Travel writer Ann Rickard met her husband while travelling.
Travel writer Ann Rickard met her husband while travelling. CONTRIBUTED

My heart was all at sea until my love came back for me

WHEN I stepped on board the MV Southern Cross in Southampton on a bitterly cold December day in 1967 to return to Australia after two years working in London, I couldn't imagine how my life would change.

One day's sailing out of Southampton at the captain's welcome cocktail party, I looked across a crowded room and saw a tall young man wearing the formal engineering officer's uniform of white dinner jacket, black trousers, cummerbund and gold striped lapels. What single young woman could resist?

A five-week sailing trip from the UK to Australia via Trinidad, Panama, Fiji and New Zealand, with long steamy nights when he'd come off watch, was the definitive romantic place to fall in love.

When the ship finally docked in my home town of Melbourne and my time on board was up, I watched him sail away with no known date of return. There never was a more broken heart than mine in all of history.

Letters were exchanged and the occasional phone call attempted, but it was rarely successful from his ship in some far-flung land to my shore base in Melbourne.

When he finally sailed back to Australia nine long and agonising months later, only to have to sail away again in a few days, he knew he had to either marry me or watch me die of yearning.

A special licence was obtained, and we married in a tiny Seaman's Mission. As a wife, I was able to sail away with him. I had been with him for only five weeks when we took our vows, but what a five weeks it was on board a ship with romance everywhere in the salty sea air.

Forty-seven years, three children and seven grandchildren later, we are still together.

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