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They sail the world together but in two separate boats

The husband and wife stay in touch by radio and meet up in port

The husband and wife stay in touch by radio and meet up in port

Some couples have his-and-her towels. Englishman Tony Curphey and his German wife Susanne Huber-Curphey have his-and-her yachts.

The solo sailors, who live together while in port but sail their own boats around the world, made a temporary and unexpected stop in Nelson, New Zealand, in April. The couple were 30 days into a passage from Australia to Fiji when Curphey’s 27-foot plywood cutter, Galenaia, began taking on water in heavy weather. “I was a bit worried when I found the damage,” Curphey says.

Fortunately, Huber-Curphey, who was sailing her “much faster” 41-foot fiberglass yacht, So Long, turned around and sailed two days to her stricken husband. “It’s the first time she’s rescued me for this type of problem, but she rescues me all the time for other things,” Curphey says. (Curphey opted to radio his wife because he didn’t want to trouble rescue authorities, according to published reports. The couple reportedly kept in contact with rescue services by radio, but declined help.)

The couple met in Whangarei, New Zealand, 12 years ago, while they were both sailing their own boats. They have jointly completed one circumnavigation and were completing another in the opposite direction when the damage occurred. Huber-Curphey towed her husband and Galenaia more than 680 miles to safety in Nelson. The couple says towing under sail for eight days was very difficult, and there were a few “anxious moments” as they tried to keep the yachts from colliding.

Huber-Curphey says that while they live together on her boat when they’re in port, they enjoy their own boats and the freedom of sailing solo. “Two skippers on one boat might be a bit of a clash,” she says. They travel with their terrier, Honey, who remains aboard So Long for quarantine reasons and has four very good sea legs.

Huber-Curphey, 47, is an architect and has a small income; Curphey, 63, receives a small pension. The couple are proud their boats are not luxury cruisers. In fact, both have manual winches and sails that must be hoisted by hand. They do most of the maintenance themselves, carrying a sewing machine to repair sails and canvas.

Huber-Curphey says she likes her slightly bigger boat, while her husband is proud to live “on a shoestring.” “He says [So Long] is too big and too comfortable, and he’d rather bang his head,” she says. “He doesn’t like having it too easy.”

Despite sometimes being more than three days away from each other at sea, they keep in contact two or three times a day via radio. “People often ask us for the frequency, but we have a public frequency and a private frequency,” quips Huber-Curphey. They planned to remain in Nelson while repairs to Galenaia were carried out, then set off together — but apart — for Fiji.

Naomi Mitchell is a reporter for New Zealand’s The Nelson Mail newspaper.