Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Great Circle Route

Warning: Before you begin reading this post, be aware that there are several dozen links to outside web sites. If you wish to follow them, please right-click and 'open link in new window' as the Blogger software won't allow me to make the outside web sites pop up automatically in their own windows. Also... be warned, this will take awhile if you follow all of the links. Enjoy!


The journey will begin in Annapolis, I've decided. Right in the middle of mid-Atlantic seaboard.

Someday will be here before I know it, so--aside from that small obstacle of raising several hundred thousand dollars for a new-to-me Formosa 51 or Vagabond 47, along with getting it properly outfitted and provisioned--it's never to early to start planning my trip around the world.

(Sidebar: A lot of cruisers have recently opted to go the twin-hulled catamaran route when choosing a cruising boat. Not me--I prefer traditional salty-looking vessels with a clipper bow and a pirate-y profile. Besides, if I ever got a catamaran, I'd have to name it 'Double Wide' for any number of obvious reasons...)

Eventually, I will say goodbye to Las Vegas and head back east again.

I figure that I'll probably find the most suitable boat, for my needs, somewhere on the east coast, most likely between Ft. Lauderdale in the south and Newport in the north. That's just pure speculation, but I've got to start somewhere. Besides, there's so much maritime industry on the east coast and hundreds more suitable harbors, that it would be more affordable and practical to berth my new baby somewhere in the coastal Carolinas or southern Virginia rather than trying to live in California while I do an extensive refit and re-commissioning.

After several months of 'yard' work, like overhauling, rewiring, repainting, rigging, and provisioning, it'll be time to let the adventure begin.

I'll make my way up the Intra-Coastal Waterway to Annapolis--the jump off point--paying homage at the tomb of Commodore John Paul Jones at the Naval Academy. After some time gunkholing around the Chesapeake Bay, I'll make my way north before heading offshore to Block Island, maybe getting there in time for Memorial Day. After that it's north to the People's Republic of Massachusetts for a little sightseeing around the Cape, and then on to Maine, spending the summer hiking around the numerous uninhabited islands, dodging lobster pots, and feasting on wild blueberries.

Before the days get too short, I'll move south to Newport, Rhode Island for a couple of weeks of inevitable repairs and final preparation for the next leg of the adventure.

The next destination would be either to continue down the ICW to Florida, or head offshore to Bermuda. Then annual Newport to Bermuda race takes place in June, but I wouldn't want to go that early in the year. Of course, there's probably a very good reason that they hold the race at that time of year, so who knows how far off base I am. But let's pretend that I can get to Bermuda at the end of hurricane season.

I'd like to spend a week or two drinking Dark & Stormies and Rum Swizzles at places like the Frog & Onion Pub or the Swizzle Inn in the afternoons, while spending my mornings making repairs and getting ready for the next passage.

Leaving Bermuda, I'll head south to the Caribbean, first stop likely to be either Antigua or even as far south as Trinidad. From there I could easily spend a season or two island-hopping all over the Lesser Antilles before making my way to Panama. One year, two years, who knows? But there are too many islands to explore and too many anchorages to drop the hook in. If I started in Trinidad, I can counter-clock my way north with the prevailing trade winds and visit all of the islands. Besides there's that whole western Caribbean that nobody seems to know about, either.

Lets say it takes three or four years to get to Panama.

Through the ditch, and then I've got a couple of options. I think my next stop would be Cocos Island, one of the last frontiers on earth. I've heard it was a heart-breakingly beautiful place, and I want find out for myself while I search for buried treasure and dive with the hammerhead sharks.

Most people that go cruising wish to see the Galapagos Islands. For some unknown reason, I've never been that much interested in going there. Don't know why I feel that way, but hopefully by the time I'm out there on the big blue, I'll feel more like visiting. At this point, however, I could take it or leave it. I know, I'm an uncultured heathen. Oh, what the hell am I saying... I can't sail all the way down there and just pass up the Galapagos. Yep, that'll be the next stop.

At this point, my lack of knowledge presents a stumbling block. Where to go to provision and prepare for the longest offshore crossing of the entire adventure? Just stock up in Panama and hope nothing too serious breaks down between there and the Galapagos, or just head back to Costa Rica or somewhere else along the Central American coast before making the big puddle jump? I have no idea, but I'm sure a solution will present itself long before I get to that point. I'm thinking that most likely I'll just turn north to Zihuatanejo if the winds aren't completely foul. Z-town is a great jumping off point and many many cruisers begin their South Pacific adventure there--plus I'd love to spend some time in Mexico.

After a couple of months in Mexico, eating fish tacos and drinking Pacifico on all those days I'm not up to my ears in boat projects, I'll leave Zihuatanejo and make my way to Puerto Vallarta and join the rest of the puddle jumpers on the coconut milk run to the South Pacific in early spring, the first stop being the Marquesas. After almost a month at sea, crossing the equator and officially becoming a shellback, the first landfall of Fatu Hiva will be a welcome sight.

As long as the visa allows, I'll spend as long as I can in French Polynesia. Word is that although everything else there is ridiculously expensive, French wine can be found for a reasonable price, and the fresh bread is dirt cheap and delicious. After the Marquesas, I'll head southwest to the Tuamotus with all of it's unpronounceable islands, then head to the Society Islands and spend some quality time exploring Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora. I think a few months snorkeling, diving, fishing, and visiting the pearl farms of paradise would be good for one's soul.

Religious dogma aside, one can't stay in paradise forever, so eventually I'll have to move on.

After leaving French Polynesia, the next stop will probably be American Samoa, followed by Tonga, Fiji, and then Vanuatu.

From there, I'll turn left and spend a year in New Zealand exploring and getting work done on the boat.

Most cruisers leave Kiwi-land and head straight for Australia. While I would love to visit the land of Oz, I think first I'll take some time and visit some historic battlefields from WWII.

Casting off from Auckland, I'll head back up north, hitting the Solomons, Marshall Islands, Marianas, and finally Micronesia to spend some time diving among the hundreds of wrecks in Truk Lagoon. That last sentence may take a year or more.

Once I've paid my respects to all of the soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen who gave their lives so long ago, I'll cross the Coral Sea and make my way down to Brisbane, Australia. I'm sure there will be some time to do a bit of land-based exploring, but I would like to spend as much time as I can at the snorkeling and diving on the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands.

I'll make my way around the top of Australia, eventually finding my way to Darwin and it's abundance of saltwater crocodiles. Leaving Australia, my next stop will likely be Indonesia. Places like Borneo, Bali, and Jakarta all conjure exotic images that places like Mandalay Bay can only replicate with a sterile, Disney-esque effect. From there my plan is to dodge the modern-day pirates in the Straits of Malacca and end up in Phuket, Thailand. I may stop there for awhile and do some inland travel and exploring around Southeast Asia, eventually finding my way to Hong Kong.

After saying goodbye to the mysteries of the Orient, I'll sail across the Bay of Bengal to Sri Lanka. Maybe from there I'll take a side-trip to India and see what it's all about. From there, I make my way across the Indian Ocean to the Maldives and then the Seychelles.

Most cruisers would head north at this point, aiming for the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. Not me. First of all, the Muslim world still needs to get it's shiat together, and no matter what we do, short of the 'Sea of Glass' option, I just don't see it happening anytime soon. The Gulf of Aden is a notoriously dangerous place, situated between those law-abiding and delightful countries of Yemen and Somalia. Once past that obstacle, it's a wind-on-the-nose bash up the Red Sea to Egypt and the Suez Canal. Every world traveler I've ever met is pretty much in agreement that Egypt was their least favorite spot, from the constant baksheesh to the backwardness of the bureaucracy, it seems to be looked upon as an annoying obstacle to be overcome on the way to the prize of the Med.

I think I'll pass.

Besides, I'd rather go the long way around and visit Madagascar and South Africa. While there I'd love to do one of those cage dives among the Great White sharks, and also go on a photo safari to a game reserve.

Rounding the Cape, it's a long sail towards the lone outpost of St. Helena and last home of Napoleon. From there I'll likely make my way to Ascension Island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean before heading to the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Senegal.

Talk about a fork in the road... I could either continue on to the Canary Islands, maybe even Casablanca, and then through the Gibraltar Straits into the Med. Or I could head back to the Caribbean. It seems like it would be such a shame to not see the Mediterranean, so I might as well go for it. Besides, I'd love to visit Greece and Turkey, along with the usual and more popular spots along the southern coast of Europe. I'd eventually like to make it to Haifa, Israel to explore the Holy Land and see for myself what all the fuss is about before turning around. At some point I'll have to tie up the boat and visit places like Romania, the Czech Republic, and other Eastern European countries that I've always wanted to see.

I'd say it'll take two to three years to feel like I've fully explored the Mediterranean Sea and continental Europe.

But eventually I'll chase the sunset west again, and end up in the Caribbean one more time. Somewhere down there, I'll cross my original longitude and officially close the circle after about nine or ten years and sailing over 30,000 miles.

What happens after that is anyone's guess.

Besides saving for a boat and investing well enough to support myself in the lifestyle to which I've become accustomed, I should probably find me a good woman who can cook on a gimballed stove, tie a bowline, use a GPS and compass, repair a sail, change a fuel filter, knows first aid, doesn't get seasick, likes Jimmy Buffett music, and is willing to put up with my stupid ass 24/7 to join me on this adventure.

I'm sure that by the time I've got almost seven figures in the bank, one will present herself. Funny how that works, huh?

Anyhow, by the time this adventure rolls around, this website will have gone a complete overhaul to accommodate my periodic dispatches from around the world. In the meantime, I've got lots of work to do, but at least now you know what I'm usually thinking about when I'm standing at a dead table, not taking that early out that the boss tempts me with.

Now... Bring me that horizon!


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