Bill and Laurel Cooper swallow the anchor

A famous cruising couple who wrote a seminal book on Blue Water Sailing, Sell Up and Sail, have swallowed the anchor. Bill and Laurel Cooper, both 86, who, 38 years ago, sold their house to finance their blue water dream have reluctantly come ashore.

Ill-health has forced Bill and his wife into sheltered accommodation in Rochester, Kent. ‘All good things come to an end,’ said Laurel poignantly.
But they have not given up writing and Bill’s first novel, based on his sea-faring life is published soon.

Sell Up and Sail, described by The Times newspaper as ‘the sailing bible’, is now in its fifth edition, having sold more than 40,000 copies.

Their last sailing craft Hosanna, an 87ft spritsail-rigged Dutch barge, was replaced six years ago with Faraway, a £100,000 12m motor barge, which was a third wide as she was long, fitted with two derricks man enough to lift OAP electric cars on board.

She was also built deliberately under 13m LOA to avoid the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) which Bill detests.

In their various craft the pair covered hundreds of thousands of miles in the Med, across the Atlantic, and through the Caribbean.

Bill and Laurel met in 1943 when they were both aged 16 and Laurel began to crew for Bill in club races at Framlingham, Norfolk aboard his National 12. Laurel had first sailed aged six weeks old aboard her father’s gaff cutter on the Norfolk Broads. Bill, aged 8, had first gone to sea on his fisherman father’s steam drifter from Lowestoft to catch herring.

Aged 19 Bill enrolled at Dartmouth Naval College while Laurel went off to study drawing at Leeds Art School. Bill and Laurel got married in 1952 and the following year Laurle gave birth to a daughter, Shelley, who now runs her own horticultural business in Hertfordshire. In 1957, they had a son son Ben. He now writes scripts for TV shows including East Enders and The Bill and has written a well received play, North Pole.

While based in Malta, Bill and Laurel set out on their first cruise, with baby Shelley and Laurel’s brother, from Malta to Sicily aboard Phoenix, a Windfall yacht (German prize from World War II). ‘She had no engine but a large genoa,’ Bill said. Bill also carried on racing in the Med, sailing with John Illingworth, Adlard Coles, and Errol Bruce.

At the age of 32 Bill left the Royal Navy and became an actuary for an insurance company and later joined firm of City stockbrokers.

In 1976 Bill and Laurel sold their six-bedroomed Georgian house in Maidstone, Kent. They gave their two children deposits for their own homes and used the rest, £45,000, to put towards their floating home.