

The couple did just that, spending nearly 10 years in Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo and other spots where he said the sights were amazing and the people as friendly as could be.

One sail up a river in Borneo took them to a village of longhouses where they were welcomed by Iban tribesmen. They stayed for several days and then returned year after year for longer stays.

"We ended up after a while teaching the children in the village," said Ley, noting that they actually used parts of the boat as classrooms.

Stops in other Asian ports lead to everything from finding new friends to actually starting a new business in one stretch, before the call of the sea moved the couple to set off once again.

They made the loop down and around South Africa, making the trip in short hops of two weeks or less, joining other sailors and members of the Ocean Cruising Club whenever possible. Even more important: always avoiding spots where piracy is known to happen.

Hearing them talk of their travels sounds like a traveler's dream, the musically inclined Neil talking about drumming and strumming a guitar or the couple joining others for stopovers in amazing spots like Mauritius, the Maldives, Surinam, Sri Lanka, Grenada, Trinidad, Havana, Tobago.

Eventually, they made their way to the U.S., moving up the coast last year to venture to a spot in the Northern Neck to visit a connection from Australia in a spot not far from Reedville.

Meeting up with others in the Ocean Cruising Club for a short sail brought them to Reedville, where new friends offered them the use of their dock.

They stayed for several weeks, returned in the fall and came back this summer to spend six weeks.

"We've been sort of adopted by the nice people here," said Ley, noting that new friends have them over to dinner, pick them up to go grocery shopping and generally make them feel like full-fledged residents of Reedville while there.

"We've used people's fax machines and had boat parts delivered to their houses," said Neil, "and we've shared some awfully good food and wine on our boat and in their homes."

They attended Reedville Fishermen's Museum events like a Fourth of July parade, an oyster roast and even helped out with museum projects.

Right now, the couple who intends to return to Reedville in the fall is further north, taking in Long Island and ports in New England before returning.

"It's not the kind of life that's for everyone," said Neil, "as you're in pretty close quarters. And it helps to be handy to fix things when they quit working. But we enjoy it and will keep doing it as long as we can."

This article has been provided by the courtesy of SV Crystal Blues

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