PREPARING for a round-the-world sailing trip is not an easy task - just ask Duncan and Caroline Woodhead.
The Alstonville couple have been planning the epic adventure for a while.
But now the time has finally come for them to board their Whitby 42 sailboat, Maggie Drum, and they won't return home for four years.
"Now is a good time for us to do this, because both of our sons are at university and they're independent," Caroline said.
"And we've also found someone to lease our business (Alstonville Country Cottages), and that was really important for us to make sure we had the right person.
"It's been a long process but we're almost there now and we're looking forward to getting away."
Maggie Drum will head north to Cairns and then to Darwin to join in the Darwin-to-Ambon Yacht Rally in August. From there Duncan and Caroline will sail through Indonesia and on to Thailand. This time next year they expect to be in Turkey.
It isn't the first time the Woodheads have spent a long time at sea. In 2000 they took their two boys - then aged eight and six - sailing around the Pacific Ocean for two- and-a-half years.
"We did the whole home-schooling thing on the boat," Caroline said.
"Sometimes we were 10 days at sea at a time. That can be challenging with two young children, but we made it work. We'll be by ourselves this time, so it'll be different.
"I have my 'sanity kayak' so I can get out and go for a paddle without Duncan. You definitely need time by yourself."
Duncan said the weather was the most important factor to consider when sailing.
He said they had carefully chosen the leaving date to coincide with the south-east trade winds and the end of the cyclone season.
"But you pretty much have to take it day by day, because weather forecasts are really only good for three days at the most," he said.
"There are a lot of calculations you need to do."
Since their last major sailing trip, safety equipment and communications have improved drastically.
This time they'll have a satellite tracker and iPads instead of mountains of books, and a water-maker so they can make their own fresh water if needed.
Chocolate and wine are two other must-have items.
"What I love about sailing is that we can be in a foreign place any- where in the world, but we've got our home right there with us," Duncan said.
"We know what the bed's like.
"We know we can come back and have our favourite cup of tea.
"It's a comfort zone."
* Once Duncan and Caroline set sail, you can track their adventure at my.yb.tl/maggiedrum/.
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