They had a 45-ft yacht built for them four years ago when Ian’s father told them to “stop wasting time and get on with it” just before he died.
But their decision has also been heavily influenced by the new pension rules which will allow Ann, 54, to start taking tax-free lump sums of around £10,000 a year for the next five years from her pot.
She spent 30 years with RBS and last month took early retirement from payment service company Worldpay where she was chief operating officer of ecommerce.
Under the new legislation ushered in in April, when she reaches her next birthday, she will be able to dip into her pension “like a bank account”.
“We’ve been talking about doing it for the last 20 years,” she explained.
“But we got married and then had young children and the time just felt right. We have a daughter who is doing her A-levels and a son at university.
“These new pension rules came in that basically allow me to breakdown my pension so I can access small parts of my pension before I reach 60.
We are using that money to buy several ‘buy-to-let’ properties that we will then use as a source of income while we are away.”
Ian and Ann Clarke sold all their belongings to raise money for their sailing trip
The couple were also influenced in their decision after a close family friend was diagnosed with skin cancer last year aged just 33.
“We want it sold by the summer and then we’ll buy a few other properties and move into one of them during the winter.”
The pair announced their plans to neighbours in the local village newsletter, saying they would be selling the bulk of their possessions in two yard sales.
Around 150 people went to the first sale last Saturday to buy antique furniture and other belongings. The couple plan to live off about £20,000 a year from their savings and also plan to buy several buy-to-let properties in the UK to provide a monthly income and security for their children.
Ian, 50, is a software engineer who runs his own company and his current contract is due to end this summer.
He added: “We need to sell almost everything else too – as we will be living on the sea aboard our yacht. We will be holding two yard sales with all sorts of things from our life on the land for sale.”
If all goes to plan they aim to say goodbye to son Jamie, 20, and daughter Samantha, 17, in March next year and set sail from Turkey where their boat is based.
They want to spend the summer in the Mediterranean before crossing the Atlantic in September and getting to the Caribbean for Christmas.
The first 12 months are planned but after that they intend to play it by ear.
Ann added: “We’ve always been on sailing holidays so I’m not too worried about being on the water permanently, although I think will be a bit strange as we have only ever been away for two weeks or a month at most.
I think the hardest thing will be leaving our friends.
We have said to everyone that they must come out and visit us, but you never know who is actually going to do that.
“Ian and I have always worked so we have always had things to discuss in the evening.
So it is a worry that we will be together 24/7 and we can’t have ‘how was your day’ conversation in the evening.
But all the stresses and strains of working long hours and normal life won’t be there so I’m sure it will be fine.
“It’s just really exciting, our plans are to go away indefinitely we don’t know when or if we will come back.”