Kent

Final berth for seafaring couple Bill and Laurel Cooper

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Media captionBill and Laurel Cooper are back on dry land after 36 years

An elderly couple who have spent the past 36 years sailing round the world have returned to the UK to retire.

Bill, 83, and Laurel Cooper, 82, have travelled four times across the globe, visited 45 countries and survived a hurricane during four decades at sea.

They sold their home in Chatham, Kent, and set off from Lowestoft, Suffolk, in June 1976 on a 50ft vessel Fare Well.

They have moored their third boat, Faraway, on the River Medway after clocking 100,000 nautical miles.

The couple decided to drop anchor for the final time at Rochester because their health was starting to fail.

Mrs Cooper said: "We're still fairly healthy, except for his eyesight.

"People think it takes a lot of money. It doesn't, it's a very cheap way of life really."

High-flying businessman

Their ocean-going adventures together began in the 1950s in a former Hitler Youth boat requisitioned by the Royal Navy.

In the mid-1970s Mr Cooper, who had served as an officer in the Royal Navy, was working as a broker in the City of London and an informal adviser to Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

He became disillusioned with life as a high-flying businessman and decided to give it all up.

"The thing is in a boat like that, when you're navigating it and sailing it, there are stresses that you can cope with. They're concrete stresses, they're not abstract stresses," said Mr Cooper.

"When you're working in a high-powered job, as I was in the City, the stresses are something that you can't really cope with.

"You just really get fed up with it."

Mrs Cooper added: "He'd been working on me for a very long time that it would be a nice thing to do. I'd got a lovely house, I'd got the kids, I'd got a nice little life going along.

"I wasn't sure that's what I wanted to do."

No more asthma

But with Mrs Cooper convinced, the couple said farewell to friends and family and set sail from Lowestoft in their 50ft vessel with their one-eyed cat called Nelson.

"Take it as it comes, see if we like it, see if it's all right [is what I thought] and my goodness it was," Mrs Cooper said.

As soon as they reached the Mediterranean Mr Cooper said he knew they had made the right decision.

"Before we left I suffered quite badly from asthma and Laurel suffered quite badly from migraines and we got half way to Gibraltar and we realised we hadn't had an attack then, and never had an attack since.

"Just cut off, lack of stress."

Mrs Cooper said: "We didn't really have any trouble at all. The one time we did, he got a fish hook in his hand hauling up the anchor.

"We sprayed it with brandy and gave him some to go down inside as well and I cut it open with a Stanley knife and got it out."

Hurricane Alberto

She told the BBC they had not set out for adventure but in 1982 they survived Hurricane Alberto north of Bermuda.

Mrs Cooper added: "We were on our way up to Canada, we were hoping to see his relatives in St Lawrence [river] but we never got there in fact because of this hurricane.

"It was 200 miles north and it was too late to turn back, even if that hadn't been an extremely dangerous thing to do, because there are a lot of reefs north of Bermuda so there we were stuck. Where are you going to get any help?"

"We were the only boat in that area to survive it," Mr Cooper said.

They said they did have the odd argument while they were on board the boat but believe their success at sea was down to their division of labour.

"He was master and commander, definitely, no doubt about that," said Mrs Cooper. "I'm the practical person and I back him up.

"He makes the decisions and I'm bound to say he made very few wrong ones."