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World Sailing Circumnavigation Summary

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From almost the very first day that we talked about selling all of our things and living on a sailboat, we talked with the goal of circumnavigating in mind. It took us nearly ten years to get from starting to talk about sailing around the world to actually completing our goal.

To complete a circumnavigation, one must*:

  • start and end at the same port
  • cross all meridians of longitude
  • cross the equator
  • travel at least 21,600 nautical miles

On March 26th, 2020, we sailed into Antigua and crossed our wake, making us world circumnavigators!

*this is according to the World Sailing Speed Record Council 

Circumnavigation Summary

  • Left Antigua December 30th, 2015
  • Arrived Antigua March 26th, 2020
  • 1,546 days
  • 34,140 nm sailing
  • 22 nm/day on average
  • 10 long passages (1,000+ nm)
  • 93.5% of those miles we sailed double-handed
  • 27 Countries & Territories
  • 4 Equator Crossings
  • 4 Ripped Sails
  • 6 Haul Outs
  • 7 Trips Home
  • 38 Guests
  • 1100 Engine Hours (each)
  • 3390 Generator Hours

Our World Circumnavigation Path

There is a lot that goes into planning a world circumnavigation. Some people might think sailing around the world means you can have ultimate freedom; in reality, the route is very restricted as there are places that bottleneck or parts of the world to avoid for piracy reasons.

We believe we got to visit a good mix of places; six continents, 27 countries or territories, places that are tourist hot spots, and places hardly anyone ever goes to. We explored amazing food, ancient cultures, and saw some of the most impressive wildlife in the world.

Before Our Circumnavigation

Since a circumnavigation must start and end at the same port, we’re primarily discussing our adventures since we left Antigua, the island where we crossed our wake. Of course, at the time, we didn’t know that would be where we would finish our world circumnavigation.

Our life onboard Starry Horizons started in October 2014, when she was launched in La Rochelle and we moved aboard. We self-delivered our boat to Florida, where we outfitted her for world cruising. We left Florida June 18th, 2015, which we consider the start of our cruising life.

Because we took so long in Florida, we only sailed the Bahamas for three weeks and then shot up to spend hurricane season in Nova Scotia and Maine. We made our way back down to the Caribbean and spent three months sailing the Caribbean islands.

2016: Sailing the Caribbean and South Pacific

We started the year in Guadeloupe and hopped our way down to Grenada, we sailed to Panama, where we transited the Panama Canal and set off across the Pacific. We spent three months in French Polynesia before sailing to Niue, Tonga, and Fiji. We ended the year in New Zealand for the cyclone season.

2017: Back to the South Pacific

We started the year off with five weeks on a road trip around New Zealand. After cyclone season, we realized that we loved sailing the South Pacific, and wanted to get out there again, extending our circumnavigation for another year. So we did; we went back up to Tonga, returned to Fiji, and then sailed on to Vanuatu and New Caledonia before coming to Australia for cyclone season.

2018: Australia and Southeast Asia

After spending New Year’s Eve in Sydney, we started to work our way up, sailing the eastern coast of Australia. We didn’t leave the country until July, so that was over six months exploring, including six weeks flying around Australia.

After Australia, we joined the Wonderful Sail 2 Indonesia rally and spent 100 days cruising Indonesia. Then we stopped in Singapore and Malaysia (mostly Langkawi) before finishing the year in Thailand.

2019: The Indian Ocean and Africa

We left Thailand to sail across the Indian Ocean. Our first stop was Sri Lanka, where we traveled for twelve days inside the country. Then we island-hopped through the Maldives, Chagos, and Seychelles. We got stuck in Seychelles – we didn’t mind – and arrived in Madagascar early October and then crossed the Mozambique Channel to South Africa. We made it to Cape Town by the end of the year.

2020: Sailing up the Atlantic

This was the year of long passages. We sailed twelve days from Cape Town to Saint Helena, twelve days to Recife, Brazil, and fifteen days to Antigua. That’s a lot of miles!

How Long Should a Circumnavigation Take?

Our circumnavigation took four years and three months. The World ARC does it in 18 months. We’ve known people who’ve done it in 15 years. I think our time frame was pretty perfect.

For people who are just starting their circumnavigation plans, I’d say start with the World ARC route and expand it. If you do some research and think about what part of the world you are most excited about, plan to spend an extra year there. I think three to five years is a great time frame.

We wanted to spend a moderate amount of time on our circumnavigation. We were worried if we took too long, there would be too many things about cruising we didn’t like and we would choose to stop. And that was a legitimate concern. Many people we know stopped cruising earlier than planned or worse, split up with their partners because it wasn’t working in such a high-stress environment.

Read more about planning a circumnavigation.

How Often Did We Sail?

Here is a breakdown of how we spent our nights:

Total1,547% of total
Dock29218.88%
Mooring1348.66%
Haul Out17711.44%
At Sea19912.86%
Anchor74548.16%

This greatly depends on where you are in the world too.

NightsDockMooringHaul OutAt SeaAnchorTotal
2019 – Indian Ocean and Africa181151542112365
2018 – Australia and Southeast Asia67156033190365
2017 – South Pacific19669925156365
2016 – Caribbean and South Pacific2538360240366

Docking

We docked a lot more in 2019 than any other year. Here’s the breakdown of nights in a marina by year:

NightsDock% of year
2019 – Indian Ocean and Africa18149.59%
2018 – Australia and Southeast Asia6718.36%
2017 – South Pacific195.21%
2016 – Caribbean and South Pacific256.83%

We went the entire 2017 cruising season without docking in a marina. We spent so many nights in marinas in 2019 because we opted to stay in Eden Island Marina for nearly two months in Seychelles and South Africa is not generally conducive to being at anchor.

Mooring

Moorings are necessary in some places, though it can be difficult to trust them. For times when there was no room to anchor, or it was too deep, or we needed a place to leave the boat for cheap, we picked up a mooring ball.

MooringMooring% of year
2019 – Indian Ocean and Africa154.11%
2018 – Australia and Southeast Asia154.11%
2017 – South Pacific6618.08%
2016 – Caribbean and South Pacific3810.38%

In 2017 we left Starry Horizons on a mooring ball in Tonga while we worked a crewing position and were gone for six weeks.

Learn how to pick up a mooring ball.

Haul Out

We hauled out six times on the circumnavigation. Four of those times were short haul outs for projects. Two of those, we combined projects (usually a bottom job) with traveling; we were hauled out for six weeks in New Zealand and eight weeks in Australia, and both times we traveled around the country for a majority of the haul out.

Haul OutHaul Out% of year
2019 – Indian Ocean and Africa154.11%
2018 – Australia and Southeast Asia6016.44%
2017 – South Pacific9927.12%
2016 – Caribbean and South Pacific30.82%

At Sea

We spent 199 nights underway on Starry Horizons during our world circumnavigation. That’s only 12.86% of our nights.

At SeaAt Sea% of year
2019 – Indian Ocean and Africa4211.51%
2018 – Australia and Southeast Asia339.04%
2017 – South Pacific256.85%
2016 – Caribbean and South Pacific6016.39%

This is something to consider when thinking about the living space on your boat. Read our thoughts on bigger versus faster boats.

How fast does Starry Horizons sail? As a fully kitted-out cruising boat, we averaged 6.65 knots over our longest 25 passages.

Of our time at sea, ten passages were longer than 1,000 nautical miles. The longest passage on our circumnavigation was crossing the Pacific Ocean at 19 days and 3,142 nm.

Our fastest passage was sailing to Australia when we averaged 7.76 knots over 4.7 days. Starry Horizons’ optimum point of sail is about 90 degrees on the beam. Conditions were calm and the apparent wind speed was between 10-15 knots most of the way, perfect for our screecher.

At Anchor

And, no big surprise, almost half our nights were at anchor.

AnchorNights% of year
2019 – Indian Ocean and Africa11230.68%
2018 – Australia and Southeast Asia19052.05%
2017 – South Pacific15642.74%
2016 – Caribbean and South Pacific24065.57%

We’ve got a great trustworthy anchor and anchor system.

Cruising Costs

Our blog post about the costs of cruising around the world has recently been updated, comparing marina and formality costs all over the world. Please keep in mind that this is for a 44′ catamaran.

Favorite Places

Check out our post detailing the best of our travel life!

The Best Parts of Sailing Around the World

This short list is in additon to our post, One Year Cruising: The Perks.

In our previous post, I’d talked about how we get to visit such amazing exotic locations. I grew to realize that cruising doesn’t just get you to fabulous exotic hot spots like Bora Bora and Fiji, but you also get to visit places other people literally can not get to without arduous voyages, places of extreme isolation. Places like Beveridge Reef, with no land, or Chagos, with no airport outside of the military base, are places that cruisers get to enjoy, but the rest of the world would have difficulty getting to. Even some places we went to, like Fulaga in Fiji, only have a connection to the outside world via supply boats and satellite internet.

Cruising is very conducive to slow travel. While, like in the ARC, you can jet-set around the world, it’s much more likely that cruisers are traveling slow. We spent 100 days in Indonesia, 70 in South Africa, 56 in the Maldives. These allowed us to get a truly wide view of each country.

In the South Pacific, we’d found quite a few boats who were on a pretty similar schedule to us. They came and went from our lives, meeting up with us again and again. In Australia, we met two boats that would become our closest cruising friends: Mirniy Okean (Carlos & Linda) and Slow Flight (Kimi & Trevor). In the Indian Ocean, there are a lot fewer boats making the passage, and we got incredibly lucky to click so well with these two boats. Though we weren’t on the exact same path, we did the rally together, caught up in Thailand, spent weeks with Slow Flight in the Maldives, hung out with Mirniy Okean in Seychelles, saw both boats in Madagascar and South Africa. Having this friendship was amazing.

Cruisers are generally an interesting and very diverse group of people. Along the way we’ve met people younger than us (we’re 35 right now) who are out sailing on shoe-string budgets. We’ve met some of the biggest sailing vloggers on YouTube (or in China). We’ve met families homeschooling as they go, people who’ve started and sold tech companies, people who’ve retired with simple pensions.

Thanks to the breadth of travel we’ve done, I think we’ve become better world citizens by exposing ourselves to different cultures. We’ve seen what it’s like to live in some of the biggest cities (Sydney, Singapore, Cape Town) but also what it’s like to live in incredibly rural parts of incredibly poor countries.

We know how big the world is now. Sailing all the way around it (take that, flat-earthers) was a huge accomplishment and gave us a better appreciation for the ability to travel so easily via other methods.

The Worst Parts of Sailing Around the World

This short list is in addition to our post, One Year Cruising: The Challenges.

We have an expression we like to use when we say goodbye to cruisers: “another day another bay”. Parting ways with our friends is doubly hard in the cruising life, because we truly have no idea when we might see them again. Plans change, and you can never count on reconnecting with your friends in person. Mirniy Okean, who we last saw in Madagascar? It’s very likely the two boats will never see each other again.

Even with over four years to sail around the world, some places we still felt rushed. A lot of that was weather constraints. At the start of every hurricane or cyclone season, there’s always the looming deadline of the next place you have to get to for a safe storm season.

While we were out sailing around the world, we missed so much time with our friends and family. Grandparents passed away, friends got married and had kids. While we returned to the states for funeral services of our grandparents, we missed other occasions that gathered friends and family for celebrations. That was tough.

While cruising is great for getting us out to see the world, there is definitely a social-economic bubble within cruising. Almost everyone is white and straight, most are native English speakers, older, and fairly affluent.

It seemed like the longer we cruised, the more difficult formalities became. In the Indian Ocean and Africa, we usually had to hire an agent (Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles) and it was expensive. In Madagascar and South Africa, we had to visit offices in every port we went to. Back in the Caribbean? David checked us into Guadeloupe using a computer in the back of a souvenir shop, and it was free.

The longer we go, the more boat projects pile up. Living full time on the boat, things break constantly, even on a brand new boat. We’ve had a few situations where something breaks and we have to urgently fix it – usually, we have no idea how to start.

The Indian Ocean and Africa were also difficult to get boat supplies. Thailand has East Marine Asia, the Caribbean has Budget Marine and Island Water World, but in between, there wasn’t really much. Even South Africa didn’t seem to have a big all-inclusive chandlery like West Marine, or maybe we just weren’t looking in the right places. Even in Antigua, where we have a Budget Marine ten minutes away, we might have to wait a few weeks to have a $10 part delivered to the island. It’s always been a general frustration that some companies, even marine companies, don’t understand that we are nomadic and will have to wait for their package to arrive, so when they mail us the wrong part, or “forget” to ship something, it takes a larger toll. Patience is key!

In some places like Indonesia, acquiring fuel is difficult – there are no fuel docks. Sometimes the fuel dock has huge black rubber fenders that leave marks all over the boat.

The lack of a schedule can sometimes get to us. When we are on the move a lot, like day hopping through islands or along a coast, it’s hard for us to have a routine down. Usually, David and I try to exercise every day around sunrise. But what if we need to leave in the early hours to move anchorages? Boat projects always take 3x longer than the 3x you calculated off of how long you thought it would take. Committing to doing anything at the same time of day or the same time every week is nearly impossible. Being in lockdown these past few weeks has shown us how truly lovely it is to be able to create our own schedule and stick with it every day.

Need to take a break from cruising? Here are my tips for how to break out of the cruising funk.

What About Pirates and Bad Weather?

Generally, we avoided the areas with the most violent piracy levels (the Philippines and the Horn of Africa). We were really fortunate that nothing was stolen off our boat the entire circumnavigation. We lock our boat up every night but have no security system. We put our dinghy up in the davits EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. The outboard is locked to the dinghy.

As far as bad weather, the worst weather we encountered usually lastest just a few hours. We had a storm hit us coming into Bermuda and our screecher started to unfurl and flap around. Coming into Seychelles, a storm blew directly from our destination. In both those situations, the wind wasn’t incredibly high, but it was coming from directly ahead of us, making the conditions very uncomfortable.

Sailing over the tip of Madagascar was a tough one. The current was so strong, and we were vacillating between 10 knots surfing down the waves and 1 knot getting sucked back up. Meanwhile, the wind was blowing strong and at a high wind angle (I think 50?). We turned our engines on and ran perpendicular to the current to get out of it as fast as possible.

Sailing the coast of South Africa, we saw high winds – up to 40 knots, but it was always dead downwind. I think that every time we arrived in port in South Africa, we did so with a little bit of the genoa unfurled and chugging along comfortably.

What now?

Well, your favorite Star Chasers are currently in Antigua, riding out this COVID-19 thing and waiting for the weather to clean up so we can head outside of the hurricane zone. We are planning to haul out June 1st at Cape Charles Yacht Center in Virgina.

Starry Horizons will spend hurricane season taking a rest. David and I will buy a car and drive to Texas and split our time between Houston and Dallas. We hope that we can hold parties in both cities to celebrate the end of our circumnavigation (especially since our party in the Caribbean was canceled!).

In October we will drive back to Starry Horizons and launch her for the 2020-2021 season. Our current plan is to sail down to Turks & Caicos and spend the season working our way downwind (no overnight sails! no upwind sailing!). We won’t have a particular goal in mind, which will be a relief for all of us (except for, you know, getting out of the hurricane zone again).

Beyond that….we don’t know yet!

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36 Comments

  1. My wife and I have just finished your series and congratulations on completing a fantastic adventure that required an amazing amount of planning and learning and sharing that with everyone! Have you been able to execute your plan to leave for Virginia for June 1?

    1. Hi Bob! No, we are still in Antigua, waiting for the weather to get better. It’s ok, everything is pretty great here!

      1. The first world circumnavigation? Yes, you are correct. Nowhere do we say that we are the first to circumnavigate… that would be ridiculous!

  2. Such an excellent recap of your adventures!
    You continue to amaze me with the organization of your writing and the detail of the statistics you keep. I imagine being finished with the official circumnavigation brings both relief and sadness. Finishing your goal is tremendous, but for planners like you guys, maybe it puts you at loose ends a little? Then again, knowing you don’t have a set schedule must be freeing too!
    I’m terribly sorry you couldn’t have your celebration of the completion! But I bet you will have plenty of folks who will happily celebrate with you at the delayed parties.
    We are truly happy for you and proud of your accomplishments.
    And your detailed writing and summary will guide us as we travel, so thank you.
    Love from Mary Grace and Frank

    1. Thanks so much yall! You’ve been an awesome part of our journey, and I hope we get to hug and celebrate in person sometime soon!

  3. This is literally something I dream about doing, but I have no sailing knowledge! How does one get into this?? I’ll def be poking around more of your site!

    1. Start small! I learned to sail on small boats called sunfish. There are a lot of small sailing boats out there, or classes, where you can learn the basics. Check in with a local yacht club if you can!

  4. Wow what an incredible trip! So much knowledge, thank you for your insight. Would love to sail the world but have a very slight fear of the open ocean haha.

  5. Brilliant Amy and David, thank you for sharing your amazing trip and being so open and honest with your wealth of knowledge. Lynda and I have applied numerous of your thoughts and suggestions aboard our Helia Itiki.
    Hopefully we will cross paths when we are in the Caribbean once we settle down into however the New World pans out.

  6. Your writing, Amy, is truly excellent! I sense a spreadsheet or two behind all that data. What a wealth of information!

  7. Congratulations and THANKS! We have been following you for several years as we prepared and launched our circumnavigation on our Helia. Your content, attitude, and approach are truly inspirational and appreciated!!
    Jeff & Debby
    SV Making Memories

  8. Lovely article Amy. Super well put together and, oh my, the details! It’s amazing you have all that information. Congratulations on the circumnavigation and glad to hear you’ll carry on cruising!!

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