Rolling Home: Part 2

Java sea adventure!

Catherin Lorenzen was medical officer at the British School, Jakarta in the 1980s and 90s. In the second of three articles, she describes how her life opened up with a series of adventures in the Java Sea on board her family’s yacht, Rolling Home, which also became a teaching resource at school . . . .

School afloat

The kids clambered over Rolling Home’s deck, and seeing life below in the galley. Everything was labelled so they could learn all the parts of a boat, and a few nautical terms. Life vests on of course, were kindly lent by the hotel.

The kids enjoyed a dinghy ride around the clear waters of the marina looking for star fish and coral and then they climbed to the top of the lighthouse to learn about communication at sea.


Finally there was the science activity given by a sailing colleague who showed how the boat’s blocks and pulleys worked.

We hauled a few children “up aloft”, and then we adjourned to the beach for a swim and picnic lunch. Everything and every eventuality was planned for, going without a hitch and I hoped the children gained a little insight to life at sea and gave them food for thought!

I spent 6 happy years with the British School: what started as helping out in a little primary school’s first aid room changed as the school grew and moved to a new site in Bintaro with three medical rooms, managed by three very competent Indonesian nurses.

I left feeling I had made a difference, and so began a very different life for me. We were to get our boat ready, to sail her home to Europe.

Rolling Home to England?

We had been in Jakarta for ten years, and the children had flown the nest. We started to dream. Our wonderful 13m boat, Rolling Home, had been at the centre of our family life in Indonesia and our minds turned to the biggest adventure of them all – sailing home to England! I don’t know what my family in the UK thought of us and our wild adventure of planning to sail home and possibly around the world – nuts, probably!

I was, after all, a gardener’s daughter who grew up in a council house in a little village in the Kent countryside. A day out to the seaside when I was a little girl meant sandy sandwiches, candy floss, and a paddle.

Lines in an atlas

However, from a young age I always had dreams to travel. I still have my school atlas that I defaced with my “route planning”! When I grew up, I trained as a nurse and got married. Then fate stepped in. After the death of my first husband aged 24, I found myself aged 21 on my own with a little baby of 3 months. I picked up my atlas again and saw my childhood line drawn from England to Canada and I toyed with the idea of getting a job as a nurse on a cruise liner taking my baby with me. However before anything came of that I applied for several positions in private families via The Lady magazine. They called the position “a governess” in those days. I needed to get something where I could keep my baby with me. There was no such things as job seekers allowance then – though I had a widow’s allowance.

A Jane Eyre moment

One day, out of the blue, a neighbour called by with the local paper in which there was an advertisement:

Gentleman requiring “substitute mother” for girl aged 4 yrs and boy 2yrs. Own child welcome.

I put pen to paper immediately stating I was recently widowed, recently qualified as a nurse and had a full driving licence and a baby of 4 months. I got the job. I fell in love with the children first and later married their father. Heinz was a marine diesel engineer from Germany, and became my Mr. Rochester. We have just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, and have been a travelling family for most of our time together. After twenty or so years living overseas in Iran, Yemen and Indonesia, our children grew up in Jakarta in the 80s and 90s. When they left we began to plan our dream of sailing our boat home to England. Rolling Home had been in our family for the past 6 years and we had cruised extensively in Indonesia, so we were well acquainted with each other!

Shake-down trip

Before taking the plunge, we set up an 8 month trip, sailing through the Indonesian islands to Irian Jaya, then back to Jakarta. This was our “shake-down trip” to see if we could live together on board.

The trip was an absolute joy. Wherever we anchored, we quickly became the centre of attention, and very soon the children paddled out to us: “Talk English with us Mam/Tuan!!”
From our time in Jakarta, we knew children in particular wanted to learn English. There was a hunger for spoken English, which was soaked up by the local children, and we had thought of this before we left Jakarta and brought lots of supplies of pencils, note books, crayons and pictures of our boat to give away.

We spent many an hour feeding our language to hungry ears. It was so interesting to see how quickly they chatted and learnt new words. Their enchanting smiles and warm affection they showed to us was humbling. I’m sure if you go to some of the remote schools in the smallest of islands in the Indonesian Archipelago, you will still find pictures of Rolling Home!


Chocolate is good for you!

One evening on this trip, after the children had left, an adult paddled over and brought us some fish and a coconut. I thanked him kindly and went below to find a suitable trading gift. I came up with noodles and a big bar of chocolate. He thanked me for the noodles, but to my surprise said “no” to the chocolate “as it’s bad for your teeth”. Well, quite right too, we thought and figured he was probably wise, as tooth ache in the islands can’t be any fun! However the next morning he came paddling back and made some polite small talk, and then looked quite sheepish and said “my wife sad you crazy man – you go get chocolate, chocolate very nice . . . . ” We did laugh together at his embarrassment. So – goes to show how much a woman likes her chocolate!

Stocking up, setting off

The “shake-down” trip to Irian Jaya was a great success, and we decided to go for it and sail back to Europe. We stocked up, bought charts, obtained pilot books, and installed the latest of radios and safety equipment.

Plus our very special new toy – the first hand held GPS system, which gave us considerable reassurance. We were happy bunnies! In October 1996, we upped anchor from Java and set to sail north-west and to Europe. We were on our way, rolling home.



Catherine Lorenzen

Catherine and Heinz have hung up their seaboots and with a heavy heart have put Rolling Home up for sale. There’s a lot more adventure in the old girl yet!

They only want their old friend to go to the best of homes! To find out more, e-mail Catherine on

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