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Lonely sailors search online for love on the high-seas

By Sheena McKenzie, CNN
December 21, 2012 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
It can be a lonely life for long-time sailing enthusiasts. That's why many are turning to specialty nautical-themed dating sites
It can be a lonely life for long-time sailing enthusiasts. That's why many are turning to specialty nautical-themed dating sites
  • For sailors traveling the globe, finding a longterm partner can be difficult
  • Young mariners may find it easier to meet adventurous companions
  • Online dating site caters to sailing enthusiasts looking for love
  • Increasing number of Britons turning to internet dating, highest in Europe

Editor's note: MainSail is CNN's monthly sailing show, exploring the sport of sailing, luxury travel and the latest in design and technology.

(CNN) -- When Ian McLaren-Morris named his 12 meter yacht "Silver Slipper," he never could have known it would bring him a real life fairytale romance.

The divorced father-of-two had long dreamed of sailing around the globe with his very own Cinderella; a soul-mate who shared his love of the ocean and sense of adventure.

But finding a special woman willing to quit her job and say goodbye to her family and friends for a romantic voyage into the sunset wasn't quite as straightforward as the 52-year-old had hoped.

Like a growing number of single people across the world, McLaren-Morris searched for love on internet dating websites. Two years later and the sailor was still no closer to finding his seafaring sweetheart.

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It wasn't until McLaren-Morris signed up to a website catering specifically for boating enthusiasts,, that he found the woman of his dreams -- 45-year-old former superyacht hostess Wendy Robson-Burrell.

The pair met at the Chichester Yacht Club in south-east England, embarking on a whirlwind romance that found them engaged just six months later.

They now plan on marrying in April, sailing around the world for their honeymoon before joining the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), the world's largest transatlantic yachting event later in the year.

"I loved sailing, I had my own boat, and I wanted to do it with someone who got the same excitement and pleasure out of it," McLaren-Morris, a former sales and marketing director at National Geographic, said.

"And to do that, you can't have a partner that's too high maintenance. You can't be with someone who needs to have a hairdryer, their nails done, a shower everyday.

"Wendy is so naturally beautiful she doesn't need all that. She just loves having the wind in her hair. And being near the water is one of the most important things in her life."

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Launched in 2004, LoveSail now has around 5,500 users ranging from professional skippers to hobby sailors. As the name suggests, most are looking for love but there are also offers of friendship, sailing trips and work opportunities.

For those mariners constantly on the move, trying to find a partner willing to wait on land or give up everything to jump on board is one of the pitfalls of a seemingly idyllic lifestyle.

Wendy Robson-Burrell and Ian Morris.
Wendy Robson-Burrell and Ian Morris.

"People who sail tend to be extremely passionate about it -- it's a big investment," LoveSail director Erica Joyce said.

"But it can be difficult for sailors because they're not based in one place, so when they do find someone they often have to leave them."

It's a scenario former delivery captain Tor Pinney knows well. As a handsome young sailor traveling the globe in the 1970s, Pinney had little problem meeting women willing to show him around their home town or even set sail for a brief adventure on the high seas.

But rather than leading to a long-lasting relationship, it was more often a case of ships that pass in the night as Pinney's nomadic lifestyle made it difficult to rest his anchor in one port for very long.

Now 64-years-old, Pinney's love of the water hasn't waned. And neither has his search for a partner willing to share an unconventional life on the waves.

"When I was 20 there was no shortage of girls who wanted to share this experience and cruise the islands," said Pinney, speaking from his 12 meter yacht in St John's River, Florida.

Tor Pinney.
Tor Pinney.

"But as people get older they seem to lose that adventurous spirit -- and that's changed my prospects."

Pinney also signed up to in the hope of finding that special lady. He's still yet to find her, admitting: "It's difficult to hook up with a LoveSail girl for a cup of coffee when I'm still sailing all over the world."

Read: The old man and the sea -- 73-year-old to sail solo around the world

Online dating is big business in the UK, with more than 9 million people logging on in search of love last year, according to Metaflake, a company that reviews internet dating sites.

It's difficult for sailors because they're not based in one place -- when they do find someone they have to leave them
Erica Joyce, director at

It's the highest number in Europe, with Britain now claiming 1,500 of the continent's 5,000 dating websites. And it's continuing to grow, with the industry turning over £170 million ($270 million) in the UK -- a 6% rise on the previous year.

"It's not just people who sail, everyone has busy lives now and you don't have the opportunity to meet new people," McLaren-Morris said.

"Five years ago, if someone had told me they were doing online dating my reaction would have been 'you silly idiot.' But as more people do it, the stigma disappears."

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For Pinney, the joy of yachting is still far too great to give up on the off-chance it will help him find love.

"It's a lifestyle I chose when I was 16-years-old and obviously it presents its challenges," he said. "But it's beautiful out here. I can watch osprey and fish from my deck and manta rays dive under my boat."

Whether he'll one day share that beautiful view with a special lady remains to be seen. But then, there's always plenty more fish in the sea.

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