I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but some people thought I was just plain mad. After living in Hong Kong for three years I had my first baby, Ben. Then my husband Richard and I decided to sail all the way back to the UK, with the baby. Most of my friends were supportive, though they were surprised by the complete change in me - they were used to me in suits at the office. Some didn't understand that the basics were there on a boat - we have showers, hot water and sinks at sea too. My mum was worried of course, but she knew that I had confidence in our ability to cope. I had spent my pregnancy living on board our boat, Nathanael, a 20-metre gaff-rigged schooner. When we decided to head back to the UK, sailing back seemed the most romantic way to do it. Of course, I had many reservations. What would happen if Ben became sick in the middle of the ocean? How would I get a doctor? Would the journey benefit him? What would life on board be like in heavy weather? All this went through my head as we prepared the boat for our long voyage. In general, most of our friends were very supportive. After an article was published in the South China Morning Post about our cruising plans, complete strangers came up to us and wished us luck. A nurse at my local baby clinic summed it up: 'You only get one chance at life, just go for it.' I would never have set out if I'd been unsure about the seaworthiness of the boat. Nathanael weighs 33 tonnes, has a steel hull and has already gone round the world once with previous owners. On the sailing side, I have chartered boats before and sailed from England to France, along the New Zealand coast, and in Hong Kong did a 'back to basics' sailing course. My husband, the skipper, has crossed the Atlantic and sailed since he was a boy. On the first leg from Hong Kong to Singapore we also had two friends on board who were experienced sailors. My biggest worry was the baby. Before leaving Hong Kong I took Ben to have all his jabs. There were various opinions on whether a small baby should take malaria tablets. In the end I decided to cover his arms and legs at all times and put a mosquito net over him at night. Mosquitoes were only a problem when near the coast. I had heard stories from other cruising families about young children and adults contracting malaria and how suddenly the disease can become debilitating. Equally, some said they worried about the effects of anti-malarials taken over a long period. My brother-in-law is a doctor and gave advice on the first-aid kit we should have on board, plus an idiots' guide on how to dress wounds, lance boils, set fractures and so on. We had antibiotics of different strengths and instructions for what to give and when, and a sackful of rehydration salts in case of severe diarrhoea or vomiting. We hardly touched the first-aid kit. One crew member took some seasickness pills in the Mediterranean and Richard took rehydration salts after having the runs in Aden, but that was all. I breastfed Ben until we arrived back in the UK. He was rarely ill, just two colds on the whole journey. I never had to take him to a doctor. Maybe being at sea meant he was exposed to fewer germs. I bought supplies of tinned baby milk in case anything happened to me, and jars of baby food for when he was taking solids. We left Hong Kong on a beautifully sunny November morning in 1996. Ben was just three months old. For the first morning it was very calm, then the wind and seas started to build (we had delayed our journey for a week, because we knew a typhoon was off the coast of Vietnam). Unfortunately, it was still hanging around. After two days at sea we caught the tail end of it. In that time I remember feeling I'd do anything to get to land. The only ones not to be sick were Ben and I. He cried a lot, but seemed to weather the motion of the boat much better than the adults. In bad weather he gave up trying to stay awake and fell asleep - very convenient for all of us. We had to find a safe place to put Ben in severe weather when all hands were on deck. In the end we bought a sturdy baby car-seat and wedged it into a corner of the galley, and we bought him a life jacket which enveloped him like a sleeping bag. Later, when he started to climb and crawl, we bought him a harness which attached to the boat so he couldn't fall out of the cockpit. The first leg of the journey, to Singapore, was probably the worst, and I did consider flying back. We had repairs to do, which dragged on for three months. It was a stressful time. Yet something told me the worst was over, and I wasn't disappointed. In March we left Singapore and had calm seas, sun, and dolphins all the way up the Malacca Strait. At this stage we were joined by my father-in-law, Donald, and a Danish cook, Lena. These two proved invaluable additions to our crew. Lena put three meals on the table and washed up - sheer bliss. Donald helped look after Ben, took him for walks when we got to land, and was much better than I at getting up at 6am to entertain a tot full of the joys of morning. During the long passages at sea we all took turns to be on watch throughout day and night - four hours on, then eight hours rest. We made a big point of getting our sleep, because it was cumulatively so exhausting. And unless it was particularly rough weather, the person on watch would entertain Ben. The Indian Ocean was as still as a pond for most of our crossing, so with little sailing to do we read, slept, ate and had a very relaxing time, just watching the ocean slip by. Of course, everyone became niggly at some stage during the journey. You can't live in such proximity and not feel some tension. Ben and Donald slept in bunks just two metres away from Richard and I. It was definitely cosy, but somehow that never troubled me too much. As we were in glorious sunshine all the time and spent the day on deck, we didn't seem to need as much personal space as one does in colder climates. Yet we had no big fall-outs, just minor arguments which were quickly forgotten. Practicalities involved careful planning. We'd buy a huge stash of disposable nappies at every port, then end up with lots of rubbish because we couldn't throw them over the side as they weren't biodegradable. We kept our sackloads of dirty nappies in the dinghy. I had to handwash all Ben's clothes, but fortunately most of the time it was warm enough for him to wear just a T-shirt and nappy. My biggest worry was covering his head, as he's quite fair-skinned. We sat him under the canopy on deck, although he kept throwing his hat away. We had some heavy seas up the Red Sea and passed through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean. Here we seemed to have wind on the nose all the way. It meant plenty of stops in picturesque ports. Interestingly, we found that as the climate became cooler, so did people's response to the baby. In Thailand and Sri Lanka they would cross the street to make a fuss of Ben. Here, people seemed purposeful and less indulgent. Ben's first birthday was celebrated in Palma, Mallorca, and his first steps were in Gibraltar. I wondered if living on a boat had delayed his walking, as he didn't expect the ground to stay still. But children seem to adapt to the conditions they have. He climbed well from an early age because of gangway steps throughout the boat. We arrived back in England in September last year. It had been an amazing 10 months. I can't say it wasn't hard work, but the sense of achievement is huge. As parents, Richard and I feel very lucky to have been able to take a year off from work, watching our son grow up and doing something we had always dreamed of. And on occasions, Ben was a definite help to us - for example when dealing with customs and immigration officials. One of his smiles seemed to oil the wheels of bureaucracy. Did Ben benefit? I don't think he'll remember anything of the journey. But I think doing what we want to do together as a family is the best we can do as parents. Ben had three adults playing with him and talking to him, full time. Richard's father especially enjoyed time with his grandchild. If I'd been settled, I'd probably have gone back to work after six months, and Ben would have been in a nursery. We'd never have had such concentrated time together.