It’s been a wild ride for ‘Blue Nomad’ Brian Stiles since he retired 11 years ago but – after one too many nautical misadventures – the one-time solo sailor is ready to say goodbye to the ocean waves … and hit the open road instead.
And that means putting his beloved 34’ 2003 Gemini 105MC Catamaran, which he bought sight unseen off the internet, up for sale. Brian picked the vessel up in Fiji soon after retiring, and that’s when the dream – and one or two nightmares – began. By his own admission, he didn’t know how to sail at the time.
After a day and half of sailing lessons from the previous owner, Brian stayed in Fiji for six weeks practising every day, and grilling veteran sailors in the pub at night. By the end of it all, Brian described himself as being a ‘reasonable sailor’.
“Then, I pulled up the anchor and sailed it to Australia … single-handedly,” he said. “And in November, 2011, I arrived in Bundaberg after 21 days at sea.”
As might be expected from a beginner who had to read manuals in the middle of the ocean to repair things that broke, the voyage was far from plain sailing … but worse was to follow.
“A month later, I got wrecked on Broughton Island, NSW, when a violent storm threw me up onto the beach and rocks,” said Brian. “It punched great holes in the bottom of my boat … sinking me!” It took years for Brian to get the boat back in the water but, in February, 2021, he finally weighed anchor again ready to sail around Australia.
But the dramas came thick and fast.
“I hit five gales in the first month,” said Brian. “One big gale near Gabo Island in the Bass Strait with 70 knot winds and six-metre seas smashed the solar panels, took out my batteries, and almost washed me overboard!”
After six weeks fixing the boat, Brian sailed up to Batemans Bay and things were back on an even keel … briefly. He decided to walk along the wharf which he thought was covered in a non-slip green mat, but was actually green slimy moss.
“I took one step onto it and went down like a ton of bricks,” said Brian. “I was knocked unconscious and, when I got up, I could not move my arms … they were paralysed in pain.”
Brian had torn both rotator cuffs off his shoulders … and, more than a year later, he is still recovering from the injuries.
It’s all been enough to convince this blue nomad that it’s time to become a grey nomad.
Several years ago, while his boat was out of commission, Brian imported a 36’, 1989 Foretravel, Grand Villa motorhome from the USA, and it will now be his full-time home as he traverses this wide brown land in search of adventure.
And he’s odds on to find it!