About Us

Home About Us Log & Photos About Alegría Art Gallery


We started our journey abort Alegría on the 9th of June 2001. On this page we tell a bit about ourselves, and how we ended up making this wonderful trip.

Tania Hens

I was born in Delft, the Netherlands and when I was two years old, my parents and I moved to New Guinea (which is now called Irian Jaya). We left New Guinea when I was four years old, and in my mind it was like paradise. I have always been longing to move back to the tropics some day. Back in Holland my parents enjoyed traveling in Europe and the States and I gladly came along. In Holland we often went sailing, in our own sailing dinghy (a Vaurien). I learned to sail in summer camp. Sometimes we went sailing in Friesland in the north of Holland. The best part of sailing for me was exploring and seeing new places. 

When I finished school I wanted to study medicine, but there were limited places at university, and I had to chose an alternative. I chose geology because I liked to travel and the working outdoors aspect of it appealed to me. I had seen the geology at Yellow Stone Park, and was fascinated by it. 

I met my first husband, Henk, at university. After graduation, I could continue to travel working for different oil companies, and Henk came along. My first job was with Conoco in Holland. After a year we were transferred to Ponca City, Oklahoma, then transferred back to Holland. Then I joined Shell and we were transferred to Gabon in West Africa and later to Colombia. They were all very interesting countries. Above all I liked the happy outlook on life of the people in Colombia and the Latin American dances. After being together for 18 years Henk and I separated. Henk went back to Holland and I went to Venezuela.

Marcel Zeestraten

When I was about 10 years old, our family moved from Rozendaal in the eastern part of Holland to Hillegom in the west. Suddenly we were close to lakes. The first time we cycled along the “Kager Plassen” lakes, my brother René and I new what we wanted. We wanted to sail, just like all those pretty boats on the lake. My parents were no sailors themselves, but our enthusiasm persuaded them to help realize this dream. Within a year we had taken a one-week sailing course, and we bought our first boat. It was 3 meters long (10 feet) and had a tiny jib as well as a mainsail. It was about 40 minutes cycling one way from Hillegom to the Kager Plassen, but this did not stop us going sailing several times a week during the summer holidays.

In the years that followed our family moved to a location closer to a lake and we traded up to bigger boats: first a Simoun 445, and then a Simoun 485, both similar to the Olympic 470 class. When my brother and I were both at University in Delft, we found that we didn’t use the boat that often anymore, and we sadly had to decide to sell it.

My first holiday on board a sailing cruiser was in the Mediterranean on a Beneteau Oceanis 390. There were 8 people on board: a skipper and 7 paying guests. For two weeks we sailed the Cyclades group of islands in pretty strong winds, and I loved it.

I graduated in 1989 from Delft University of Technology with a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. I joined Shell International Exploration and Production Company as a Process Engineer and member of their expatriate staff pool. My fist posting was in Aberdeen, Scotland. The adult education programme in the UK is fantastic. I took a Yachtmaster Theory course from the Royal Yachting Association. It consisted of 26 evening classes and an exam, and it cost next to nothing. During my holidays I also took RYA practical courses: one on the west coast of Scotland and one in Gibraltar. From that moment on I was ready to take charge of a bareboat charter yacht, and did so on many occasions in the Mediterranean and later in the Caribbean. Incidentally, during these three years in Scotland I also learned to fly glider planes and I learned scuba diving in water that was about 4 °C (39 F).

After a short posting in Lowestoft, England, I was transferred to Caracas, Venezuela. 

Tania and Marcel

We met in Caracas through a local diving club, where we also met lots of other expatriate friends. Several times Marcel organised holidays in the Caribbean on board a bareboat charter yacht together with some of our diving friends. Of course Tania came along every time. One time it was just the two of us on board a 41 ft Wauquiez Centurion, and this is when we fell very much in love with one another.

Shortly after this memorable sailing holiday, Tania was transferred to Syria. It wasn’t much fun to be this far apart, and after six months she decided to resign from Shell and join Marcel. By this time Marcel had moved to Maracaibo, Venezuela, and here Tania found a very good job with another oil company.

After a year in Maracaibo, Marcel was transferred to Muscat, Oman, and Tania could re-join Shell here as well. Our wedding was in Holland, several weeks after we started to work in Muscat. We stayed in Oman for three and a half years.

During these years, Marcel started to dream about sailing the world seas in our own sailing cruiser. This dream seemed far away. Something we would perhaps realise after retirement. In preparation for this dream Marcel did a lot of reading and we both took an offshore sailing course with John and Amanda Neal on board Mahina Tiare, a Hallberg Rassy 46. We sailed along the coast of New Zealand from the Bay of Islands to Auckland.

The oil industry was going through some hard times, and Shell undertook two rounds of Voluntary Severance (also known as reorganisation). In the first round Tania was selected as a “Volunteer”. This came as a shock to her, but the severance package made our dreams come closer. For Tania it was an opportunity to spend time on her old hobby making art. She taught art classes to children, took up photography, and took courses in NLP, Reiki and RYA yacht master theory.

We made another sailing trip on board Mahina Tiare, this time a three-week Pacific crossing from Hawaii to Prince Rupert, Canada.

Marcel decided to volunteer in the second reorganisation round. In April 2000 he was offered Voluntary Severance as well, but in actual fact he was asked to stay on until the end of December 2000. From April onwards a lot of our spare time went into preparation for the voyage. By the end of December 2000 we moved to Holland. The first few months of 2001 we spent preparing for the trip. We both took a medical / first aid course in the Harbour Hospital in Rotterdam, and Marcel took a radio operators course so we could obtain a license for the short wave radio. We also bought a complete inventory for the boat.

How it changed us

Sailing gave us the opportunity to reconnect with nature. It also brought us closer to ourselves and to each other. 

Living aboard and sailing made us more aware of the environment. We have become more aware of our consumption of water and energy. We are now using mainly solar and wind power rather than diesel. 

When we first started sailing we rushed from one country to the next and across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. At first we wanted to go through the Panama Canal and on to the Pacific in the same year we arrived in the Caribbean. Gradually we learnt to slow down, taking time to really get to know an island and its people. We discovered that the islands are actually very different and that there are beautiful places everywhere. In hindsight we regret not having visited Madeira, the Cape Verde Islands, West Africa and Brazil on the way to the Caribbean.