A timeline for the Crafton family's seven-year sailing trip around the world. The family sailed over 30,000 miles and visited 23 countries. The descriptions here are in their own words. Read about their story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/31/AR2010073103061.html
Created by washingtonpost on Jul 30, 2010
Last updated: 03/07/11 at 12:44 PM
We returned to Maryland 25 days short of exactly seven years. We are very proud of the children! They never once complained the entire time. They did everything we asked of them and more under difficult conditions at times. They are adjusting well to a very different culture than what they remembered and have been used too. Kathy is starting a nursing job. Tom is working on a book and speaking engagements. We would like to explore funding streams to take disadvantaged youth sailing and try to pass on something we were given. We had the time of our life!
It took us 43 days to sail from Ascension to Charleston South Carolina. Our injector pump failed forcing us to sail the entire way across the doldrums and later the horse latitudes. Both of these areas can have little or no wind for days on end. We had a very special and peaceful trip, and it was very apropos to have Tom’s 50th birthday in this reflective way in a most reflective time of our life.
The sailing throughout the South Atlantic was the easiest and most pleasant of our entire voyage. Ascension is best described as “the rock” or better fitting is Mars! It consists of red and black volcanoes with a fringe of white beach surrounded by crystal clear rich dark blue water. It is quite pretty in its own way. We met a wonderful friend here that showed us around--it does not take long. However, it was a sad day when Kunaal had to fly back to Australia. We especially liked the full moon night when we lay in hiding to watch the giant sea turtles come ashore and lay their eggs. We all got to hold one baby turtle for a few seconds. Tom especially appreciated seeing the site his dad spent a few years of WWII in. We could not have picked a worse place to provision from before our 5,000 mile sail back to the America. There were no fresh vegetables or fruit. We were short of many things we could have used.
We breathed a tremendous sigh of relieve in getting out of the Indian Ocean and into the much anticipated South Atlantic. We would not be disappointed. St Helena was the first place we felt safe from aggressive and racially charged indigenous people in some time. We took a lovely drive and tour of the island and Napoleons house.
In getting to SA, we sailed in 50-60 knots of wind for two days and in the process Tom tore his bicep tendon. We were lucky to have medical facilities that could repair Tom’s arm, but getting surgery in SA was not something we had expected, looked forward to, nor budgeted for. We took many safaris here and were in awe of these beautiful animals. We had met some wonderful local friends that took us to their house for a most wonderful Christmas stay over three days. Later they would take us to the beautiful Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. We had Kali’s 18th birthday on top of the world. She wore her present which was a SA wedding dress while the local village danced and song for her. Kunaal was staying with us and sailed around SA. We were so lucky to share this time with Kali and her boyfriend. He was a delightful guest and a brave man since he had no sea experience. Sailing around the Cape of Good Hope proved to be an event!
We only stayed four days on this beautiful French island since the marinas were too expensive for us and there was no where to anchor for free as we uusally did. We drove around the tiny island especially enjoying the old French villages in the interior. The volcanic nature of this small island made a stunning backdrop. Two days after we left there was a major eruption. All the cruisers were nervous about the crossing from here to South Africa, and unfortunately we would not be sparred the often rough conditions this passage is infamous for.
The sail here was difficult and is best described as like being in a washing machine. We first landed on the small island of Rodriquez. This was a beautiful but windy oasis in this isolated part of the world. We next sailed to Mauritius in 40 plus knots of wind. We had some repairs to make and enjoyed the rest we so needed. We took many wonderful land trips while we waited for the seasons to change before heading to Africa. We especially loved looking and buying many of the beautiful Indian clothes here. We visited a mosque and learned a lot about Islam from a wonderful and dear man. The local Islamic newspaper did a story about us with our photo being on the front page just above President Obama’s--we got a laugh over this.
We sailed the 3,000 miles from PNG through the lovely, but daunting, Torres Straights to Cocos Keeling Islands skipping the bureaucratic mainland. We enjoyed this small moderate Muslim community and found them interesting, polite, and nice. We had many lovely days in this beautiful setting with some great cruising friends and many hours of fun and volleyball games on the pristine beach surrounded with sparkling clear blue water. We needed a rest before crossing the rough and tumultuous southern Indian Ocean.
We would all agree this is the most intense place we ever experienced and one of the most beautiful. PNG is an enigmatic land. Many believe there is still some cannibalism in the remote highlands. It is not a safe country to explore, but we felt the risk was worth it. All of us agree the most intense memorable experience we had on our seven year circumnavigation was going to a remote village and seeing a sing-sing festival. After taking a five hour boat ride in a small overloaded open skiff much of which was out of sight of land, we still had to get to the top of a mountain deep in the jungle. We stayed in this remote village where over 30 tribes, from as far away as a three day march in the jungle, were to dance for three days and nights non-stop. We were the first whites to ever see this ancient festival. It was an experience none of us will ever forget!
We feel in love with the Melanesian culture here. They never ceased to amaze us in their child like ways. We visited several beautiful islands with very remote villages. Nueva Vida was often surrounded by many canoes for days on end. This is some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world. They make the most beautiful wood carvings! We did have to be careful in regards to some of the locals, malaria, sharks, and the salt water crocodiles. However, it was more than worth the risks. Kali met her current boyfriend here. Kunaal (Hindu) was completing his medical training from Australia.
We were in awe of Vanuatu for the entire three months we were there. Kathy got to walk on the same beach that her father was stationed at during WWII. Later Tom would do the same on Ascension Island. These were profound experiences for both. We got to live with some of the most primitive people in the world here. They are considered to be the happiest people in the world. We saw the famous Rom dance, ate with many families at their village, had many families to the boat, danced a lot, and drank way too much Kava! Jena and Kali jumped ship to sail on a tall ship bound for NZ, where they would stay for a few weeks and meet us in the Solomon Islands.
We had a tough sail to New Caledonia and would have a few wounds to lick. This was the first country of the Melanesian people which proved to be our favorite indigenous culture. Since we had some repairs to make we were given an extension to our visa, so we made good use of our added time by exploring many lovely bays and islands. Kathy especially loved the fresh water bays, waterfalls, and natural hot tubs.
We lived in NZ for 1.5 years. Kathy worked as a nurse here. We bought and painted an old van with sailboats and flags of the countries we had visited. On the bow we painted hello in many languages and on the stern was goodbye in different languages. We traveled around the North Island and twice around the entire South Island in the “Love Machine”. Kali was sure a family of five can not down size any more than us after spending several nights camped in the NZ alps in a three man expedition tent. We had the time of our life exploring this beautiful country! However, due to the bureaucracy of immigrating, we decided to once again hit the road and go back to exploring the world. Now our focus had to change: Instead of sailing about the world, we had to think about sailing around the world. We decided to head west and return the children to America and go from there.
We had a rough sail to Fiji and enjoyed being alive. We felt the west and east cultures meeting here. We enjoyed the multicultural aspects of the Asians, Fijian, and Indian cultures. We especially liked the Indian clothes. We took another SCUBA dive here with the chief that we drank Kava with the night before making for an unusual dive experience. Kava is the root of a plant that is smashed and blended with water creating a very fowl tasting but strong narcotic drink that is very cultural in the South Pacific. We enjoyed the excitement of visiting Fiji while the major coup was happening.
Samoa was a delightful surprise since we knew so little about it. We preferred not to research each country ahead so as not to develop expectations that are often only premeditated resentments. We drove around this friendly island and waved to so many people we were tired. For the first time since leaving, we stayed off the boat for two nights in a small beachside leaf village having a great time with the local people.
Making landfall at the tiny island of Fatu Hiva was a dream come true. The Marquises Islands were stunning. We were in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and it would only get better throughout our three months here. We next explored the atolls of the Tuamotus group. Tom’s parents met us in Tahiti where we had the time of our life. We visited many islands in the Society group. The anchorage in Moorea was the most beautiful spot we would ever anchor in. The island of Ua Pou and Bora Bora were drop dead gorgeous. We all enjoyed the exotic and sensual dancing of the Polynesians.
We crossed the equator on this trip which necessitated a big party underway! Kali would continue to have sailing parties for the most imaginative reasons--Tropic of Capricorn crossing, dateline crossing, Horse Latitude crossing….. The Enchanted Islands would prove to be exactly like watching a National Geographic special! This was Ben’s all-time favorite, and who could blame him. There are beautiful places, things, and cultures around the world but there is ONLY ONE Galapagos Islands! Swimming with many sea lions was one of our most memorable experiences. We explored active volcanoes, took a death defying trip in a small local boat where we swam in lava tubes and played with turtles, penguins, and marine iguanas at the same time. We dove with a large group of sharks. We loved the blue footed bobbies and giant tortoises while enjoying the experiential learning of evolution by following Darwin’s footprints. After a month we were exhausted and could not wait to leave and go back to sea to rest during the next 3,000 mile passage to the fabled South Pacific!
While waiting to transit the canal, we explored Colon and other spots in Panama. Colon is a very raw city with areas of extreme poverty and neglect. Going through the canal was one of Kathy’s highlights during our circumnavigation. Panama was a crossroads for us--do we go through and west into the Pacific or stay in the “shallow” end? We all decided to go for it and see what happens. We wanted to get to New Zealand where we would immigrate and settle down. Our plan was always to see how things went and adjust from the experiences we were having while staying out of active hurricane areas.
We only visited the small island of Providencia. We enjoyed the colorful housing and friendly people of this gorgeous island. If we were to transit the Panama Canal this year, we would have to miss Cartagena, and the San Blas islands. Deciding what we could not see and do was a source of sadness for the entire trip.
We all got SCUBA certified, except Ben who was too young. Diving in Honduras was the most wonderful, colorful, exciting time of our life. Diving opened up another whole world we would never become tired of over the years. These waters were about as good as anything we would later see--almost. Honduras was now our favorite. (By now the reader has figured out what we would not learn for sometime--every country we were in was our favorite! This would hold true for the rest of our circumnavigation.)
We stayed in Guatemala throughout the hurricane season. Jena had an incredible pig roast for her 17th birthday party with many friends. A local family “adopted” us and showed us the time of our life traveling throughout this most beautiful country. We went on medical mission trips into remote villages. We visited Tikal twice. We explored the colorful highlands with Tom’s parents who came to visit. We were challenged in the amount of poverty we saw and the constant display of machine guns and other weapons which heightened our awareness. This would come to serve us well later in our travels. Guatemala was our most favorite country!
The snorkeling and sailing was fantastic in Belize. We visited many small cays, and we met some wonderful cruising friends. Belize was definitely our favorite.
We were all excited to sail into our first foreign port of call, and Mexico quickly became our favorite. We visited one of the great Mayan ruins and our world began to expand from there.
Lived and worked in Florida for 1.5 years making improvements on Nueva Vida. Anchored through five hurricanes, again creating good motivation to head further south. Being out of the hurricane belts would prove to be our only schedule for the next 5 plus years.
Lived and worked on Nueva Vida for two years; one of which was the coldest winter on record, so there was good motivation to head south. Traveled to Florida via Intracoastal Waterway stopping in several small towns.
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