"Circumnavigation of "Shibui"
November 1992 - June 1997
Brian & Mary Alice O'Neill
|In November of 1992,
we sailed to Mexico. We were heading to the South Pacific and Mexico is
a great place to spend the winter and wait out the hurricane season in
the Southern Hemisphere before crossing the Pacific. It is also a good
place to meet other sailors about to set out on the same trip.
We had previously done a similar voyage to New Zealand in 1987. Now, 5 years later, we found that the number of boats about to make the voyage seemed to have tripled. We had no plans regarding destinations, timetables or how long we would stay out. We would just meander and see what developed. As it turned out, our voyage would end up being a circumnavigation. By not having a plan, we felt we could possibly find the untraveled and more remote areas of the world to explore.
We followed the "milk run" to New Zealand That is -Tuamotus, Society Islands, Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji. However, by going to the less traveled islands, we were able to get off the beaten path and enjoy the company of natives unspoiled by too much contact with the outside world.
New Zealand is where we completed all the boat projects and deferred maintenance. A great place to explore and hangout during the Southern Hemisphere hurricane season.
In April ’94, we headed north from New Zealand by way of Nodolk Island, New Caledonia to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. No problem finding remote and unspoiled cruising. Our plan was to go to Indonesia by going over the top of Papua, New Guinea via Rabaul, New Ireland, the Hermits and Niningo's. This part of our trip turned out to be the most exciting as only a handful of boats sail this route. The natives were friendly and understood English as education is highly valued. However, the weapon of choice is still a spear. Bones in the nose and ear lobe elongations are common sights.
The northern half of the island of Papua, New Guinea is the country of Irian, Jaya which is owned by Indonesia. The Indonesian government's policy of transmigration has populated this area and the cities are crowded and polluted. This is where we said good-by to the gentile life and people of the South Pacific and entered the world of Indonesia.
Our route took us West through the Indonesian islands with colorful fishing boats everywhere. The smaller islands still provided quiet anchorages and excellent snorkeling while the larger islands gave us a glimpse of the many facets of the Indonesian culture.
From Indonesia, we sailed North to the islands off the west coast of Kalamatan (Borneo). A wild, remote and primitive area. Then West to Singapore, Malaysia and spent Christmas of '94 in Thailand.
The passages from Thailand to Sri Lanka and the Maldives to Djibouti were some of the best and fastest we experienced with our best days run being 219 miles.
From Djibouti, we headed north to Eritrea on the west coast of the Red Sea. Eritrea deserves special mention as one of the more interesting countries we visited. Eritrea obtained its independence from Ethiopia in 1991 after a 31 year war. The people are educated and some of the nicest people we met anywhere. The capital, Asmara, reminded us of old town San Diego. Located at 7000 feet elevation, the climate was delightful. Beautiful cathedrals, bougainvillea and tree-lined avenues.
Our slog up the Red Sea in March of 95 was uneventful. We would have liked to have spent more time here but when the winds are more favorable the farther you move North. The Prince of the Red Sea arranged for our Suez Canal transit. He is a most interesting man and invited us to his home for a lovely dinner. His wife did not join us as it is not the custom for women to dine with men.
The Med was a welcome relief from the turmoil and chaos of Egypt. When we entered Israel, the officials did not ask for cigarettes, whiskey or bakshish (a bribe) which had been the practice in Egypt. We sailed from Israel to Cyprus and then on to Turkey. We spent from June '95 until April '96 exploring this fascinating part of the world. When we left Turkey, it was a sad day as we had made many friends.
Our route through the Med took us around the Greek Peloponese Peninsula to the Ionian and on to Italy, Sicily, Rome, The Balearics, Spain and Gibraltar. After Gibraltar, we sailed North to Rota, Spain to explore Seville. In September '96, we sailed to the Canary Islands and spent two months exploring and getting "Shibui" ready for the Atlantic crossing.
The Atlantic Crossing (2990 nm) was a easy 18 day crossing with favorable winds and good weather. We arrived in Antigua December '96 and headed South through the Windward and Leewards to Granada and on to the islands off the coast of Venezuela , After the South Pacific, the Caribbean seemed crowded and pretty commercial. We enjoyed the islands off Venezuela as well as the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire and Curacao.
In March of '97, we transited the Panama Canal and turned Northwest. The West coast of Panama and Costa Rica were interesting and good sailing. However, much like the Caribbean, theft is apparently a problem and we did not leave "Shibui" to explore inland.
Once North of Nicaragua, the winds became light and variable. Our crossing of the Tehuantapec was uneventful as we sailed directly across with a spinnaker run to Hualtuco, Mexico the last day.
Heading North along the coast of Mexico, the winds were light and variable. We sailed into Dana Point, California on 1 June 1997 at 1100.
To answer some commonly asked questions:
Yes - we are still married and are not undergoing counseling.
Our favorite places: Mexico, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Eritrea
No - we did not experience any major storms - Maximum winds around 60 knots at anchor in Moorea and a few hours here and there of 50 knots
Our trip was 39,800 miles
and we visited 40 countries.