When two brothers from California, Jason and Piers Windebank, decided to put their lives and careers on hold and go sailing around the world, they had little idea what the next three years would be like. But thankfully, despite starting out almost completely reliant on more knowledgeable friends and family, they not only completed their circumnavigation, they also recorded their experiences – including a very intense final leg avoiding pirates and armed, aggressive border forces across the Gulf of Aden and up the Red Sea.
The blog documents how they learned the art of long-distance cruising, without compromising their mission to visit and photograph some of the most far-flung, beautiful, dangerous and exciting places on the planet. There is no doubting the determination to learn how to sail safely, but with just a single bareboat charter's worth of actual sailing experience, the mistakes they made in the beginning, were expensive, time-consuming and, by definition, very well learned. Over the course of their trip they had to get their heads around a diverse range of tasks including battery management, sail repair, weather forecasting, navigational awareness and autopilot repair.
What follows is 10 of the best images from the blog and, mostly in their own words, just a taste of their experience. For anyone considering any sort of extended sail cruising adventure – even if your level of funding or ambition falls far short of that enjoyed by the Windebank brothers – time spent reading about the Tamarisk's tales will pay dividends.
Formerly known as W.E. Penny, Tamarisk is Sundeer 56, designed by Steve Dashew and built in 1994 by Tillotson Pearson Inc. (TPI) in Rhode Island, USA. She draws 1.9m and is cutter rigged with all control lines leading to the cockpit. She's over 15 tonnes with a low sail area/displacement ratio, managing a top speed on her circumnavigation of 13 knots. Photo Jason Windebank.
In May of 2012 the brothers sailed out of the Mandraki Marina on the north tip of Rhodes and headed west over the Mediterranean horizon. They arrived back two years, eight months, five days, 18 hours and 44 minutes later having put 31,892 nautical miles of water beneath them.
April 2012: "After 3 days in transit (from California to Turkey via London) we made it to the boat! She is everything we hoped for… Now we just need to figure out how it works. Reality is starting to sink in here that we really are a long way from knowing what we’re doing. The problem is that we don’t know what anything on the boat does, other than the beds… So we have a long way to go here before we’re ready to circle globe." Photo Jason Windebank.
June 2012: "As we left Ios to head south towards Santorini (pictured and perhaps the most photogenic place on Earth) we realised our house batteries were critically low. The engine alternators have apparently not been charging for a still unknown reason. The prudent responsible sailor in us wanted to head north to Paros where the service facilities are good, but Santorini (with no proper services) is directly to our south. Resolving this conflict required a compromise: charging the batteries for an hour using shore power in Ios, then shutting down all non-essential electrical systems before heading south to Santorini." Photo Jason Windebank.
October 2012: Riomaggiore in Cinque-terre near Portofino, Italy. Visiting places off the beaten track – beyond the tourist route – was one of the main attractions of travelling by boat rather than a more conventional method. Photo Jason Windebank.
December 2012: "Our Atlantic crossing touched almost every human emotion we were capable of. We felt the thrill of sailing away into 2600 mile abyss, panic when essential equipment began failing during our first week, true camraderie after completing mid-voyage repairs, exhaustion from consecutive sleepless nights of foul weather, fear when the wind howled to 40 knots, boredom when the wind refused to blow, and pride when we finally saw the silhouette of the French island of Martinique in the distance just a few hours ago." Photo Jason Windebank.
June 2013: "Wicked storm sends lightning bolts everywhere off Panama City and has us unplugging all electronics to protect from a lightning strike." Photo Jason Windebank.
August 2013: Into the Pacific. Fakarava Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia: "On Tamarisk we have no diving equipment other than flippers, masks, and snorkels, which does limit our experimentation slightly. But more than offsetting this (by orders of magnitude) is that we have Javi (pictured: aka “Tarzan”) aboard with us, who just happens to be a free diving instructor and, after years of training and diving since he was a kid, now seems almost more comfortable below the surface than he does on land." Photo Jason Windebank.
December 2014: Paradise in the Maldives. Swimming off the boat near an unnamed island not far from Vashafaru. Photo Jason Windebank.
January 2015: "A skiff approaches Shapiri, the other yacht in our convoy, in a vulnerable area of the Gulf of Aden. The tactic is to remain calm while showing the ability to use force." Photo Jason Windebank.
Jason (left) and Piers Windebank. Photo Jason Windebank.
Jason Windebank works in investment banking and is an accomplished photographer, while Piers Windebank owns and runs a property development and finance business and plays in a reggae band. They have both returned to San Diego and Tamarisk is now up for sale, lying in Turkey.
During the voyage Jason and Piers both did research trips for Focusing Philanthropy, a non-profit philanthropic organisation that seeks out charities where donation money can have a big impact on eliminating some form of human suffering. Focusing Philanthropy itself is entirely funded by its founding family, 100 per cent of the donation money it receives is passed on to the donation recipients.
An exhibition of Jason Windebank's photographs was held in 2013 and another is due to open in Los Angeles entitled: Around the World in 80 Clicks.
For more photographic highlights try these particular blog entries:
Staniel Cay Bahamas
Bora Bora, Societies, French Polynesia
Maninita Island, Vavau Group, Tonga
Pulau Bungin, Sumbawa, Indonesia
Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia
And for more great adventure stories on boats.com, see: Mad Mariners: Four Unbelievable Seafaring Exploits, or Round the World in 78 days: Gabart Wins The Vendee Globe.