As humans, we are free to dream, fantasize and imagine about the wondrous offerings of the world we live in. For many years, I thought and wondered about what it would be like crossing the oceans on a yacht. With my mind free to roam, I thought about all the systems and equipment we have on Revelations – playing with various scenarios, thinking about layers of back up plans and systems, the various things which can go wrong, if this or that happens – what then situations. This was a rather complicated affair due to the multitude of factors involved sailing around the world – weather, sea state, equipment, communication, money, cost of living, repairs, emergency procedures, dangerous situations to name a few. You too might be wondering what it’s like, perhaps have some "sailing around the world" notions of your own, dreaming or planning to do your own world cruise. The oceans are huge and deep with a capacity to be perfectly calm and outrageously rough. Throughout history, untold number of people have lost their lives sailing the seven seas and no doubt, many more will follow. Early on, I realized that sailing around the world is in one aspect similar to flying to the moon – everything is on you and you are essentially on your own. It is a wild place with no borders or frontiers – a potentially dangerous place where there are no help on demand. You have nobody to turn too and in poverty stricken parts of the world, there is simply no help or assistance of any kind. As a stranger in another country, you stand out like an inflamed pimple on a baby’s arse – for the unscrupulous to milk this rich cow (you) and take advantage of your situation. Then add to this mix the issue of modern day piracy. So what is it like? I am by now means an expert crossing the seven seas and believe me, I have made a number of miscalculations, mistakes and bad decisions. But it is all part of the steep learning curve.
If taken seriously (which you should) all these factors are enough to make you very concerned. I became more tense under the burden of responsibility as the time for our departure came closer. With mere days before we started our world cruise, with a shitload of frustrations and bogged done with lots of red tape, overworked and with weeks of inadequate sleep, I experienced massive pressure and felt like a tightly wound-up guitar string. For the first three days after our departure, I probably slept less than one hour whilst experiencing rough weather and several problems with equipment. Exhausted and quite stressed out about crew and yacht safety, at times it felt like I was on the very edge of having a heart attack. I then realized that the stress was self-created by none other than myself, that it was an internal thing which I needed to control. With this in mind, I focused on real issues and less on the possible “what if” scenarios. After this, I managed to get 6 hours of solid sleep and was feeling quite normal and relaxed when I awoke.
Whilst sailing to our destination, there were hardly any typical idealistic situations like basking in the sun, calm and beautiful seas, sipping champagne, having a ball of a time. For days on end, the yacht was sailing at maximum cruising speed allowed by the winds and with this, the entire yacht is in motion – moving forwards, left to right and up and down. The yacht never stands still and for 24 hours of the day, your body is continuously counter acting the effects of this perpetual motion. The yacht will rise and fall with each wave action, the yacht is tossed left and right by the swells, it accelerates and the slows down as it moves up and over the waves, it will lean to the left and then to the right – so do you. At the best of times, you have to hold on when moving about as it is near impossible to walk around without doing so – and the rougher the sea, the more exponentially violent the motion. This is all quite tiring and you burn calories – causing you to eat like a horse. The noise inside the yacht as it moves through the water is loud – really loud! The waves slams the yacht with lots of violence causing loud bangs, sending shock waves through the entire boat, pounding through the waves – wave after endless wave. With each bang or slam, most people would believe that the boat sustained mortal damage and was about to break apart – just to be repeated wave after wave after wave. After a couple of days of this, one gets used to this violence and can only marvel at the strength of modern day yachts. Get onto the back of a pickup truck, let the driver drive a straight line over very rough off road terrain (bundu bashing) at a constant speed of about 15 to 20 kilometer per hour … imagine what it will be like … if you have to walk about … how you will have to hold on … prepare meals … write emails, work, shower, sleep and live whilst all this is going on - that is what it is like when Revelations was in motion, 24/7 and for weeks at a time.
For long periods of time there is nothing to do but every now and then, there will be a burst of activity. In calm seas and during these inactive periods, you can read books, write emails or articles, work on the navigation, study the route ahead, fix broken things, etc. In rough weather many of these things fall by the way side as it is near impossible to do anything due to the violent motion of the yacht – it is like trying to read a book whilst riding a wild horse. Then the wind might shift all of a sudden and with sails wildly flapping about like the wings of a gigantic flying dragon, you have to jump into action getting things under control. Once under control, then it is back to nothing – no activity, except the continuous motion of the yacht.
One is faced with numerous breakages, leaks, equipment failure, chafe, wear and tear, defective products or systems. Things break all the time and you have to make a plan – mostly “McGiver” style. It is impossible to carry all the possible spares for every breakage or eventuality, the only way to do this would be to tow another complete boat behind you. Then there is the 24/7 shift work to be done as somebody must be on watch all the time. The more crew one have, the less hours one has to work – the problem comes when there is only two, this will require long hours and with hardly any break … very tiring. Even with a full complement of crew, it is difficult to get a proper rest – the noise and motion of the boat constantly awakens you. The longest continuous sleep I’ve had on the South Africa to St. Helena leg of our world cruise was four hours - mostly it was short naps of 1 to 2 hours.
Considering all of the above, besides the ignorant or people not fully grasping what they are getting into, sailing around the world is certainly not what most people seem to think – a romantic, idyllic all pleasurable experience. A while ago Sue said; “Sailing is not for sissies – it is for the brave.” … and I think she is right.