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Chasing my dream to sail across an Ocean - Part 1

by Lynton Howes

I don’t know anybody who has crossed an ocean. Well, not by sailboat anyway…nearly everyone has crossed an ocean at 40,000 feet, that’s easy. But imagine, an ocean! The very word - Ocean - seems to have a certain gravity, underscored by the fact that there are only five of them on Earth. Who among us would dare (or be foolish enough) to cast off in a relatively tiny vessel and attempt to cross one, purely by being blown? Yet, surely it can’t be that hard…people have been doing it for thousands of years. Have we all gone soft?

People used to sail across oceans all the time!

I want to share with you how I became entranced by the idea of crossing an ocean, and how it’s becoming a reality. Firstly, some background.

Seeking Adventure

It was the second half of 2017, and I had begun watching sailing vlogs on YouTube. I enjoy Sailing SV Delos as well as Adventures of an old Seadog. The former includes a lot of carefree frolicking in swimmers; the latter an older chap who's always complaining about the heat. At my stage in life, I figure I'm about halfway between the two. Then I learned about the Clipper Round the World race, and became fixated by the idea of joining them, and who wouldn’t want to, after watching footage like this?

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“No ocean distinguishes between the professional and the amateur.”

- Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, founder, Clipper Ventures, and sailing legend

I was more than an amateur, I had never set foot on a sailboat in my life! Now that in itself is not an issue if you wish to crew with Clipper, as they’ll train you. However, I didn’t have a spare 11 months to sail the entire world, and I thought it would be prudent to start with something more modest to see if I liked the whole sailing thing. Never one to do things in half measures, I did what anyone with an adventurous spirit would do, and signed up to sail aboard a Clipper yacht in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, one of the toughest yacht races in the world.

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Sydney to Hobart, here we come!

Deposit paid and leave arranged, I was set for the rigorous training but alas, at the last minute, the dream was scuttled when Prince Harry's Invictus Games commandeered both yachts as their own promotional vehicle (to be fair, a much worthier cause than my little jolly).

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Huge disappointment at the time, of course...I'd have to wait another year until my first Sydney to Hobart attempt. Onwards and upwards though!

Back to my goal setting, then. Long term goal – Southern Ocean. Medium term goal – Sydney to Hobart. Short team goal – become a competent sailor, so that I can fly to the Whitsundays with my family and safely sail around the islands on a bareboat charter yacht.

June 2018 arrived, and a holiday beckoned. I enquired at Eastsail, my local sailing school (and a great bunch they are, too). The myriad sailing courses available included one that caught my eye right away – the Adventure Sailing Mile Builder – 10 days of sailing from Sydney to Bundaberg, including night sailing. Now, that sounds like the perfect soft start!

SV Eagle Rock - a lovely boat with a recliner at the back

The yacht is a Beneteau 47.7, by all accounts a great looking, very capable and quite fast cruising yacht.

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It has a lovely “recliner” looking area aft (nailed the jargon already!) and I imagine myself lying back with a pillow, whiling away the days reading sailing novels, hopefully with little need for that bucket!

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Naturally, I've been stocking up on books suitable for the trip, like this. Moby Dick another obvious choice!

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Wahoo and Tuna...ideally without bites taken out of them!

Importantly, as a keen fisherman, I have been researching the best methods for trolling for large fish from a fast-moving non-stop yacht. Key takeaway is that you need very heavy tackle, and strong arms to get them into the boat before a shark takes them!

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So preparations are now well and truly underway. I’ve joined the Saturday afternoon races for Eastsail students three times, so I now know the ropes a little...what a boom vang is and can almost identify the cunningham before the skipper starts to lose his patience!

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The dream is becoming a reality and my anticipation is building.

Will I actually have the courage to scale the mast? Will I get chronic seasickness and want to jump off? Will we spot pods of whales and dolphins migrating north? Will I haul in huge fish, or catch nothing at all?

Stay tuned for part two!

Please add your comments below - would love to hear your thoughts.