More than 100 people gathered at Thunder Bay's waterfront on Wednesday evening to welcome home a longtime friend who has spent the last two years on an international sailing adventure.


Chris Lenz left Thunder Bay when he was 18 years old, but says he still considers it home. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Former Thunder Bay resident Chris Lenz, his family and crew docked their 32-metre-long "superyacht" at Pool 6 beside Marina Park at about 4:30 p.m.

"It's nice to be home," Lenz told a crowd of cheering family, friends and neighbours. "This has been a dream for me to sail around the world and do some miles and it's just nice to end it here."

Lenz was living in Hong Kong with his wife and two children five years ago when he began building the yacht, named "Silver Lining."

They set sail from Phuket, Thailand, just over two years ago, first travelling down to Indonesia. Then they returned and headed west, making several stops in Europe before crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  They travelled through the Caribbean, up the U.S. eastern seaboard, then along the St. Lawrence River and through the Great Lakes. 

Lenz plans to keep the Silver Lining docked in Thunder Bay for the summer so the family can spend time at their camp near Shebandowan, west of the city.

"I've travelled a lot," he said. "But in July [and] August, Shebandowan [is] still one of the best places on earth I know."

'The kids have to go back to school'

Lenz's daughter Kyana,12, and son Kanon, 10, said they're happy to be reunited with their relatives and friends in Thunder Bay.


Kyana and Kanon Lenz (wearing white shirts) say they like their parents' bathtub on board the Silver Lining. They're happy to be reunited with their friend Karly and cousin Bryce. (Nicole Ireland/CBC )

But they'll miss sailing.

"Giving up this boat's really hard because we've been on it so long and we know so many secret places to do stuff," said Kyana.  "I never thought I'd like... sailing on a boat for two years," added her brother. "But now I really like it."

The family is moving to Panama in the fall. Although Lenz said they will take the yacht out for short trips, it's time to move back to land.

"The kids have to go back to school," he said, despite the fact they've had a tutor on board.

Lenz said his children have benefitted from the sailing adventure. "I see the difference in my kids," he said. "My job as a father is to show them as much as I can... I'm certain now that I made the right choice."