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A Rally Across the Seven Seas: Stories from the World ARC

17 yachts set sail on a 14 month (or more) journey around the world. The goal? To travel from Rodney Bay, St Lucia bound for Santa Marta, Colombia, beginning their trip in January 2015. Organized by the World Cruising Club (WCC), the yachts are rigorously inspected for safety gear, communications and navigation equipment, spares, medical kit and more before heading off on their way. But despite all preparations, mishaps and adventure are unavoidable and expected on an extended cruise like this one. And the best part is, the comedy, drama and experiences of sailing around the world are all faithfully recorded in online logs on the WCC’s website. So sit back, relax and read on, enjoy a few of the stories brought to you from across the seven seas.

The World ARC fleet 2015–16 at anchor off Cocos Keeling islands in the Indian Ocean (all photos: WCC).
The World ARC fleet 2015–16 at anchor off Cocos Keeling islands in the Indian Ocean (all photos: WCC).

When electronic navigation goes wrong

Coral atolls provide flat water and respite from the ocean waves, but entering via a narrow channel, or pass, is rarely straightforward. In the old days, ships waited for the sun to shine from behind the vessel and a lookout up the mast would point out the reefs and the clear water. Nowadays with waypoints and satellite navigation, it’s easier—except when the charts are half a mile out of sync with reality, as Paul Ellis discovered aboard Firefly his Humphreys Yachting World 42.

There are two passes into the Fijian island of Vanua Balavu in the Lau Group—an east pass and a west one. Throughout their voyage to that point, Paul had been reliant upon the iPad for pilotage because it updated automatically by wireless internet. But suddenly, both devices seemed wrong.

“We plotted the waypoints for the West pass on both the plotter and the iPad and the suggested track was about half a mile offset on both—the track shown was going across land.”

“Another yacht went through the pass ahead of us while we plotted their AIS track. It was a perfect route through the West pass so we cautiously concluded that our charting systems were right and it was the provided waypoints that were wrong. So using a combination of ‘eyeball’ navigation and the other yacht’s track, it all went fine—we were into the calm waters of the lagoon.”

“We sailed across the lagoon towards Lomaloma and then things became confusing again. We kept plotting the course of the two boats ahead, and as we approached the anchorage, their track went straight across the land.”

“Having followed them into the anchorage, it became clear what had happened. The yacht ahead of us had actually entered via the East pass (which we later confirmed with them). But as we plotted their course, by total coincidence, it looked on our electronic systems as though they had taken the perfect route through the West pass! So we had actually entered through the East pass too, thinking we were going through the West.”

The lesson here was to always use more than one method of navigation (which they did), and to carefully check the method of updating charts on any device. It turns out the iPad, using Navionics, didn’t update automatically—it needed to be prompted once online.

The trials and tribulations of flying a parasailor

The ins and outs of flying a parasailor—in-depth discussions from the World ARC blogs.
The ins and outs of flying a parasailor—in-depth discussions from the World ARC blogs.

If you’re not familiar with the parasailor, it’s a spinnaker with a wing slotted into it about three-quarters of the way up to the top of the sail that is more stable and easier to control than a traditional symmetric spinnaker. However, it’s interesting to read in full the thoughts of Eric Faber, skipper of Rival 38, Luna Quest with regards to the calculations that constantly require attention while sailing long-distance.

“Having the parasailor up and filled makes a huge difference to the boat’s behavior; the rolling has stopped, no more banging of sails as they are all stowed. The speed improves considerably. Employing the water-towed generator, however, becomes an inconvenience as it cannot be retrieved without slowing down the boat, and retrieving is a must when the batteries are full as the generator creates drag. But retrieving it means taking down the parasailor, which is something we are not likely to do, so instead we rely on the sun during the day and the Honda petrol-driven generator for top-ups in the morning and at night. This combination allows us to use the autopilot, which helps the parasailor with a steady course.”

UFOs off South America

Typically, in marine terms, UFO refers to unidentified floating objects, but on the final ocean leg of this year’s rally, three separate yachts sighted an unidentified flying object on the same night at around about the same time and place. “02:30: Orange glow to the west shining brightly behind a cloud. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong color for the sun or moon, too massive for a flare,” wrote Peter Jennett, skipper of Starlight 39, Exody.

Nichola Craven on Oyster 53, Aretha wrote: “I spotted what I thought was a flare. The light though intensified and moved across the night sky with increasing intensity. Ah, a shooting star—wow—this is a huge one. It kept going and after 20 seconds was burning more brightly than ever in the shape of a large elliptical object in the sky. Maybe it’s a comet I wondered. It kept burning and was now flying overhead… The penny dropped. I remember reading that in Kourou, French Guyana is the European Space Centre. It was absolutely stunning and chatting to the other boats the following morning, some had seen it drop their afterburners into the sea as it continued skywards. I’m glad we weren’t underneath that.”

Power failure: sailing the old-fashioned way

Craven family aboard yacht Aretha near the end of their World ARC circumnavigation in Grenada.
Craven family aboard yacht Aretha near the end of their World ARC circumnavigation in Grenada.

Dirty diesel was to blame for a rotten South Pacific passage aboard Oyster 53, Aretha.

Thirty-six hours after leaving the tiny atoll of Suwarrow, en route to Nieu over 500 miles away, neither the engine, nor the generator would start, leaving the boat’s batteries at 65 percent charge. Caspar and Nichola Craven had three young children on board, so they were sailing short-handed and quite dependent on the autopilot and the rest of the boat’s creature comforts. However, they immediately reduced power consumption to 4 amps giving them 17 hours of power to solve the problem.

“We worked through the day taking turns at the wheel” wrote Caspar, “and by 5pm we had 325 miles to go. We have 30 knots of wind, rain and heavy seas as Aretha crashes from one wave to another. We need time to think, re-group and rest so I decide to hove to. We power down everything to preserve amps and run a night watch between Nichola and I to keep a look out for shipping.”

The next morning, still hove to, and having contacted Oyster by email and received a very prompt reply, they disassembled all the fuel lines cleaning each section by hand, changing filters, rodding the lines with wire and employing the dinghy pump to blast any sludge out of the hoses. They managed to run the engine for an hour gaining 50 amps, but it again faded out. So 18 hours after hoving to, they set sail to complete the 325 miles (plus a further 80 that they had drifted backwards) to arrive in Nieu.

“It was hard work, but I rationalized this was child’s play compared to the round the world solo sailors who do this for 80 days at a time in far worse conditions. On the final night with 180 miles to Nieu, we had head winds and were beating to windward. We sailed hard through the night and topped our speed at 14 knots—we were pushing hard as our amps by now were down to 50 percent. My biggest fear was an accident/ health concern—with no power and no engine that was the last thing I wanted.

“As we sailed into the bay and towards the mooring buoys, we were met by Makena, Juno and A Plus from the World ARC fleet. They helped us the final half mile to the buoy give giving us a tow and then passing us the line to the mooring buoy.

“We’ve been tested and we’ve learned. We know more about diesel systems and how they work more than ever before and we’re more alert to building in redundancy—solar power and a spare generator are on our list now. We’re grateful we had this experience now so can prepare for our longer crossings with greater knowledge and confidence.”

Disaster relief effort: Vanuatu

World ARC 2015 fleet bringing aid ashore in the wake of Cyclone Pam which struck Vanuatu.
World ARC 2015 fleet bringing aid ashore in the wake of Cyclone Pam which struck Vanuatu.

In July 2015, World ARC participants delivered essential supplies to relieve the inhabitants of Vanuatu—the Pacific island chain worst affected by cyclone Pam that hit in March 2015. For an enormously moving account of the rally’s visit to the island of Tanna, and the extraordinary fund-raising effort the group made to sponsor some permanent accommodation on the island to attract a qualified teacher to the island, see the blog entry by yacht Juno. Needless to say, the generosity of the 2015–16 World ARC rally could make a real difference to the islanders’ quality of life.

World ARC finishing procession into Rodney Bay, St Lucia.
World ARC finishing procession into Rodney Bay, St Lucia.

About the rally

The current edition of World ARC left St Lucia in January 2016, marking the 6th World ARC and the 11th round-the-world rally held by World Cruising Club. Since 2014, WCC has started a new World ARC rally every January, enabling many participants to take time out in the Pacific, then rejoin the subsequent year’s rally to cruise home. January departures tie in with the end of the WCC’s signature event, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), which has run continually since the early 1980s. Follow the 2016 World ARC fleet logs online.


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