Coming Full Circle

It was a crisp Caribbean morning—bright sun with the trades rolling in early. Nothing seemed too special, aside from the spectacular views of Grenada’s mountains, until I heard a crackling announcement over the VHF: “Jeannius has just crossed her track and has circumnavigated the globe.”
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
arc1



It was a crisp Caribbean morning—bright sun with the trades rolling in early. Nothing seemed too special, aside from the spectacular views of Grenada’s mountains, until I heard a crackling announcement over the VHF: “Jeannius has just crossed her track and has circumnavigated the globe.” I had never even contemplated a 15-month journey around the world, but the transmission gave me goose bumps.

A handful of boats had arrived in the previous days’ rains to finish the last competitive leg of the World ARC cruising rally from Recife, Brazil, to St. Georges, Grenada. Of the 19 boats completing the rally, Jeannius was one of two that had left from Grenada to join the official start in St. Lucia in January 2010 and so was the first now to complete her lap. The rest would have to wait until they sailed up to St. Lucia in a few days for the final awards ceremony.

The sailors on the dock awaiting the arrival of the last four boats that morning beamed with their shared accomplishments, but there was also some tension in the air. Only a few days into the 2,100-mile passage from Recife, the Neumann family aboard the Privilege 445 catamaran, Basia, was run down by a freighter in the night and the boat was dismasted. The rescue and eventual safe arrival of the cat and her crew into Grenada spoke volumes about the concept of crossing oceans in company.

The odd sight of Basia turning into the Port St. Louis marina sans rig was tempered by the cheers of rally sailors in their dinghies guiding her into her berth, complete with party hats and noise-makers. Nonetheless, the galvanizing effect the accident had on the fleet was evident when the entire marina grew silent as dock lines were tossed and Michael Neumann, his wife, Barbara, and daughter Anna were greeted with hugs and tears.

arc4

Stepping into this family of sailors in Grenada, I certainly felt like an interloper. The bonds these sailors forged through gales, customs disputes, a wedding and even a dismemberment (a finger), were stronger than I could comprehend. It is hard to answer the question, “Why circumnavigate?” But to these sailors, and particularly the crew of Basia, the answer to the question, “Why circumnavigate in a rally?” was quite evident.

“There were four boats right with Basia,” said Bob Daigle of Maine, who crewed aboard the Sundeer 60 Ocean Jasper. “It was the first time where ‘safety in numbers’ really came into play.” In this case, a coordinated effort by those in close proximity to the stricken boat kept misfortune from turning into disaster.

Circumnavigating in a group, however, is not just useful for sorting out visas and the passage through the Panama Canal, or to have someone there in case you break down or have an accident. I found even the biggest loners in the fleet were praising the rally format.

“We took advantage of the diversity in the group,” said Ocean Jasper’s skipper, Jim Geddes. “It’s not ‘I’m going to hide my route to beat you.’ We learned from the better sailors’ routes.” The experience level in the group of 257 participants was wide-ranging. Some were handier with electronics, others with engines and others with recipes for cooking fresh fish. All information was shared.

Solitude is inevitable on a boat in the ocean. But with the advent of round-the-world rallies—this was the eighth such rally run by the World Cruising Club, and the second under the World ARC name—sailors no longer have to carry the worry of being entirely alone in the great blue sea.

“Jim said he booked the rally, so we quit our jobs and said OK,” said Daigle as he explained how he and his wife, Maggie, signed up to sail aboard Ocean Jasper. He told me, however, that he’d had a different view of bluewater sailing before completing the World ARC.

“I am independent, so I was dubious about doing a circumnavigation in a rally format. I mean, isn’t a circumnavigation about being independent from everything?” asked Daigle, who left the company he founded in 2000 to sail with the group. “But there is a ‘herding cats’ value and social aspect. You show up in far-flung places and you already have buddies. It turns out I wouldn’t do it any other way.”

arc3

Even with 19 boats as a support net, the dangers of the ocean still took their toll on the fleet, especially off the treacherous coast of South Africa.

“Off Cape Town the Agulhas Current runs into the Benguela Current at up to 5 knots,” explained Joe Metz, who did the tour with his son, Jared, aboard Brown-Eyed Girl, an Amel 53. “You have to stay close to the 200 meter line and get inside fast if the wind goes southwest. They predicted 35 knots, and we wound up with sustained winds in the 50s.” The hydraulic furler failed and sent a 150 percent genoa flying out of control. When the manual backup broke and the sail tore, they called Cape Town for help.

“The volunteer Sea Rescue service offered to tow us into Hout Bay,” recalled Joe. “I asked, ‘What will it cost?’ Free! So a boat towed us from the front and one was tied to the back to keep us straight. We were towed into Hout Bay and tied to a stone jetty. There were 90-knot gusts that blew off our solar panels.”

Jochem and Jutte Doehne aboard their Irwin 54, Chessie, were also towed into Hout Bay by Sea Rescue. Overpowered, their stainless-steel rudder shaft bent and the rudder pulled free from the skeg. With the rudder jammed, they were helpless and could not maneuver.

Meanwhile, the Neumanns aboard Basia encountered a bizarre whirlpool in the Agulhas Current. “The boat took over and was swirling around,” said Michael, who is in the commercial fishing industry in Nova Scotia. “We made a full circle in 30 seconds, like an amusement park ride. I looked to the right and saw the hole and the walls and didn’t see the bottom. I turned 90 degrees and eventually broke free.”

None of these calamities, however, prepared the Neumanns and the rest of the fleet for what was to come.

Related

GG17-SAONA47-DX0796

Boat Review: Fountaine Pajot Saona 47

Here’s a riddle: What is less than 50ft long, has two hulls, three big cabins and four decks? Answer: The Fountaine Pajot Saona 47. In fact, it may even be five levels if you count the large engine rooms. This boat is a “space craft” in every sense of the word.DESIGN & ...read more

RichardBennettMIDNIGHT-RAMBLER3249x202

Storm Sails: Do you Need Them?

Many sailors embarking on ocean passages will take along the obligatory storm jib and trysail, with the vague idea that they may come in handy. Few sailors, however, have a real understanding of how and when to set them.It doesn’t help matters when we hear from seasoned sailors ...read more

IntheWater(1)

Boaters University Unveils Rescue Course

Boaters University has just announced its latest online course, Safety & Rescue at Sea, taught by Mario Vittone, whose name you might recognize from the pages of our sister publication, Soundings Magazine and his Lifelines blog.Mario Vittone is a retired U.S. Coast Guard rescue ...read more

IMG_20170920_132819

How to: Installing New Electronics

I had been sailing my Tayana 42, Eclipse, for a few years without any installed electronics on board. I’d gone pretty far up and down the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts with paper charts, the Navionics app on my Android phone, a hand-bearing compass and the ship’s compass. ...read more

02-Douglas-Adkins---Coriolis---Orcas-Island-KevinLightPhoto

A Phoenix-like Concordia

Cutting a fine wake on the cobalt-blue waters of West Sound on Orcas Island, Coriolis sparkles like a diamond. Her lovely silhouette is offset by emerald forests that frame the ocean, within spitting distance of the border with Canada. Seen up close, this Concordia yawl is a ...read more

IMG_1051

The Latest Boat Trends from Dusseldorf

The world’s biggest boat and watersports show, held in Düsseldorf on the banks of Germany’s Rhine River each January, is the place to scope out emerging trends in the boat design and building.What would be the new trends for 2018 and beyond? Hint—sophisticated electronics figure ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comGood ConnectionsI wish I’d had a dollar for every time I’ve cobbled together an electrical fitting with a “that’s good enough” shrug. An old shipwright once taught me that “good enough is not good enough” ...read more

tides2

Gear Test: Tides Marine Sailtrack

Gravity is an important force at work on a sailboat. It keeps the boat upright, it makes the anchor drop to the bottom, and it makes the mainsail slide neatly down the mast to be flaked and put away at the end of the day… until it doesn’t.In the case of dropping the mainsail, the ...read more