Bay Area family returns after 4 years at sea

The Associated Press
Monday June 17, 2002

SAUSALITO — A Marin County family has finally docked at home — four years, 41 countries and some 35,000 miles after they first sailed out of a Sausalito harbor on their trip around the world. 

“The trip was for our own benefit, but also for the education and the broadening of knowledge for our children,” said Willie Leslie, 60. “We wanted the children to become travelers and see that people around the world are basically the same.” 

He set off with his wife Andrea, 43, and their two children, Ellen, now 10, and Scott, now 12. Willie and Andrea lived on their 37-foot sailboat, the Lady Ann, in Sausalito for 14 years prior to setting sail. They planned the trip for 10 of those years — saving money, charting routes, preparing the boat and researching navigational hazards, harbors and anchorages in each country. 

The family left Sausalito in October 1998, reaching Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, two months later. In April 1999, they left Balboa at the Panama Canal and began their trip around the world. 

They sailed along the coast to the Galapagos Islands then into the open ocean for the first time, on a 21-day crossing to Easter Island. 

The Leslies sailed to Pitcairn Island, where their boat was bumped by whales. Then on to Bora Bora, Fiji and Australia, where they spent 10 months waiting for the cyclone season to pass. 

When they sailed past Oman, notorious for its pirates, they traveled 50 miles off the coast with 10 other boats, and took their sails down in the day to be less visible. 

The family also visited Israel, Greece, France, Morocco, the Canary Islands, Grenada, Venezuela and Columbia. 

They reached the Panama Canal again on March 19, and sailed into Sausalito on Friday. 

The Leslies now plan to sell the boat and buy a house. They don’t know where exactly they’ll settle down, but they do know it will be in the United States. 

“The kids have never lived in a house. They want to have pets, a yard, and their own rooms,” Willie Leslie said. “We have seen a lot of wonderful places that we would like to go back and visit. But this trip proves to us that America is the best place in the world.”