by Peter Carruthers
THEY have quit their jobs, sold their possessions, pulled the kids out of school and are planning to set sail.
Annabel, Matt, Tilly and Sasha Stewart are making final preparations to their 50 foot Alan Pape-designed steel ketch called Iron Will.
They plan to weigh anchor from Airlie Beach in August and take 12 months to explore the Queensland coast, as far as Lizard Island.
"I don't know if we will get that far but we don't want to have any schedule...and want to do things according to the weather," Annabel said.
"We will go where the wind blows and see if we like it."
Matt compared the impending adventure to a land based 4WD expedition and said their outlay on the boat was similar to the expenditure needed to travel around Australia by road.
Matt is a certified sea captain and has spent his life working in the marine industry.
Annabel has worked in a library and at a local school.
After many years of talking about sailing away but finding reasons not the take the plunge, Annabel said this year a line in the sand was drawn and their dream was finally coming true.
"We kept saying 'we need a bigger budget and a bigger boat' but in the end we said 'we will go cheap and go now'," she said.
Matt said he had never heard of the Youtube yachting sensations SV Delos and La Vagabonde whose crews have both racked up millions of views on their respective social network channels.
But Annabel said she was now aware she had already started a blog in which the family will document their travels.
"The Facebook page has really taken off and suddenly we are reaching 1500 people with some of our posts," she said.
"I know that when we were looking into doing this I loved reading stories about people that just decided to do it and did it. Ordinary families that just decided to give it a go.
"We are hoping that this will appeal to that market as well. To people who are thinking 'it's just too hard' and 'we need to be really rich' but you don't, you just need to be able to do it and set your mind to it."
In response to the big question: what do you do for money after you quit your job and set sail?
"You just have to be very careful with your money and we have raised enough to live for a year by selling our stuff," Annabel said.
"If you over think it you will never do it. You need to set yourself a goal and go when you have got a certain amount."
The Iron Will is a steel boat built for Antarctic exploration and has a three-cabin configuration with a forward and aft berth, centre saloon and centre cockpit.
"She is a very old fashioned boat and we love that. She is not a flimsy production coastal cruiser. She is a well solid sea-going boat," Annabel said.
Upon saying bon voyage to the Whitsundays the crew will head north for the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club Rendezvous at Cape Gloucester in late August and end up south in Harvey Bay for Christmas.