A happily ever after that few venture with a dog in tow
By Justyne Yuen-Lee
Photos: Wahkuna’s Voyages
Some of us don’t even really think about love or retirement. In my mind, I worry about the next week, what I’m going to eat tonight, and wonder if I’ll ever save enough money to move out. But really, in 30 to 40 years, I’ll be done with building my career and potentially married with children ( ? ?? ? ). There are so many options – do I want to stay in a comfortable retirement area or do I want to travel? Do I want to keep working even though I’m eligible to retire? There are so many questions.
Now Robert McCourt and his wife Delphine had the idea to do something different in their retirement. The couple retired together and set sail on their Hans Christian 38′ T Cutter, Wahkuna. On their adventures on their boat, they bumped into a stray dog in Mexico who followed them around. When it was time to leave, they found him asleep on the deck of their boat and he’s been with them ever since.
Güero takes a nap, one of his favorite hobbies, on the Wahkuna.
With limited wifi, it was difficult to ask our prying questions, but Delphine was able to reach out to us about their adventures on the Wahkuna and the blog they run in the voice of Güero, their pup!
Please tell us a bit about yourselves. How did you meet and how did you decide to trade your regular lives for the boat life?
We met in Cuba one March break when we were both on holiday almost ten years ago. At that time I was living in Toronto and Robert was living in Ireland. However, we kept in touch and that summer he visited Toronto and we then started our relationship. We were both still working which meant that we established a long distance relationship with many trips back and forth across the Atlantic. As you might imagine a long distance relationship is not easy, so Robert decided to take early retirement and come and join me in Toronto. Separate to his retirement, I had already arranged to take a four over five, so during the time that Robert lived with me in a Toronto, we negotiated and bought our sailboat, Wahkuna. It then seemed a logical step for us to move full time on board the boat when I started my sabbatical year. As we became more familiar with our new lifestyle, I too decided to retire, so that Robert and I could continue indefinitely our sailing adventure.
We love that your dog is the voice of your blog! What gave you this idea?
Robert has grandchildren so we hoped to make our blog more interesting for them and we thought that a dog’s voice would make it more accessible. It is also enabled us to not have to express our own opinion directly but rather to view our experience via a different set of eyes.
How did you know Güero was the dog for your family?
I think the response to this question would have to be put the other way around. Güero was living as a stray street dog in the streets of Guaymas, in the state of Sonora in Mexico and started following us around while we were visiting the town. During our stay, we occasionally gave him some food but before we knew it he was following us everywhere, waiting for us outside restaurants and shops and finally one morning we discovered that he was sleeping on the decks of our boat and from then on he never left.
Does he get restless on the boat? How was the boat life transition for Güero?
Restless is not a concept that Güero is familiar with. He seems to live by the philosophy : why stand if you can sit and why sit if you can lie down. It was clear that Güero had adopted us and there was never an issue with transition. We were glad when during his first passage of over 500 miles which lasted six days, he quickly understood that it was acceptable for him to do his business on the fore-deck of the boat, although he much prefers to go to shore.
What has been your favorite destination to date?
So far our favorite destination has been Mexico, particularly the Pacific Coast where there are many beaches for Güero to run around and people are welcoming towards dogs.
What’s next on your travel list?
We plan to cross the Panama Canal, spend some time in the San Blas Islands while waiting for the hurricane season to pass. Then in December this year, we hope to cross the Caribbean Sea and reach Puerto Rico, then the Virgin Islands where we will put Wahkuna on a container boat and ship her back to the UK. The three of us will then fly to France to visit my family and then head back to Southampton to pick up Wahkuna and sail back home to Ireland. Güero will of course be part of all those trips and in the future we plan on taking him as far as New Caledonia to visit family and friends.
What’s the most challenging part of your lifestyle (besides limited wifi!) ?
The challenging part of our lifestyle is having to constantly adapt to new situations and problem solve in areas we are not familiar with and Robert does not necessary speak the language. Fortunately I am fluent in Spanish which has helped immensely.
What has been the most life changing or rewarding part?
While this life still appears to be romantic, it might not suit all couples. Yet living on board a boat allowed Robert and I to build a very strong relationship and we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It also enables us to challenge ourselves physically and mentally all the while discovering parts of the world that most people will never be able to see.
Finally, any advice for our readers planning an adventure with their pet?
We would recommend your readers to go for it, bring their pets as they will enjoy being part of the adventure. However they must be prepared to do the homework that is required to bring a pet across international waters.
For more in-depth stories of their adventures, visit their blog Wahkuna’s Voyages!