When you spend more than a decade together aboard a small sailboat sailing the world, there isn’t much you can’t face as a couple.
Tiffany Loney and Bruce Halabisky have a formidable love that has carried them through rough seas and sunny skies, and it all began on Orcas Island in 2002.
Halabisky heard about a yoga class taught by the “beautiful Tiffany” while waiting in line at the health food store. He headed over to the Healing Arts Center for one of her sessions and introduced himself.
Loney wasn’t immediately overwhelmed by her future husband, but she thought he might need some company, so she invited him to a dinner with friends. Shortly into the meal, it became clear that Halabisky was much more than she initially thought.
“He was a wooden boatbuilder, his yoga practice was strong, he spoke five languages and was a world traveler,” Loney remembers. “He had just gotten back from living in Portugal, where he was building wooden whaling boats. … He’s a renaissance man. He’s intellectually stimulating and has an insatiable curiosity.”
Halabisky ended his night with Loney by singing her Irish love songs.
“In my 20s, I was drawn to people who were fascinating but unstable,” he said. “But Tiffany is solid.”
They were married on June 21, 2004, on Vancouver Island during a two-day event with games, music and camping that brought in 200 guests. Instead of speaking her wedding vows, Loney performed a dance to the music of a live cello. The two wore custom-made clothing from Thailand, where Loney had just returned from teaching yoga.
That fall, they sold all their possessions and set sail out of Victoria Harbor on their 34-foot wooden gaff cutter “Vixen.” Their intention was to sail to Hawaii, but as time went on, it became harder and harder to head back home.
“Tiffany was ready for travel when I met her,” Halabisky said.
Added Loney: “I had total trust in his capabilities. I thought, ‘I would follow this guy anywhere.’”
For the next 11 years, the two would circumnavigate the world as well as cross the Atlantic three times. Vixen was originally launched in 1952 and crossed the globe for the first time later that decade. She had a major rebuild during the 1990s, but still boasted very few electronics, no self-steering and an older style sailing rig.
Living on a small boat can be challenging for a relationship, but Loney and Halabisky are both blessed with peaceful personalities, and they don’t fight or yell.
“Bruce is really steadfast in his values and has a sense of perseverance that is steady,” Loney said. “He’s extraordinarily patient. He’s a really good teacher and kind and considerate.”
Although Halabisky had more sailing experience, he often looked to his wife for direction at the height of a crisis, like when a sail split apart during a storm off the coast of Indonesia.
“I’d be panicking, but Tiffany would know exactly what to do. She’s always had a certain calmness about her,” he said. “She is fearless. She’s very brave.”
The couple decided to have children while on their voyage. Loney gave birth to Solianna in 2006 in New Zealand and Seffa Jane in 2010 in Victoria, Canada.
Even after the two had children, they lived on around $10,000 a year. Loney worked as a yoga instructor at various ports, and Halabisky found jobs as a boatbuilder.
“The focus was on the experience, not comfort. It was all about the adventure,” she said.
The most challenging part of their trip was rounding the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa with its treacherous waters and massive currents.
While on their travels, the family did everything together as “one nucleus.”
“Now, on land, we are going in different directions,” Loney said.
During their time at sea, she took a break from dancing, which is what she studied in college. Upon returning to Orcas, Loney has had starring roles in multiple theater and dance productions and choreographed shows. Her husband is thrilled to see her back on stage, and supports her during hectic rehearsal schedules.
This March, the family will fly to New York to accept the Blue Water Medal from the Cruising Club of America in honor of their sailing journey. Orcas resident John Guzzwell won the same award in 1960 for his 1954 trip around the world on a 21-foot boat in 1954. His vessel Trekka was once anchored next to \Vixen, during her first time circumnavigating the globe.
“The award has been given since 1923, and if you look at who’s won, it’s the greatest of small boat voyaging,” Halabisky said.