Colin MacRae, star of Below Deck, will hit New Zealand shores in less than two weeks, on his salvaged boat, Parlay Revival, after his epic Pacific crossing and will be throwing a massive party to celebrate his voyage.
The 34-year-old promised himself he would sail back home, as part of his circumnavigation of the globe in his 13.7m Lagoon catamaran, which he lovingly restored from a floating graveyard of destroyed boats in the British Virgin Islands in 2017.
Parlay was struck by lightning twice, causing broken bulkheads and cracks in the rigging, which almost prevented MacRae and his crew from leaving Mexico.
“It has been a really tough road to get here, but to be sailing into home is a really emotional thing for me,” MacRae tells Spy.
“It really felt like the universe was against us so often, as we had setback after setback, but one thing remained constant: my determination to not let anything get me down too much, and just continue to focus on my dream of circumnavigating the globe.”
It’s that determination that has seen MacRae build up nearly 300,000 YouTube subscribers with more than 46 million views, and he says they get recognised in every port they anchor.
“Being on Below Deck for three seasons has boosted the Instagram to almost half a million and we haven’t missed a single Sunday episode on YouTube for about two years,” he says.
The grit and determination of MacRae and his crew, and their motto “You only get one shot at this thing called life, so you may as well grab it by the horns and give it the best damn shot you can”, is what he credits for the huge fan base, as well as his Kiwi “can-do” attitude.
They left Mexico in May to start the 4800km journey to French Polynesia. “This was easily the biggest adventure of our lives. I had eight crew, including a 62-year-old who supports the YouTube channel, who we nicknamed The Chosen One.
They continued through Tahiti and Moorea and went to Bora Bora, then the Cook Islands and on to Niue, but with crazy weather couldn’t moor so they continued to Tonga.
“Tonga was insane, and we sailed all through the island groups and ended up in Nukuʻalofa,” says MacRae.
Sadly, two crew members had to be left behind, MacRae’s two pit bull terrier boat dogs. “New Zealand doesn’t allow pit bulls to be brought in. It was absolutely heartbreaking, but we had no other options if I wanted to sail home to NZ,” he says. “They are with a lovely family who send us daily video updates, so at least they are getting cared,” he says.
MacRae left his crew in Nukuʻalofa for a quick trip to Las Vegas, where his Below Deck stardom called for a three-day BravoCon. The network flew him there and back so they could continue the Pacific crossing heading for Minerva Reefs, a submerged atoll in the middle of nowhere.
Fiji is where Spy caught up with MacRae this week where, suddenly, they were on weather alert with Cyclone Mal heading towards them.
“We are trying to outrun it towards New Zealand.
“We still have 400 miles to go, so hope to arrive in Ōpua soon, and it looks like we are going to get there and out of the way of the cyclone.
“To make things worse, I have lost one engine, so have to hope my one good engine doesn’t fail on me!
“I have seven crew at the moment, including four childhood friends from NZ, so sailing home is going to be extra special for me.”
MacRae will also be bringing longtime girlfriend, fellow adventurer Brittany Amodeo, Parlay’s digital content editor.
They plan on arriving in Auckland on December 2, where they will have many boats wanting to welcome them with a flotilla in Ōkahu Bay, followed by a huge homecoming celebration at Akarana Yacht Club.
“We have so many people wanting to come that we have had to make it a ticketed event, and I’ll announce the details on Instagram in the coming days.”
After the celebrations, they will all fly back to the British Virgin Islands to do a sailing festival with Captain Glenn from his season of Below Deck, as well as a bunch of other “influencers”.
Then MacRae and the crew will come back home and head out to Aotea Great Barrier Island, where all his family now live. “It will be awesome to have my boat out there. My dad bought our land out here 40 years ago.”
Next April, after six years of sailing 40,000km and 30 different countries, MacRae and co will pick up the dogs from Tonga, then continue up into Asia, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, then across the Atlantic to finish his global circumnavigation in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.
“It has been my goal to take this hurricane-damaged catamaran around the world, and nothing is going to stop me.”