Epic voyage is over for couple

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 17/12/2013
Elise Gagnon and Frank Catton
ALDEN WILLIAMS/Fairfax NZ

SAFE RETURN: Elise Gagnon and Frank Catton, on the Ouais Ouais at Nelson Marina in March, have made it back home to Canada.

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A couple whose sailing odyssey included two stops in Nelson 28 years apart, have finally made it home to Canada, more than three decades after leaving.

Frank Catton and Elise Gagnon and their small yacht Ouais Ouais arrived in Victoria, Canada last week, five months after leaving Nelson on the last leg home of a journey that took them around the world several times and to more than 370 ports.

"We are okay. It was a long and hard trip, but we are very proud of our success," Ms Gagnon said in an email to the Nelson Mail. Mr Catton was 40 when he launched the ferro-cement yacht, which he had built himself, in 1979. Ms Gagnon was 20 and answered his advertisement for a companion on his journey to Mexico, which was the beginning of the journey and their relationship.

They first visited Nelson 28 years ago, when the marina was little more than a "few bare poles". They returned in March this year to do maintenance on the yacht, and on Mr Gagnon, who had surgery on a hernia.

Ouais Ouais, or "ya ya", which is a slang version of the French "oui oui" ("yes yes"), is a Norwegian-type gaff-rigged cutter with a top speed of 4 to 5 knots. The four-month leg from Durban, South Africa, to Nelson took so long that they were reported as missing.

They funded the journey with exhibitions of Ms Gagnon's scrimshaw (cattle) bone engravings of tall ships they have seen along the way.

They were not overly sad at the prospect of such a voyage ending. They plan to cruise Canadian waters now they are home, and set up a museum of their travels and artwork in Mayne Island, between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island.

"We are like chameleons. You have to be. If you are sad about that place back there, you are not going to be happy in the place you're in," Ms Gagnon said on leaving Nelson.

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- The Nelson Mail

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