Willy Bolton : Snapshot of Family Life Afloat
Willy Bolton is For Sale (December 2019) for £180,000 in New Zealand. This grand boat was an home for the Hunt family for many years. They bought her in New York in 1990, sailed her to Weymouth, England, and, over the next ten years restored her. Here is their daughters, Elle & Jess' account of what happened next.
In May 2000 (when Jess was seven and Elle was nine) we left our home in Dorset, England, and moved onto our family's 58" yacht, the Willy Bolton. The family story is that, just after Mum had met Dad, Dad said that he wanted to sail around the world; Mum said she wanted kids; and Dad replied, “Well, we'll have to get a bigger boat”. So, we were born into this adventure. The biggest heartbreak of our departure was not selling our house and most of our possessions, or farewelling our friends and family, but having to give away our pet hamsters. Such is life when you're a child. For the best part of four years, we lived a nomadic existence. We travelled down the coasts of France, Spain and Portugal, which were familiar territories from a lifetime of school holidays spent preparing for this adventure. Then, we sailed for three weeks straight as we crossed from the Canary Islands to Barbados in the Caribbean. From there, we island-hopped our way to Panama, and then spent 2001 cruising the South Pacific.
Although Mum, as a teacher, was ostensibly home-schooling us, the trip itself was all the education we needed. We'd do an hour of maths, science and French each day, and chalked things like climbing up a tree and snorkelling to being PE. As the boat only had mains power for one hour per day, we had no TV, and our cutting-edge 16MB RAM laptops had limited battery power. So, we read everything we could get our hands on, regardless of age-appropriateness. We read John Grisham, Tom Wolfe, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Dick Francis, Oscar Wilde. We read books for English language learners, and the complete works of the Brothers Grimm. Apart from the Harry Potter series, which we had shipped, book by book, to marinas all over the world, we didn't read many children's books. In fact, we didn't see many other children. There were plenty of yachties doing the same thing as us but they were mainly middle-aged or young couples: there were very few families, and so we came to prefer the company of adults. Though we missed interaction with our own kind we had compensating experiences such as swimming with manta rays, turtles, and black- and white-tip reef sharks. In the Galapagos Islands, Jess rode a giant tortoise. Dolphins became as commonplace as pigeons, while in Tonga, a humpback whale almost breached on top of us. We climbed machete-hewn paths up mountains; we drank kava with Fijian chiefs. This was our childhood.
In 2002, we found ourselves in New Zealand. Although we had vaguely intended to return to England, Mum and Dad reached the conclusion that we'd benefit from a more formal education. The fact that the savings they'd put away for our adventure had about dried up was also a motivating factor. Yachting is the most expensive hobby it's possible to have. And so, in 2004, after a year-long farewell tour of Fiji, New Caledonia and Australia, we settled in Nelson permanently, and we were faced with making the awkward transition to school life in New Zealand. Jess, aged ten, went straight into intermediate, and 12-year-old Elle, into college. Our last experience of formal education had been in the late 1990s in an English primary school, and so at first it was hard to reconcile ourselves to the nine-to-three school day in New Zealand in 2004. But we got there in the end, and to meet us today, there are few clues that our childhoods were any different to anyone else.
Willy Bolton Statistics
Built : 1970 by David Cheng Boat Builders in Hong Kong
LOA : 57' 9"
LWL : 40' 0"
Beam : 14' 2"
Draught : 6' 6"
Displacement : 35 tons TM
Lloyd's Register : N° 343809
Willy Bolton Custodians & Home Ports
Anthony & Kathryn Hunt (1990-2003-?) New Zealand
Bill Hersey & Family
Bill & Patty Burke (1980-1981-?) - -
Lt Cdr KE Langford RAN & Mrs JL Langford (1977-1979) Hong Kong
Theodore Norman (1973-1976) Hong Kong
Joseph Demarco (?-1972) Hong Kong
Willy Bolton Links
• Willy Bolton Sale Particulars as PDF (June 2017)
Page last updated : December 2019