A Yacht Called Cynthia


Recently in one of our videos (Ep #36), we invited another patron to come aboard La Vagabonde; Ian McLean from New South Wales, Australia. He actually just celebrated his 60th birthday on the weekend (Happy birthday Ian!!). Unfortunately Ian was unable to come aboard but the story he has left us with is something that has touched us all. With Ian’s blessing, we are honoured we can share his families story…..



Dear Riley & Elayna,

Please let me give you the brief version of the cockpit story…sorry to indulge….won’t take long and will give you an insight into why I am pushing myself to finish the boat rebuild. …and why I must bid you fair winds and happy sailing without me.

Please regard this as a happy story even though it starts off sad…


We lost my beautiful bride Thea, to MND (Motor Neurone Disease) in September 2013….and it has been a tough journey for the boys and I ever since. She was 15, and I 16 when we met and we were soul mates all our lives (see pic of Thea taken in the Whitsundays on Maxi  Ragamuffin years ago…which is also on a plaque at Palm Beach overlooking our favourite snorkelling and swimming area there…. see pic of her view from the rock we have her plaque on looking over Palm Beach…and a pic of us both together at Seal Rocks where we went surfing for years).

Theas view

She was a lover of all living things, in particular, dolphins, turtles and whales. Thea also worked at the local Koala Park.

When I lost her I visited the Coffs Harbour dolphins and gave them a pat and kiss from her..(see pic attached)..we were planning to take her to swim with them however she was too ill to make the trip by that stage. The pieces of coral and shell around my neck she wore daily….gifts over the years from our children.


In 1998 I came home from work one day and Thea said  “ I have  found us a boat”…..and we purchased CYNTHIA…a Perry 35 sloop. (what man would be foolish enough not to buy the boat his wife found and recommended …right?)

We had many happy years sailing with our children which I am forever grateful to her for. It kept us very close as a family, in and around the water that we loved so dearly. We reluctantly sold her in 2005.

In January, 2015 (last year) my oldest son asked me to look at a yacht he was considering buying whilst he was in Queensland. I grabbed my youngest son (a yacht rigger) and we both arranged to see the boat…Whilst discussing the boat, and sailing in the region, the conversation with the yacht broker went as follows:

Broker: “You seem to know a fair bit about sailing around Pittwater”

Me: ‘Yes….we used to have a boat at Palm Beach and sailed here all the time”

Broker “Really….what sort of yacht?”

Me: “A Perry 35”

Broker: “That’s a coincidence…I have only just listed one of them for sale at my Middle Harbour office”

Me: (knowing there were only about 5 of them in New South Wales..I asked)..”Really ..what is she called?”

Broker “ CYNTHIA..”

My son stared at me and I at him without speaking….an emotional moment.

The chances of us being out there with a broker we had never met, on that day, and striking up that conversation…it was serendipity.


To cut a long story short…..I instantly, via the broker,  bought CYNTHIA back off the fellow I had sold her to all those years ago, and we have as a family been rebuilding her ever since. The final work is taking place by the shipwrights and electricians over the next 2 or so months. My oldest son who is a Producer of film in advertising etc is filming a short story about her re-berth…and we are planning to have it all completed by the third anniversary of us losing Thea in September. I will sail her to the Whitsundays August 2017 where we loved to sail.

Therefore, CYNTHIA (we used to joke it was short for …SINFUL THEA…..badly spelt) is a project that means so much to myself and the boys that all things become secondary.

A great story for us….and now my Grandchildren will sail on the boat that has come back into the family that their late Grandmum loved so dearly…so all is well with the world.


Hoping you do take up the offer to sail with us in Sydney one day, and that my name may go back into your computer, and be lucky enough to be redrawn again one day in the future…who knows…serendipity does happen you know

Happy sailing, love each other and cherish each and every day Elayna and Riley.

Cheers for now you Vagabonds.

Ian…… Andrew and Daniel McLean…and CYNTHIA..

Thea McLean.........forever missed

To the McLean family, we are so sorry for your loss, there is not a dry eye amongst us. We admire the strong bond you have built as a family, the values you live by and the strength and determination you show in honoring Thea’s passing. Thea sounded like such a beautiful, peaceful soul, she would be so proud. The story of Cynthia is truly an amazing one. We wish you all the best with the rebuild, look forward to the documentary and hope to come aboard Cynthia some time in the future.

With lots of love,

Sailing La Vagabonde


Comments 94

    1. We need to move on though David. Cynthia is our raft. Thanks for your thoughts.

  1. Whoa..Just got to my office and read this. Blubbering idiot now. and it’s not even 8am. Such a touching story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. The secret to a great life is to know what is and what isn’t important!
    Great story to remind us all what is important.
    Life is a song so sing it loud!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Odes Roberts

  3. A lovely story. I hope the vessel brings great joy to the family. Sounds like they deserve it.

  4. To Ian McLean. Sorry for your loss, I’m glad you and your family found Thea’s boat “Cynthia”. It will be nice to see the restore documentary. Far Winds and Following Sea’s!

  5. Ok I had a tear reading that one…..always nice to see good things come to good people who have suffered tragedy……fair winds Cynthia and family

  6. What a fantastic story. With a tear in my eye I hope the family get full use out of Cynthia in tribute to Thea. Happy sailing and fair winds …..

    1. Cynthia will bring us a great deal of joy as Thea’s family Ben. Happy sailing to you as well. We are blown away by everyone’s caring and support. Cheers. Ian

  7. That story, really got me!
    Thanks Elay and Riley for sharing!!
    Good luck to the McLean’s with the rebuilding of Cynthia.

  8. Great story! Thanks to Ian for sharing and Elayna and Riley for forwarding it on as well!

  9. A beautiful story and one which I intend to share with my wife very shortly. Thank you for sharing.


    1. It is important to us we remember Thea…thanks for taking the time and to Riley and Elayna for helping in that regard…..your wife may find your next boat…you just never know where life takes you..

    1. I was very lucky Bastien….I am sure there are many others out there just as lucky who need to savour every moment. Ian

  10. Not a dry eye in the house, thank you for sharing, and I am so sorry for your loss. You are a lucky and blessed man, to have not only met the love of you life, but to have also been blessed with a life with her! Fair winds, and many happy memories sailing her.

    1. I was blessed Norman……fair winds to you and yours as well….and to Riles and Elay..

  11. a very touching tribute and i wish you and all the family many happy days on ‘Cynthia’

  12. Thanks for sharing Thea’s story with us. Every once in a while it’s nice to hear something amazing coming from a tragedy. I hope the best for the McLean family and their travels. Now, a bit of Thea lives on in all of us as well.

    1. We are so happy to have Cynthia back…so there is a truly happy future for us all Darryl. Thanks for you sentiment. Ian

  13. What a beutiful story! No dry eyes here. I wish you good luck with the restoration and fair winds!

    1. The restoration is well on it’s way Jimmy. Just had a naval engineer on her to recommend additional strengthening…has to be the best we can achieve if we are going to have the Grandchildren on board. Thanks for caring. Ian

  14. I still have tears in my eyes while typing this. God bless you Ian and your family and I believe it was meant for you to find Cynthia again. Things happen in life that are meant to be, not by chance. Anyone who believes differently is certainly missing out on a lot. Happy belated birthday to you Ian and may you and your family have a wonderful time back out sailing on Cynthia. And thank you Elanya and Riley for sharing this wonderful story with us all. God bless you both as well. Dave.

    1. Thanks for the wishes Captain Dave. Catch you on the high seas one day hopefully. Cheers. Ian

  15. I’ve had to go make a cup of tea to let my eyes dry so i can see the screen again, such a touching story with a wonderful ending to such a sad time of you’re life, I would love to see the documentation you’re son makes, and I’ll be getting married myself in August 2017 so I’ll raise my glass knowing you’ll be sailing Theas boat again, If im ever lucky enough to buy a boat I’ll also let my partner choose it. Thank you for sharing this very touching story with Riley and Elay and thank you Riley and Elay for sharing with us.

    1. We will raise a glass to you and your new bride next year Damien….great news. ….and a good plan. It certainly worked for me.

  16. Such an endearing story. Even more, I regret that I had stayed so close to home and not had the courage that you and other sailors have. I had hoped some girl would come along and say, “okay, let’s go!” none did. Maybe I should have taken off and let one take a liking to my boat. Not bad bait when you have one.
    An interesting thing just happened a few minutes ago as I started reading. When I got to “Perry 35,” not knowing there were pictures further down, I thought I might Google Perry 35 to see what Cynthia looked like. Many entries came up and at random, I clicked one, “Cheoy Lee Perry Owners” and scanning among the entries, I saw something familiar already. There was dear Cynthia listed with a photograph!
    Having read the story now, the picture is even more beautiful and without any reason or warning, my eyes have sprung a bit of a leak.
    Thanks for sharing this sad happiness. It’s good to know that Cynthia will continue to carry the family to adventures together.

    1. Cheers for your wishes Phillip…glad you found the photo….it was taken the day we sailed Cynthia back into Palm Beach the day we bought her back…

    1. Thea was amazing…like so many brides and Mums Chris. Just that extra special for me. Ian

  17. I have known Ian, Thea, Andrew and Daniel all their lives, because I grew up with macka as a youngster on the Wollongong beaches. I met Thea when she was just 16, I was part of their wedding party, I have seen the children grow over the years and I can honestly say it is a privilege to have them call me part of their family. What Ian did not mention as part of the serendipitous nature of Cynthia coming back into their lives, was that after speaking with the yacht broker, and viewing the advertisement for Cynthia, all this taking place only a short period of time after losing Thea, imagine how they felt when viewing the advertisement for the yacht…….it was spelt CYNTHEA……now, is that a message from beyond or not?
    I know what this gorgeous little yacht means to them all, and I am so happy that she has returned to the family that loves her so much. I am looking forward to sailing with my best mate long into our retirement.
    I am not a blogger, nor am I all that tech savvy, but I gotta say, after reading all these comments,I am am so incredibly moved by the amount of love and emotion that the story of Ian, Thea, the boys and Cynthia has generated amongst La Vagabondes fraternity. Ian introduced me to Riley and Elaynas story, and I want to thank all of you bloggers for your sincere and emotional replies and comments….it would be lovely to raft up alongside you all, over the next twenty or so years. May the sun be on your faces and the winds forever at your backs. Cheers to you all, Craig.

    1. Thanks Big Fella. That was another serendipitous moment I can never forget. Cheers

  18. Thanks for sharing your story Ian McLean and thanks to Elayna and Riley for forwarding it and sharing it with us.

  19. great to see this family celebrate Thea’s life! I am sure she will be smiling from above, blessing to all….

  20. Wow that was that was sad and beautiful and I’m balling at work.
    Good thing no one else is around.
    Love you guys.

  21. Ian, Andrew and Daniel, sounds like CYNTHIA is a great reminder of a beautiful blessing in your lives, Thea.

    Best wishes!

    1. We lost my bride on a full moon, so we have a monthly reminder of a spirit very much loved. Smooth sailing. Ian

  22. Wow I have not cried like this ever such a touching story all the best for the rebuild guys and I a sure the vagabond crew will await your coming keep up the good memories and keep the family sailing thx for sharing this sad but lovely story with us and thx Riley and Elana for forwarding

    1. The rebuild continues in earnest. Nothing will get in the way of Thea’s boat being rebuilt…..a pledge I made some time ago on a full moon…. Cheers Ian

  23. Enjoy every moment, life is precious and the future is not promised to anyone.

  24. Let me add to the River of Tears ….. Of sadness & of joy ….. Thank you to Craig to add the story of “CYNTHEA”. Loved it! Sounds like a re-naming needs to take place…..May you always have sunsets at night, sailors delight! Wish you peace & may you always feel her presence with you….from Central Point, Oregon, US.
    ps…Please email me if you decide to blog or video your adventures or if only your first shove off.

  25. Dear Ian,
    Moments like these only happen some and to those who have created some good in their lives. Thea wanted you to have CYNTHIA back all along. Losing a loved one sometimes makes you look for signs but at times like yours there can be no doubt! On top of all that yachties are sentimental folk and their love for their vessel is a special one. It keeps them safe in difficult conditions, it takes them to special places gliding through the water swept by the wind and it fills with emotions and memories that will never pass. It’s so exciting that CYNTHIA was directed back to you and is again in safe and loving hands Enjoy her and tell your grandchildren what a special person their grandmother was.
    We will look out for you on Pittwater or the Whitsundays both special places in our hearts too but for now I have to endure the prevailing Sou’Weaterly in the UK.
    Best of luck with you project and hope to see it soon on the net.

  26. The story of Cynthia is proof positive that the sea does have mysterious and magical powers. As sad as this story is, it is a happy story too! As Thea will live on not only in your hearts but in the hearts of anyone lucky enough to hear your story. I have passed this along to so many people as I’m sure others have to. Thanks for sharing your most personal story with all of us. You have truly blessed us all! Thanks so much! Bill

  27. What a wonderful story Ian. Definitely think a renaming is on the cards! You can do this in a special ceremony on a full moon – it would be perfect, just as your love story sounds.

    Myself and my husband Shane are aiming to be on the Whitsundays next year so we may see you there! ET383 Goldie (Austral clubman 8)

    Best wishes,


    1. I will keep an eye out for you both Carmen…will give serious thought to the full moon……

  28. Fair winds Ian, I am sure the spirit of Thea sails with you on Cynthia.

    A sad but heartwarming story at the same time.

    May 2017 bring happiness to you and your family.

  29. Thank you for sharing with us your touching and inspiring journey through life! That goes to the Ian and the Mc Leans and the Vagabonds E&R (royalty initials)… you guys rock and help us rock along! We love rocking help 😉

    Much love to all.

  30. This story touched my soul,tears through it all. I love being on the water and all the waterlife (dolphens ,whales,scenery) that come with it. Thanks for sharing. Love you guys

  31. Wonderful story! When I was 14 we had to do an ILP (Independant Learning Project) for our 8th grade project and I did sailing. I sail with an older couple who bought a 28′ Newport Sloop named Voilier (French for sailboat). They told me a story I thought I would pass on to a fellow sailer like you. They met an 85 year old lady who had a boat and sailed, sold it, and 10 years later wanted to sail again. Her friends and family tried to dicourage her from buying it because she wouldn’t be able to handle it. She said “so you want me to wait?!” She bought the boat. Fair winds and following seas from Oregon, USA! Cheers!

  32. What an amazing story. My condolences to Ian and family.

    My brief story (which may or may not be helpful to Ian, but I hope it is) – I lost a loved one many years ago now and at the time I wasn’t sure how I would get through it. It wasn’t until I learned that even though the pain never really subsided, in time I had learned to live with it and have been at peace ever since. I believed that if there is a Heaven, that place literally existed in our thoughts and this is where she “is” now. I like to believe Thea’s soul has a presence in the Mclean families’ fond memories and even in the outpouring of heartfelt empathy here. My love and best wishes to you and yours Ian.

  33. Reading Ian’s story is like the proverbial “Double Edged Sword” both sad yet inspiring … after 25 years of being together Cheryl and I lost our beautiful son Jess to A.L.S and then a year later in 2014 Cheryl passed. Your story has inspired me to to honor them both in a similar fashion. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Best regards
    Dan B.
    San Diego, California, USA

  34. What a wonderful and Sad story. I have a smile on my face and tears in my eyes after reading this and watching the video in Lavaca bone. I hope your family has many years sailing Cynthea . What a beautiful memory. Thank you Ian and family for sharing your story, and thank you Riley for the beautiful video you made produced.

  35. Truly & deeply moved by your beautiful story of your beloved Thea & SV Cynthea. What a wonderful affirmation that Thea is still very much with you on your journeys & so much love & joy for your family, friends & future generations to be part of. Hopefully our paths will cross in the future. Wishing you all good health & happy fair sails ahead!???⛵??????

  36. What a family!! I loved hearing Ian’s storey about “Cynthia”, sending sincere condolesnces to Ian’s family. I wish Ian and Ian’s family all the very best. Great work Riley and Elayna, keep up your AMAZING work, you two are INSPIRING!! Sending love and smooth sailing xo

  37. I loved this story!! You can feel the genuine love Ian had for Thea and the ocean is the best place to share and experience life. They are truly the definition of soulmates and something not everyone gets to experience, so try to look at it as a great opportunity given to you from God. I wish the best for your new journey with Cynthia and Thea will always watch over you.
    Jodi Fitzpatrick
    Dearborn, Michigan U.S.A.

  38. had to hide my tears…. I lost my mum less than 2 months ago. My mum&dad spent months every year sailing around. So I know what a blow this has been to the McLean family. Thanks for sharing your story! God speed!

  39. Came to this page in a roundabout way as the very recent newvowner of Perry 35 in need of some TLC. I had said on another venue after seeing a restored Cynthia that she was an inspiration to my restoration efforts. That was before I had learned the back story.

    Your story is sad but uplifting to me in a way you can’t imagine. Thanks for sharing.

  40. Your story is an inspiration for love ,family , and dealing with grief. By coincidence I’m in the process of purchasing a Cheoy Lee Perry 35 that I plan to restore. If all goes well she will be renamed after my daughter Edith who passed a decade ago.

    1. Hi Phil. I hope you are enjoying your CL35. They are lovely to sail. Especially given the sentiment around the name given your loss. Happy sailing. Ian

  41. Do you have an update on Mr. Ian’s documentary, I would absolutely love to be able to watch it and share it with my family.

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