Feasibility of sailing around the world.

I’ve always dreamt of buying my own sail boat and sailing around the world.

Is this a realisitic dream or am I smoking too much crack?

What I would like to know are the following:

  1. how much money this would take?
  2. would I have to worry about pirates?
  3. how long would actual sea travel be?
  4. how dangerous would it be?
  5. what would I do about passports, safe entry into other countries, etc.

Feel free to add points that I may have overlooked.

People do this. It isn’t unrealistic at all. To answer your questions:

  1. The big cost, of course, is the boat itself. Not just purchasing it, but maintenance. Of course, if you’re a real Mr. Fixit (and since you’d be alone out on the ocean, you should be) you can save money there. And boat prices can vary dramatically, depending on how much luxury you’re willing to forego.

Beyond that, you need living expenses – food and fuel and such. This is largely a factor of where you’re traveling. I’ve heard of people banging around the South Pacific for as little as $20,000/year, but that’s living a real gypsy lifestyle. And if you decide to tie up off the French Riviera, obviously your costs will go up.

  1. Depends on what part of the world you’re in. Southeast Asia is notoriously bad in this regard.

  2. IIRC, the longest leg is Bermuda-Azores, which will take you a couple of weeks at a minimum.

  3. If you are young, fit, are a capable sailor with good sail handling and navigation skills, can do your own repairs, cook your own food, etc…well, it’s still dangerous, but not unmanageably so. If not, well let’s just say I wouldn’t want to do it.

  4. This, of course, varies from country to country. I believe there are cruising guides that include this type of information.

Pick up a copy of Sail or Cruising World next time you’re at the newsstand. They’ll have articles that will discuss various aspects of extended sailboat cruising.

Oh, and I should add: no one really jumps headfirst into sailing across oceans. Most people will spend lots of time taking extended cruises in friendly waters – up and down the Eastern seaboard, in the Carribean, etc – before trying to circumnavigate. Walk before you run.

I’ve never done this, but I know many people have. There are books and magazines full of the information you seek. I’m partial to Cruising World since we’ve subscribed to it for years, but there are many other sources. Another good way to gather information is hang around marinas and talk to people who’ve done it.

Other things to consider - [ul]- How much food to carry

  • How much water and fuel, and the availability in the ports you want to visit
  • Repairs at sea and in port, including what spares you can carry.
  • Weather and how to get info when you’re in the middle of big water.
  • Health considerations and getting medical treatment outside your home area.[/ul]Yep, there’s lots of stuff to consider. Incidentally, have you ever sailed? Do you know anything about boats?

If, as Dewey says, you are young and single but can’t affort your own boat or not an expert sailor you can do what a friend of mine did.

He had had a little celestial navigation in Navy pilot school, so after his retirement at age 55 (he was single) he took some navigation courses and got himself a Coast Guard small boad navigators ticket.

Then he hung around yacht basins and by ingratiating himself with boat owners he got signed on as navigator and took trips to Costa Rica, the South Pacifick, Caribbean, Gibralter, etc.

Not only is it feasible, there are quite a few people doing it right now


I don’t know the first thing about sailing. But I have watched it on TV.:wink:

If I were ever to embark on such an endeavor, I’d definitely be more prepared than I would be now. This is definitely something I wouldn’t try now.

But it is a good dream.:slight_smile:

The “Bermuda - Azores” leg is Eastbound and for a circumnavitagaion generally considered doing it backward. Most folks take the easier route of heading West.

There are plenty of books and magazines that can give you some clue as to whether this is feasible for you. As David S says, one way is to crew on someone else’s boat. There are always folks looking for experienced crew. If you don’t have experience, get some. Even if you’re inland, as we are, if you have lakes, you have sailors and sailing schools. There are also educational cruises where you can learn blue water sailing. - Pricey but good instruction and experience

Mr. OB and I plan to retire aboad a sailboat and see the world. There’s lots to learn and do first. We’re actively working to get ourselves ready for that.

Age isn’t necessarily a barrier. Eric Forsyth began his serious world travels after his retirement from Brookhaven Nat’l labs. Here’s his boat:

Dreams need fuel to keep going. Here’s some sites to help keep the fires burning:

Good point. I don’t know any circumnavigators, but I do know people who have gone transatlantic, and they always called it “Bermuda - Azores” for obvious reasons. I should’ve said “Azores - Bermuda.” :smiley:

One way to get some experience is offshore racing. There are several California-Hawaii races such as TransPac. If you enter your boat (or get yourself on a crew) in one of these, it is valuable experience with the side benefit that there are a lot of people monitoring each boat’s progress. This makes it safer than just setting out on your own. In addition to the race, a lot of people hire crews to bring their boats back from these races (the un-glorious return leg). They’re not going to hire you with no experience, but it might be a step toward getting on the race crew. While the race itself may be a lot different pace and attitude than offshore cruising, you’ll get to see what it’s like and what it takes to be out there.

A family from Ottawa Ontario Canada, the Stuemers decided to sail around the world a few years ago. In 1997 they sold their business, rented out their home, took their three sons, then aged 5, 9 and 11 out of school, and set out on an ambitious four-year plan to navigate around the world by sailboat. When they departed Ottawa in September of 1997, the Stuemers had never even once sailed Northern Magic, the 42-foot, 39-year-old steel ketch they had purchased and refitted for the world-circling voyage. Their entire sailing experience at the time consisted of six afternoons of sailing on the Ottawa River on a 23-foot boat.

So it is possible to do with little experience (but I think you need to be a fast learner). They wrote a book based on their experiences. The book is entitled The Voyage Of The Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey
Author: Diane Stuemer

Check out these books. Great reading.

“Sailing Alone Around the World,” by Joshua Slocomb. He was the first person to circle the world alone, in 1896ish. Took about 5 years IIRC. He tried it again a little later and was never heard from again.

“Cruising Under Sail,” Eric Hiscock. Eric and Susan Hiscock made a career out of sailing and did it for over 30 years. They supported themselves by writing about it.

“Dove,” by Robin Lee Graham. At 16 he went to his father and asked to borrow the boat to sail around the world. Daddy surprisingly said yes. It took about 5 years and he got married along the way. Once home he, wife, and young’n moved to Montana. Guess he’d had enough of the sea for awhile.

“Adrift,” by Steven Callahan. He was sailing in the Atlantic alone when his boat sank. He spent the next 76 days in his liferaft. A great story of determination.

In 1987 I met a man in Salinas, Utah. His truck was broke down and need some help, so I helped him. BUT, behind the truck was a 36ish foot sailboat. He gave me a tour of it. While we were drinking a beer or two he told me his story. He had worked for the railroad in Kansas and retired the year before. After sitting around the house for awhile “Vern” came to breakfast one morning and informed Mrs. Vern that, “I’m selling everything I own and buying a boat and sailing around the world. You coming?” Mrs. Vern was there also so I guess the answere was yes, but she didn’t looke nearly as excited about the trip as Vern. They were on there way from CA where they’d bought the boat to Houston where they were going to take 3 weeks of boat driving lessons before sitting sail. I have no idea what ever became of them. They might have gone down with all hands of the coast of Africa or they might this very day be sipping Mai-Tias on some beach.

Howard Park of Connecticut is a local famous guy who sailed around the world, then a month after he finished his first sail, he wanted to do it again… So he did.

Basically if you Pete think you have the courage to do it then do it. But it takes a lot of planning. Not something to take on a whim.

I worked with a couple who did this. They were experienced cruisers, which is the sane way to approach it, as already suggested - learn what you’re doing, and figure out what you’re in for with a few runs up and down the coast with rented boats first. These people owned a 30-something foot cutter (single mast, two jibs) and were already live aboards when they decided to “retire” and, as they put it, “head out the Golden Gate and hang a left”. They were figuring two or three years to get around the world, hanging out and taking side trips wherever they felt like it.

All of this seems like quite an adventure, especially with others along for the trip. I tried to talk some friends into doing this years ago, but I just couldn‘t make the sale. They figured our inexperience would get us all killed, but now that I’ve seen the Stuemer’s have done it with virtually no experience before they headed out, maybe it isn’t so crazy. Boats are as expensive as airplanes with all of the high tech navigation, weather, and communication equipment one must have, assuming you want to make it as safe as possible. Even without all of this equipment, they are still expensive, but quite possible to acquire for the average Joe. Just settle on a used boat or a fix-it-upper, or if you would want to build your own, there are many others that have opted for this. I think I would prefer steel or aluminum myself. This particular cite has kits you can build with steel or aluminum. Does anyone know how long a good set of sails last, and just how expensive are they for the average 42’ sail boat? Just went to Amazon to check out a review for that book from Diane Stuemer that another poster recommended. It sounds interesting, even though running across pirates, and being held at gunpoint, isn’t the kind of adventure I had in mind–visiting desolate islands and the freedom that the whole experience brings is though. I’m really surprised that somebody brought their children along for this not having done anything like this before. The 42-foot steel ketch was probably a wise decision. I suppose it‘s not as fast, but maybe with steel you wouldn‘t have to worry about whales smashing a hole in it which sometimes happens with the fiberglass boats. The bad weather seems like the worst danger. That followed by pirates. Then maybe whales. What exactly does lightning hitting a boat in the open ocean do? Well, I think I’ll go check out the other book recommendations next.


While you’re on Amazon also look for books by:

Hal Roth
Herb Payson
Lin and Larry Pardey
Bob Bitchin
John Rousmaniere
Jimmy Cornell

Also recommended:
The Cruising Life
A common sense guide for the would-be voyager

by Jim Trefethen

Why is east to west easier?

Over the continental US, at least IIRC, winds blow west to east more often than not. Is this not true as a general rule? Shouldn’t you sail with the wind rather than tack into it?

Most folks follow the trade winds on either side of the equator.

In the northern hemisphere they blow from the northeast and in the southern hemisphere from the southeast - and will push you in a westerly direction. One of the advantages here is warmth; another is that the land masses are easier to avoid/get around at lower latitudes. Most cruisers opt for the Panama and Suez canals rather than go around Africa and South America.

Here’s a small diagram: http://www.thefoxworthys.com/globalwind

Some sailors want the challenge of the west to east route, but most prefer the easier cruise.

My experience is pretty much based on crewing a 35’er from Plymouth > Azores – there were four of us onboard heading to The Azores for a ‘knees-up with one of those ‘posh’ yachting clubs. They were a remarkable group of self-sufficient adventurers. Some fantastic stories. In fact, one of the guys had done the round-the-world three times solo – he didn’t quite have it for the family business so his family were rather happy to fund these adventures of his, so it seemed. Like all of them really, just a typical unassuming Englishman…he wasn’t the only one who’d done the trip, either …

Anyway based on that experience, I rather agree with ** Dewey Cheatem Undhow**. I’d add a few things:

There is absolutely no substitute for knowledge and experience – a vast knowledge is preferable because completely unexpected circumstances will arise and you’ll need to make snap decisions – those are best made with experience.

I’d also say, although you don’t need to take exams, I’d seriously recommend you do… even just thinking about navigation should make that clear …

The Pacific, not the Atlantic, affords the longest legs – particularly, if you have the balls, the Southern Ocean.

Yeah, there are people that get by on relatively little money. In fact, a couple I met wrote articles for Yachting magazines to get by. These days – with the Internet and satellite connections – I guess there’s scope for all kinds of financial opportunities …

Last thing, I don’t know how the soloists handle the sleep deprivation – just not pleasant. And you do need a night watch most of the time – probably four hour shifts (it can be surprisingly busy out there). Doing it alone is for the radical.

Thanks, I will.