Lonely sailors search online for love on the high-seas

It can be a lonely life for long-time sailing enthusiasts. That's why many are turning to specialty nautical-themed dating sites

Story highlights

  • 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 LoveSail.com caters to sailing enthusiasts looking for love
  • Increasing number of Britons turning to internet dating, highest in Europe

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.

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

The world's most luxurious boat show
The world's most luxurious boat show

    JUST WATCHED

    The world's most luxurious boat show

MUST WATCH

The world's most luxurious boat show 02:38
Oracle Racing steps up its training
Oracle Racing steps up its training

    JUST WATCHED

    Oracle Racing steps up its training

MUST WATCH

Oracle Racing steps up its training 06:18
The new home of sailing?
The new home of sailing?

    JUST WATCHED

    The new home of sailing?

MUST WATCH

The new home of sailing? 05:55

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."

Read: Dangling on the edge -- Life of daredevil photographer

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.

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

Wendy Robson-Burrell and Ian Morris.

"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.

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

Tor Pinney.

Pinney also signed up to LoveSail.com 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 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."

Read: Blown up, capsized, set on fire: 'World's unluckiest boat'

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.

        MainSail

      • Wide shot of a sailboat from a drone

        Drones offer new angle on superyachts

        "Sometimes, I fly the drone with my head in a trash bag so I don't get salt spray from the sea on my equipment," says drone operator Justice L Bentz.
      • Dave Swete and Nick Dana on the bow of Alvimedica for a windy downwind sail change during the team's second trans-Atlantic training session, this time from Newport, Rhode Island, USA, to Southampton, England

        Disney duo's new 'fairytale story'

        Navigate the world's most treacherous seas, crossing 73,000 nautical kilometers in a confined space with stressed-out, sleep-deprived crewmates. 
      • The Triton Submarine.

        Millionaire water toys

        Personal submarines, jetpacks, even 'walking boats.'
        Why the Monaco Yacht Show is a bit like stumbling upon James Bond's secret gadget lab.
      • London's new superyacht hotel, in Royal Victoria Docks.

        Inside $67M superyacht hotel

        London's new superyacht hotel is so enormous, authorities had to lower the water level by five meters just to fit it under a bridge.
      • Thomson hurtles up to the top of the mast aware that the boat can keel at any moment and fling him either onto the deck or the water below

        What next for sailing's daredevil?

        His mast-walking stunts have attracted over 3.5 million hits on YouTube, but Alex Thomson just wants to get back to doing what he does best.
      • Endeavour, a 1934 J-Class yacht, racing during The America's Cup Anniversary Jubilee around The Isle of Wight 21 August 2001. The four entries in the J-Class category represent the oldest remaining class used in America's Cup competition. Over 200 boats, including vintage yachts are taking part in the America's Cup Jubilee to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the first America's Cup race in 1851. AFP PHOTO Adrian DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

        Through hell and high water

        Elizabeth Meyer talks to CNN's Mainsail about the "Armageddon battle" to restore the pioneering J-class boat Endeavour.
      • Specatators use a boat to watch as boat crews race on the River Thames at the Henley Royal Regatta on July 2, 2014 in Henley-on-Thames, England. Opening today and celebrating its 175th year, the Henley Royal Regatta is regarded as part of the English social season and is held annually over five days on the River Thames. Thousands of rowing fans are expected to come to watch races which are head-to-head knock out competitions, raced over a course of 1 mile, 550 yards (2,112 m) which regularly attracts international crews to race. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

        'Downton Abbey' on the water

        Like "Downton Abbey," Henley's Royal Regatta reminds its visitors of an England of old. But for how much longer?
      • LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 10: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge poses next to the America's Cup as she visits the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich for the Ben Ainslie America's Cup Launch on June 10, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

        Britain's $134M secret weapon?

        Can a $134 million budget and the royal seal of approval bring the coveted America's Cup back to British shores for the first time in sailing history?
      • Eyos Expeditions offers superyacht journeys to the most remote places on Earth.

        Yachting to the ends of the Earth

        Bored of lounging on your superyacht in the Mediterranean? An increasing number of millionaires are now sailing their luxury vessels to the ends of the Earth, to get their kicks.