If you think sailing around the world isn’t easy, consider this – this year alone the record for youngest person to circumnavigate the world alone was set, twice, by teenagers. Also, an even younger sailor, Jessica Watson of Australia, is about 2,500 nautical miles into a trip that, when and if she completes, will make her the youngest, solo around-the-world sailor. She is 16. It used to require governments funding expeditions to unknown lands in the name of king and country. Now you just need some sponsors, a blog and really understanding parents. Why don’t you quit being such a lubber and show this youth movement what it means to be an adventurer.
Obviously, you’ll need a boat and other gear, but we’ll get to that. First, you must to learn to be a sailor. A good place to start would be an understanding of the language. You need to have your port (left) and starboard (right) straight. You don’t go downstairs, you go below. A grasp of sailing lingo will be necessary to properly learn the profession, as well as interact with fellow sea-goers. When you step on to a boat, you’ll want to act like you’ve been there before. Start learning your knots as well – you can use the iPhone App.
Of course, a knot app will only take you so far. You need to get on a boat for some real experience. If you are in a coastal town, likely you are surrounded by sailors and don’t even know it. Chesapeake based sailing magazine SpinSheet recommends seeking out a local sailor pub. Worst case, you find a new pub and enjoy an adult beverage. Best case, you make a friend that invites you aboard their ship for an afternoon. This will give you a taste of what sailing is actually like. As a courtesy to the mate that brought you on the water, bring some lunch and/or drinks for everyone. Fuel and maintenance for a boat is expensive, so providing lunch is a gesture that may get you a return invite. And please, leave your black-soled shoes at home, as to avoid leaving an embarrassing scuff mark.
If you are still convinced you should float around the globe, start looking for a sailing school to become more of an expert. When choosing a school, ask for credentials. Make sure they are an institution certified to train you in the discipline you need, which is to say, beginner to expert. The American Sailing Association publishes and monitors a 7-course curriculum designed to make someone a competent open water captain. A number of accredited schools around the country offer theses courses and certification, which will take you through basic boat knowledge to coastal cruising to open sea navigation. These courses require 70-plus hours of class time as well as over a week of on the water learning, as well as passing all requisite tests. Considering you’ll be all alone in the middle of an ocean, some extra navigation, weather, and radar courses are advised as well.
After becoming a certified adventurer, you may want to look for a boat. Jessica Watson is currently sailing on a 34-footer and others have made the trip on similar vessels. This is a boat big enough to handle the seas, but small enough to man alone. You’ll also want to round up some sponsors or think of a cause to raise awareness for. These trips are not free, after all, but they do lend themselves well to marketing. On board technology is key. Make sure to set up a website and a blog so fans can follow along with your trip and visit your sponsors pages as well. Let’s people know you are alive, too. A link to the mainland will also allow you to keep in contact with a meteorologist, and thus away from weather. Cameras will help document any event that might be book worthy. Don’t forget a medical kit and to brush up on your first aid. Even a minor injury can prove deadly if untreated, alone at sea.
You’ll need to prepare for eating lots of jerky, cliff bars and Ramen, if you can cook it. Zac Sutherland, the previous youngest record holder, blogged about his troubles cooking even the simplest hot items. Fully cooked canned soup was a “feast.” On board, you are constantly moving and working, and thus must be taking in a lot of calories. The coolest/scariest variable might be the presence of pirates. Zac took care to avoid a best he could known pirate spots, but even he was tailed for about 10 minutes before the “fishing boat” left him alone.
We’re not saying sailing around the world is common, but we are saying you can do it. Take some courses, smooth talk sponsors and get your parents’ to sign the consent form.