In sailing, as in other sporting arenas, we love to marvel at the abilities of the true greats, even as we recognize that you don’t have to be on their level to have a great time. The ASA membership is composed of people at all different stages, from pure beginners to the saltiest of veteran sailors.
Many consider a solo circumnavigation to be the ultimate cruising feat. This is something most of us would never dream of attempting, for any number of reasons: Money, Time, Skill, or Sanity! However, this doesn’t stop us from admiring those who can and do accomplish the Holy Grail of sailing. I look with awe at seafarers such as Reid Stowe, who spent over 1,000 continuous days at sea without stopping to repair or re-provision, and the original cruiser, Joshua Slocum, author of the book from which this post takes it title.
At ASA we even have such legends in our midst – including Yoh Aoki, who owns an ASA affiliate in Osaka, Japan, and who at age 22 built a plywood ketch in his backyard and sailed it around the world. This boat, Ahodori 2, holds the Guinness World Record for smallest boat ever to sail around the world, and is currently on display at a museum in Japan. There is also the Sunderland family of Marina del Rey, who need no introduction.
There are THREE intrepid sailors currently attempting solo circumnavigations (that I know of), and they could not be more different from one another:
Laura Dekker, 15, aboard Guppy
Dutch teenager Dekker set out on her voyage on August 4, 2010, at the ripe old age of 14. She’s taking it easy, stopping in Spain, Portugal, the Canaries, and the Cape Verde Islands, visiting with friends and family. Most recently she did her first big ocean crossing to St. Maarten in the Caribbean. At the time of writing, she has turned 15 and is enjoying a 10-day spot as a guest deckhand aboard the tall ship Stad Amsterdam, giving her boat a brief rest.
Jeanne Socrates, 67, aboard Nereida
This grandma doesn’t mess around. It is evident from her weblog that she has the grit and the know-how sail around the world, and that she doesn’t plan to dally. In fact, she’s already done it once, from March 2007 – June 2008. A few days ago she sustained damage to her boom and windscreen rounding Cape Horn, but from the upbeat tone of her journal it seems she remains optimistic about completing the voyage. She is currently in the Beagle Channel making repairs.
Minoru Saito, 77, aboard Shuten-dohji III
Captain Saito is clearly the dean of this group, having circumnavigated 7 times already and holding the record for oldest-ever solo circumnavigator. He is on his 8th trip, this time the “wrong way around,” west-to-east. He has nearly completed the voyage, which began in 2008 and has included numerous close-calls around stormy Cape Horn and the perilous coast of Chile. He’s wintering in Hawaii and only needs the final leg to Yokohama to finish.
I find these stories of great sailors equally intimidating and inspiring. Obviously, it’s unlikely that most of us will ever achieve what these people have on the water, but that’s okay. If we can attain our own goals, whether those goals are just daysailing in the local lake, bareboat chartering, or undertaking a massive ocean crossing, we will have done a great thing. Feel free to share your thoughts, and remember that we’re here to help you achieve your sailing dreams, whatever they may be.