Off Track: sailing

Preparing for a circumnavigation


Isabelle had already sailed a bit before we met each other, so it was soon decided that we would sail around the world. That would require some preparation in the form of an evening course in navigation and meteorology, (sea) chart reading, tides and so on, obtaining a number of licences (for operating a digital VHF radio) and the acquisition of an ICC (international certificate of competence) with a sailing license. And practice. But that is difficult without a sailboat.

Atlantic Ocean

Domicil, top-view, St Lucia I enrolled in a site where I offered my services as sailor ('crew' is the word they use for it). Well begun is half done: on a new sailing yacht (25 metres) we crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Curaçao (in 2013).

It was a fantastic experience. The nocturnal silence in the middle of a huge pond while the rest of the crew is asleep, swimming in water 3,000 metres deep, fishing (or the attempts to do so) and of course the arrivals in Plymouth (England), Porto (Portugal), Las Palmas (Canary Islands, Spain), Saint Lucia (Eastern Caribbean) and Curaçao (Western Caribbean).


In 2014 I cruised from Brazil via French Guiana to Surinam. The first part (5 days and nights diagonally across the delta of the Amazon) were of the same serenity as those across the ocean. Then we navigated a number of major rivers. No sailing, unfortunately, but 'steaming' on the diesel engine. The owner (and captain) wanted to write a travel guide in which he explains how far you can navigate these rivers and what you will see along the way. Highlight was a day with mainly side-rivers, where we motored straight through the dense jungle (until it became so dense that the standing rig became entangled and even backing up became very difficult).

On the border river between French Guiana and Surinam, I disembarked to go to Trinidad, to buy a (used) sailboat. The expertise carried out was quickly completed: this boat had a number of faults that I did not see remedied within reasonable time, and then the sale was cancelled.

Pacific Ocean

At the helm of Reprise, Auckland, New-Zealand Finally, I wanted to cross a more 'difficult' stretch of sea. It became New Zealand to Tahiti (in 2015). The sea there is a challenge because there is a constant need to sail close to the wind in a sea that is called 'confused'. We stayed just north of the 'roaring forties', but where the wind still is quite strong all the time. The worst were 5 days of 'laundry machine' weather: where the boat rolls and pounds at the same time so that every movement becomes unpredictable. The captain had a ugly fall in the galley one of those days and for a moment I thought the 68-year-old wouldn't get up.

Upon my return, I signed another purchase contract: this time for a 45-foot VanderStadt. Unfortunately, this expertise also ended badly.

Because the preparation time (for a trip around the world by sailing boat) takes several years, we decided to cancel the sailing project because we ran out of time. Travelling is more important than the means of transport and that is why we have chosen a car to do the next trip. We already know how to drive a vehicle, read a map, etc. - this way, we could definitely leave on time (August 2018). Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun preparing for our sailing trip (which never materialized.)