Yachts International - - Contents -

An ed­i­tor I worked for back the road es­poused the no­tion that any­one who buys a boat har­bors a la­tent de­sire to leave life be­hind and sail around the world. While that dream may not be top of mind when we load up the cen­ter con­sole for a day of fish­ing or set off in a sailing dinghy with the kids for a few hours on the bay, I do be­lieve there’s some merit to his point of view. The cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion fan­tasy bit me, as it does many peo­ple, in my 20s af­ter I read Joshua Slocum’s clas­sic “Sailing Alone Around the World.” The boat in which he ac­com­plished that feat from 1895 to 1898 was a 36-foot, 9-inch sloop called Spray. I imag­ined what it must have been like, con­fined to such a small boat with no elec­tron­ics, work­ing around all the chaos the ocean serves up.

In the days be­fore yachts, down­wind-friendly ships cir­cum­nav­i­gated by way of the an­gry Southern Ocean largely out of ne­ces­sity: to chase cargo, kill whales, ex­pand em­pires and es­tab­lish trade. The abil­ity to sail up­wind, the ad­vent of steam and the com­ple­tion of the Suez and Panama canals changed the game.

To­day, cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tions are largely un­der­taken by choice, by cruis­ers, racers and romantics on yachts seek­ing ad­ven­ture. I’ve met some of each and I envy them all. I love liv­ing the cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion fan­tasy through their ex­pe­ri­ences.

While edit­ing an­other magazine, I en­listed an ac­quain­tance, David Hughes, to chron­i­cle a cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion that he and his wife, Linda, did aboard their Oys­ter sailing yacht. Given that there was no pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher or writer aboard, my ex­pec­ta­tions were low. But as his be­guil­ing slides and dis­patches ar­rived dur­ing the next cou­ple of years, I be­came en­thralled— and ex­ceed­ingly en­vi­ous. His en­thu­si­asm for ad­ven­ture and dis­cov­ery over­came what­ever jour­nal­is­tic short­com­ings he may have had. He be­came a great friend whom I al­ways ad­mired.

Early May brings the Volvo Ocean Race fleet to New­port, Rhode Is­land, for one stop on an eight-month, 11-leg, all-out thrash around the world. Those sailors have dif­fer­ent mo­ti­va­tions than David and Linda, but I ad­mire their de­ter­mi­na­tion and fo­cus, risk­ing life and limb sailing hard through the worst ocean weather on the planet. Granted, most are pros, but what a wild ad­ven­ture that must be. In place of the wonderful prose of Slocum and David Hughes, we ben­e­fit from satel­lite video and re­port­ing that put us on board in real time as the fleet takes on the mer­ci­less winds and seas of the Southern Ocean.

In Justin Rat­cliffe’s “Great Ex­pec­ta­tions” in this is­sue, we read about a yachts­man in his 80s who, with his wife, un­der­took a two-year cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion aboard a Benetti Clas­sic 121 the builder mod­i­fied for the trip. The cou­ple had done a cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion be­fore on a 78-foot sail­boat and this time wanted to do it on a mo­to­ry­acht. They stayed on board for most of the 38,000 miles the boat cruised, then re­turned to the At­lantic to be in Ber­muda for last year’s Amer­ica’s Cup. You have to ad­mire their pluck and thirst for ad­ven­ture.

Whether it’s Slocum alone in his lit­tle wooden boat, cruis­ing sailors knock­ing off a bucket list item, hy­per­com­pet­i­tive racers get­ting to way­points as fast as their boats will take them, or oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans liv­ing (or re­liv­ing) the dream, there are as many ways around the world as there are boats and wills to do it.

My thanks to them all for bring­ing us along for a vi­car­i­ous thrill. Maybe I’ll wax up my solo ca­noe and plot a course—if only in my dreams.

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