Norfolk woman's epic voyage

Lily Kozmian-Ledward embarked on an epic voyage to the other side of the world, sailing her 38ft yacht all the way from Britain to New Zealand and the islands of the Pacific. Now she is back in Norfolk, and an exhibition of her underwater photos from Tonga can be seen at Norwich Playhouse.

Many of us struggle to readjust to everyday life when we get back from a week's holiday, so just think how Lily Kozmian-Ledward feels on returning to Norfolk after two-and-a-half years at sea.

In August, 2004, she embarked on an epic voyage to the other side of the world, sailing her 38ft yacht all the way from Britain to New Zealand and the islands of the Pacific.

On the 14,000-mile voyage Lily and her crew did important conservation work, surveying and photographing coral reefs and teaching local people how to monitor the reefs themselves.

After completing her voyage, Lily, who graduated in marine and freshwater biology, worked as a skipper and guide for a diving and whale watch company in New Zealand and Tonga.


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Now she is back in Norfolk, and an exhibition of her underwater photos from Tonga can be seen at Norwich Playhouse.

Lily, 27, is living back home with her parents Peter and Elizabeth at Wickhampton, near Acle, but admits life back in Britain has taken some getting used to.

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“It has been far more of a culture shock than I expected after sailing through some of the remote areas of the world,” she said.

“The mass consumerism, the sheer volume of people and over-use of resources in the UK is really highlighted after the simple lifestyle I have led over the past two-and-a-half years. One becomes very resourceful living on a yacht.”

Lily lived aboard Amadis, the yacht she and her father bought in 2002 for £30,000 and spent a further £20,000 doing up. Peter, 65, sailed with Lily and crewmate Paul Kingston on the first part of their voyage, from Falmouth to Gran Canaria and then on to Barbados.

He then flew home while Lily and her colleagues began surveying the coral reefs in the eastern Caribbean, finding them in poor condition because of man-made problems such as over-fishing, pollution, careless anchoring and global warming.

She then sailed across the Pacific, making part of the trip single-handed, before arriving in New Zealand and moving on to Tonga, a kingdom made up of many small, low-lying islands.

Lily spent much of the time in the Ha'apai group of islands, taking pictures of the coral, the fish and other marine life. She saw at first hand the damage done to the coral reefs.

“At Ha-apai there isn't much damage, but I have been to other areas of Tonga where there's a lot more. In somewhere like Tahiti it's absolutely ruined,” she said.

“Tourists who have never seen a coral reef will believe it's amazing, but if you have seen what it should be like you will notice the difference. I was quite shocked.

“You can see the damage from yachts anchoring, for instance. Coral grows very slowly, so you can have some that's 50 years old just gone in an instant.”

Lily's pictures concentrate on the beauty of underwater life. While she has gathered a lot of important scientific data on her voyages, she feels the photos are the best way of getting the pro-conservation message across to people.

Although she has only been back in England for three months, Lily has itchy feet once more and plans to return to New Zealand next month.

“I don't feel very interested in living in England any more,” she said. “I'm not going to be spending much of my time here. I'll just be coming back to see friends and family.”

She hopes to sell Amadis and wants to work on board other vessels as a marine biologist, photographer and writer.

The exhibition is in the upper gallery of the Playhouse, in St George's Street, Norwich, until March 31. Admission is free.

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