Sailing Around the World

In the 21st century there have been 21 crews or solo sailors to sail the circumference of the world. There have been four other circumference voyages by powered ships included one solar powered vessel for 25 trips. (1) Cruising around the world isn’t a trip taken frequently.

Sailing around the world is risky.  Sailors risk boom injuries, broken masts, tsunamis, falling over board, whales (yes whales really have been known to attack sailboats), floating containers, collisions with freighters, storms, squalls, heavy weather, waves, lightening and sinking. (2)

Those risks may attribute to the infrequency of the trip.  A close friend, Linda, was sailing around the world when, during a severe storm while attempting to reach a port her boat sunk. Linda was rescued but her sailing home was gone.

Another friend, Stuart, has flown around the world.  He had meetings in Japan followed by more meetings in Paris.  He booked his flight path from Baltimore, to Los Angels, Tokyo, Moscow, Berlin, then Paris and finally back to BWI. That trip is less hazardous than by sailing around the world.

Sailing around the world is a significant sporting challenge.  It requires a certain athletic discipline both physical and mental.  It also takes a fair amount of money.

Recently, I heard from a childhood friend.  She is one of a pile of kids in the same family I grew up with on Isle of Hope near Savannah, GA.  Currently, she’s stuck, “due to the current situation” (which I assumed to mean the pandemic) outside of Cebu, Philippines. I expect she’s bored, digging around on Facebook with a new account looking of old friends.  She found me and sent a friend request.

I was pleased to hear from her.  It has been decades.  I’ve stayed in touch with her brothers but not her or her sisters.  In total there were 6 siblings among this solid Catholic family.  I was at their home so often you could have added me as a 7th kid.

During our electronic conversation Julia explained she was sailing around the world. I was not at all that surprised.  Everyone in her family became high achievers in sports.  Three raced bicycles; one danced for the New York City Ballet and one is a marathoner.  And Julia, aside from now a sailor, was a competitive swimmer in her youth.

Like so many new people on Facebook she has a number of old memories and meaningful achievements posted.  What was surprising, even though she’s sailing around the world, her posts on the sailing adventure are limited.  Then, I considered the effort involved in sailing around the world and the amount of time she’s not going to get a signal via her smartphone hot spot.

What also caught my attention was a post of her youthful swimming days.  On her boat she has pictured a few of her medals and ribbons she won for swimming when she was a kid.

There’s a photo of her at a swim meet in her star and stripes swim suit from decades ago.  Then, in another post she is wearing the same swimsuit on her boat just off the Philippines.

It is great that she still fits into her high school aged swimsuit.  I thought about this and it occurred to me how proud she is of her days as a swimmer.  Then, I thought, “Julia, you’re sailing around the world!”

It is funny how the sports we participate in as kids leaves an impact.  Here is a woman doing something that extremely few people ever consider attempting much less completing.  I suppose at the time some folks are completing some amazing adventure, when there is a pause, there are moments to reflect.  For Julia, the posting of a medal won in a swim meet decades ago represents a happy memory in sport.

Perhaps there are those of us that need to push ourselves to extreme levels.  Clearing circumnavigating the world on a sailboat would meet anyone’s assessment of an extreme sport.  Maybe going from swimmer to sailor isn’t a too unexpected stroke.  Both do involve water. Both require physical and mental toughness. And the root of such an adventure as sailing around the world may have been seeded from youthful involvement is sports.