Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Circumnavigation Routes, Part 6

While Nan and I were sailing with John Kretschmer in the Spanish Virgin Islands this past April, the subject of circumnavigation routes came up frequently. John and his wife, Tadji, are planning a circumnavigation that would begin after their kids are out of high school, seven or eight years from now. Nan and I are hoping to set sail much sooner, but there are still some major hurdles for us to overcome, like buying an appropriate boat. In the meantime, it's fun and educational to share ideas about where to go and what to see.

John and I agreed that a west-about route would be easiest, but then he threw out the idea of crossing the Atlantic to Europe early in the trip rather than waiting until after a transit of the Suez Canal. Since many of the places we hope to visit are in Europe, this made perfect sense.

What about the Caribbean, though? John had an idea for that as well: circumnavigate the Caribbean first in a counter-clockwise direction to take advantage of the easterly Trade Winds, which is much easier than trying to catch occasional northeasterly winds to go the other way around. The Caribbean loop could also serve as a shakedown cruise before the big leap across the Atlantic.

What about the return leg from Europe? John knew that I wanted to see the islands off the west coast of Chile--Robinson Crusoe Island, Easter Island, and Pitcairn Island--so he suggested skipping the Panama Canal in favor of sailing south along the east coast of South America, through the Straits of Magellan and then up the west coast to Valparaiso. At this point, the route would closely follow the one I laid out several years ago (Circumnavigation Route 2001) until we reached the Seychelles. With all the piracy off the coast of Somalia, it would be safer to go south instead of north at this point, round the Cape of Good Hope and then sail on to South America by way of St. Helena. A second tour of the Windward and Leeward Islands, the Bahamas and the Florida coast would put us back at our starting point in Savannah, Georgia.

The only dream places missing from this route are Cuba and the Galapagos Islands. The future possibility of legal travel to Cuba by sailboat from the United States is still uncertain. And who knows, if the "boat quest" boat is finally found on the west coast, then it might be possible to take a detour to the Galapagos Islands before transitting the Panama Canal and sailing north to Savannah.

I figured the 2001 route to be a little over 50,000 miles. This more ambitious 2009 route would be almost 65,000 miles. If you would like to see a Google Maps version of it, click here: Circumnavigation Route 2009.


pslarkin said...

Thanks for your Circumnavigation Routes. They are interesting.

I am curious how long a trip from Miami to Buenos Aires, via an eastern route would take? Any thoughts?

John Lichty said...

Thanks for your comments. By water, it is about 7500 miles from Miami to Buenos Aires. With a high-performance cruising sailboat and optimal winds, that distance could be covered in 50 to 75 days of continuous sailing. More likely, it would take between 4 and 6 months, factoring in the inevitable wind and equipment delays. Are you planning a trip?

pslarkin said...

I am just dreaming. I learned rudimentary sailing in the San Juans, but would hardly feel comfortable as a captain. I need to move to port city for some serious knowledge transfer before South America enters the horizon.

How long did it take for you to feel comfortable on a long expedition?

John Lichty said...

My longest passage so far was only three full days and two nights, which was pretty comfortable. Increasing your comfort level, I believe, is a matter of meeting and overcoming difficult situations successfully. But sailing is an unpredictable activity, so there will always be new adventures.