Why are you sailing around the world?
I’m an adventure seeker, and this fits the bill. More than that though, I’ve always been immensely impressed by what nature has been able to create and have been sadden to see millions of years of evolution end unceremoniously due to human impacts. Coral reefs don’t get as much attention as other ecosystems suffering from habitat loss, but they are also the most directly affected by climate change. I want to see these ecosystems and share them with the world in my travels, and before they are gone forever.
I am also working with the Coral Reef Alliance to raise money and help preserve coral reef ecosystems. You can follow this link to learn more about that fundraiser.
Do you ever get lonely?
Sometimes. I have nothing to prove to myself or to the world in doing a solo circumnavigation — though it would make good material for a book.
However, there are certain practicalities that make a solo-voyage perhaps more appealing. Tarka is a small boat, and can really only support two people who really, really like each other. Additionally, Tarka’s small size and small sails makes her easy to single-hand.
That said, I have been very fortunate to meet a great number of wonderful people in my travels.
How are you financing this adventure?
I worked for a few years in the tech sector, and am now surviving off my modest savings. Tarka is a small, old boat, and didn’t cost much to buy, and doesn’t cost a whole lot to maintain. Surprisingly, sailing around the world doesn’t have to be expensive.
At sea, I am mostly self-reliant. The biggest recurring expenses are food, fuel, and health insurance (if you have it). On the other hand, boat-maintenance generally involves big-ticket expenses and they can add up. With Tarka, I budgeted 100% of the purchase cost for maintenance, rigging, and new sails.
What do your friends think?
From conversations I’ve had, I find there are two types of reactions to my sailing plans. People either think I am crazy, or they find the adventure inspiring. I’ll compromise and confess that I am probably a little crazy, but that my goal is to share and inspire.
What are the risks involved?
I think the biggest risk is the one to my career. The reality is, that when carefully planned, sailing around the world isn’t all that dangerous.
We take a lot of risks everyday because they are necessary for us to live our lives. Driving to and form work every day is probably the best example. Indeed, the most dangerous things I have done in my travels have been on land, not at sea. The reality is, is that properly constructed boats don’t just sink, and hurricanes don’t just sneak up on you. In fact, weather is probably low on the lists of concerns, as it can be predicted and easily avoided — at least in the tropics.
Collisions with cargo ships are probably the biggest threat at sea, and that’s saying something, considering how small my boat is, and how utterly vast the oceans are. Next up would be collisions with any other object, be it a floating log, or a partially submerged shipping container. After that, I would say a medical emergency like a laceration, a broken bone, or appendicitis could cut a voyage short with an exciting helicopter ride.
What’s your biggest fear?
Realizing that I’m not cut out for the adventure.
My second biggest fear is that I’ll have to pull a Tom Hanks style tooth extraction in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Wilson?
Do you anchor at sea? How do you sleep?
Though you can “anchor” at sea, it’s generally only employed as a storm tactic, or to slow progress. I can achieve this with a maneuver called “heaving-to”, where my two sails are made opposed, and I lash my rudder so the boat continually tries to turn into the wind. The result is that the boat will mostly stop sailing, and will drift down wind slowly. It’s a good survival tactic if the seas become unmanageable, and it can also be used to wait offshore while you wait for the sun to rise while trying to navigate a reef or unlit land features.
However, no reasonable person uses this method to stop progress and go to sleep every night. I’d be losing 7 or 8 precious sailing hours, every day. On a 30-day passage, that would add 10 days to my journey. This means more time at sea, more time beyond the weather forecast, and thus a greater chance to encounter troubling weather. It also would require the need for more provisions, which means a heavier, less sail-happy boat.
The right and safest thing to do is to keep a watch at all times, but that isn’t an option for me. Instead, I compromise, and take short naps, waking periodically to give a look around, check for other vessels, and make sure I’m still on the expected course. I don’t have radar, but I do have an AIS receiver. AIS is becoming standard equipment, and is present on all large shipping vessels. If a vessel broadcasting an AIS signal is detected to be on a collision course with my boat, an alarm will go off, waking me immediately well before there’s any danger.
Whales, submerged shipping containers, and hidden reefs don’t broadcast AIS, but there’s only so much you can do.