Can a novice sail around the world? That’s not exactly how it is normally asked, but that is the general idea behind the question. This question usually starts with a conversation about my desire to sail around the world. The person I’m talking to finds out that I have only been sailing for a couple summers, and ask, “Is that even possible for you to do?” Basically, asking, do you have enough experience to sail around the world?
My answer to this has always been the same, yes. Yes it is possible for a novice to sail around the world. No you don’t need years of sailing experience to do it. Yes it has been done before. And, yes, I am going to do it too.
How do I know a novice can sail around the world?
That would be the next logical question. If I say a novice can sail around the world, how do I know this? I mean, I haven’t done it yet, so what makes me the authority? To answer this I have to first define what a novice is. The Dictionary simply states a novice is a beginner, one without experience.
When applying that definition to sailing around the world, that would be anyone who hasn’t done it yet, regardless of experience.
I want to be more specific though, so I will go to the Coast Guard. For an Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUVP) License, commonly called a 6-Pack license, the Coast Guard requires 360 days duty underway. To be counted as a day, you have to be out more for four hours or more and have to be performing certain duties. So to be considered experienced enough for the Coast Guard to certify you, they require basically a year underway. That is a lot of weekends
How can a novice sail around the world?
As you can see, for someone to be considered “experienced”, they would need many years of recreational sailing to obtain that amount of time. Most would agree that by common terms, a sailor would be experienced enough to sail around the world before this point. But, I’ll take it a step further; there are many “novices” who are circumnavigating the globe as we speak.
Case in point, one of my favorite blogs, Gone With the Wynns. They motored around the country for a few years in an RV, bought a catamaran, took lessons, did a few short trips, and headed out to sea. They are only one of many such stories, but I highlight it because they went from land to sea and did so in a 43 foot catamaran, which is a bit more technical and less forgiving then a monohull to sail, at least in my opinion.
Ultimately, with somewhere in the 200-400 boats out there circumnavigating the globe each year, it is likely that every year at least one “novice” proves the answer to the question “Can a novice sail around the world?” is, “Yes.”
As far as exactly how, I will refer you to my blog post about planning on sailing around the world to answer that. In that post I cover some of the different options to sail around the world as well as information on boats, routes, and ideas of how to afford the trip.
Should a novice sail around the world?
When someone asks me, “Can a novice sail around the world?” I think that though the answer is obviously yes, a better question is, should they? Let’s face it, when I say yes they can, I don’t mean that anyone should just go buy a boat with no sailing experience and head out over the horizon to sail around the world.
I know there are several examples of people who have done this very thing, and it’s all great when it works out, but when it doesn’t, well, you may not live to tell the tale. The reality of it is; you have to be some sort of crazy to just buy a boat and set sail with no experience, no lessons, and no one to teach you. Just because I got away with it on my trip from Seattle, Washington, to Sitka, Alaska, doesn’t mean I would recommend it or even hint that doing this is a wise choice.
My advice would be to get as much experience as you can. Volunteer as crew for anyone who will take you, go out as often as possible, and take sailing lessons. Don’t think the fact that you can teach yourself to sail will ever replace the amount of experience and expertise you will gain by taking proper sailing lessons. I wrote an entire blog post about why I think sailing lessons are important. Keep in mind I had been sailing for two years when I took lessons.
After taking lessons, it’s time to practice what you learned. You have to get out in the water, under different conditions, and really practice these skills. I always suggest taking someone more experienced along if possible. If not, be slow about it. Unless you have mastered the skills in calmer weather, don’t head out into foul weather just to practice in challenging conditions.
Wrapping it up
Yes, someone with little to no experience can sail around the world, but should they is an entirely different question. The question of, can a novice sail around the world is one that I always answer with hesitation, especially if being asked by someone who has the dream of circumnavigation in their head.
The fact that someone has limited experience shouldn’t stop them from accomplishing their dreams of completing a voyage. It should; however, give enough pause to the journey for them to gain the knowledge and enough experience to be successful.
Don’t be reckless in what you do, do it with purpose. Take the time to go out and learn what you need to know, and then practice the skills you will need to make it. That is good advice for any endeavor.