Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Circumnavigation Routes, Part 1

The exchange I had with Ted Johnson a few weeks ago ("Sharing the Dream") has gotten me thinking about circumnavigation routes.

Like many active and armchair sailors, I have a well-thumbed copy of Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes. If you're not familiar with it, this 600-plus page book contains detailed information about 1000 different sailing routes: concise but complete descriptions; the best times of the year to sail; in which months to expect tropical storms; what charts, pilot guides and cruising guides are necessary; and the critical navigation waypoints.

The book starts off in the first chapter with route planning, which stresses the importance of using all the information available--weather, navigation and official travel requirements--to assure a safe, comfortable passage.

The second chapter outlines what Cornell considers to be the six principal circumnavigation routes, five westabout and one eastabout, taking from two to three years to complete. Each route sticks mainly to the tropical latitudes, with accommodations for clearing the Cape of Good Hope as an option on the westabout routes and clearing Cape Horn on the eastabout route. This makes good sense since most sailors want to experience the soft winds and warm waters of the tropics, especially in the Caribbean and South Seas.

The only exception I take to Cornell's routes is that two to three years seems like way too short a time to experience all there would be to see in a trip around the world. Chances are that for most people this would be a one-time deal, with no "Aw, we'll catch that island on the next go-round." So why not take the time to see it all? On our Odyssey trip this past April and May, Nan's and my major complaint was "Too much boat time, not enough land time." We enjoyed our Aegean island-hopping between Athens and Kusadasi much more than the long, uninterrupted passages back the other way.

Applying this sentiment to a circumnavigation, we would want to hop from landfall to landfall as much as possible and minimize the long passages. For example, if our voyage should begin in the northeastern United States, we would want to hop down the coast, cross to the Bahamas, and then hop through all the Caribbean islands instead of taking a more direct route through Bermuda to the Virgin Islands and on to South America. The second option could be completed in a month or two, but the first might take a couple of years or more.

What makes this type of travel possible is the idea of a discontinuous voyage: leaving the boat for periods of time in order to return home and take care of real-world obligations before returning to the boat and sailing on, as mountaineer Jim Whittaker and his family were doing in their steel-hulled sailboat Impossible Dream when I met him in Aspen back in 2000.

Two to three years for a circumnavigation sounds reasonable if you're going to do it non-stop, but as I said to Ted in our exchange, I look at my sailing dream as more of an "until I die" proposition with no time limits, which ties right in with the discontinuous voyage idea.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Another great book that is highly related to what you are describing is, Chasing Sunsets, by Lawrence Pane. We used Chasing Sunsets as a reference book for getting ready to cruise and found its real-life information to be invaluable. I am sure you would appreciate it. And I look forward to reading more about yours.