It's a question you've asked yourself a few times: 

What do I need to go sailing around the world?

After all, world sailing isn't for just anybody. And it's certainly not something that you undertake as a passing hobby. Some people do it as a way of life. Others, because they are so passionate about it that they break records.

Of course, that's an extreme example of a passion for sailing. Most people who go sailing around the world do so as an adventure, or simply because that’s their way of life.

Good news: 

You don't need to go solo. The Gifford family, of Washington state, started sailing the world in 2008. They haven't stopped.

And get this...

They do it with three kids. Two daughters and a son accompany them. And for the Gifford family, sailing around the world is a way of life. Also, their kids love it. They describe every day like being on a field trip.

The kids know the names of more countries and cities than most kids in American schools. And best of all, they've learned how to build solar panels, desalinate water, and catch fish from the ocean.

That's an unbeatable education!

Sailing Around the World at a Glance

What is it about sailing around the world that terrifies some yet excites others? A lot of it has to do with the exploits of those non-stop solo sailors.

Francois Gabart is one of those.

This Frenchman set out in a 100-foot trimaran and circumnavigated the globe in just 42 days. In so doing, he set a new world record. In addition, he averaged 27 knots and sailed 27,860 nautical miles.

Afterward, he told reporters that his body "ached all over for most of the trip."

That's a level of determination and athleticism that most people don't have. Another reason people are apprehensive about sailing around the world has a lot to do with history.

Since Ferdinand Magellan set out to circumnavigate the globe in 1519, the world of sailing has been fraught with danger. Unfortunately, Magellan didn't accomplish his mission. Instead, he was killed by hostile natives on a tropical island in the Philippines.

In fact, of the 260 sailors who joined Magellan, only 18 returned home. No wonder sailing around the world is seen as heroic--and dangerous!

But only a few years later, in 1522, a Basque mariner by the name of Juan Sebastian Elcano successfully circled the globe in a single ship.

After a few hundred years, in 1898, Canadian Joshua Slocum, from Nova Scotia, became the first sailor to do it solo.

By the 1970s, sailing around the world became almost routine.

But then a new breed of record breakers appeared. 

For instance, in 1988, Australian Kay Cottee became the first woman to circle the world solo. And in 2012 Dutch teen Laura Dekker became the youngest person to do it, at only 16 years old.

So what do you need to go sailing around the world?

Start with a boat

This may not come as a surprise, but if you want to sail, you'll need a sailboat. Now let's be real: A good oceangoing sailboat isn't cheap. So you need to decide if you want to buy a used sailboat or a new one.

Because you'll be sailing around the world, you'll need a deep fixed keel boat. Next, what kind of boat will you get? A sloop or a ketch? Also, will it have an inboard or outboard engine?

All of these things will determine your cost.

In most cases, if you're going to be sailing around the world, you'll want a ketch. It has a second mast (called a mizzenmast) further aft, providing a third sail. Also, mounting an outboard motor can save you up to $15,000.

And repairs are easy and cheap. Meanwhile, if you have inboard engines, any repairs will require a diver or even hauling the boat onto drydock.

Get your wallet out

You're probably wondering how much it's going to cost to sail around the world.

Bad news.

It's going to get really expensive.

First off, your boat is going to cost you up to $30,000 used, and even more new.

Then you'll need to get it kitted out. The good thing about buying a used boat is it will probably have a lot of the gear you need already.

But if not, or if you're going with a new boat, you'll need to add all the electronics and safety gear yourself. You can factor another $15,000 to $20,000 for this.

Then, you'll need at least $3,000 a month in food, fuel, entertainment, and docking fees. Finally, you will need an emergency savings of around $5,000.

Also, don't forget about travel insurance, life insurance, and insurance for your boat.

After all that, you're looking at nearly $100,000 to go sailing around the world.

Clear your calendar

Are you wondering how long it takes to sail around the globe?

Let's be real. If the fastest record for a high-speed custom-built boat is 42 days, you're probably going to take a bit longer than that.

Furthermore, the time it takes depends on your route.

For example, if you're starting out on the Atlantic seaboard, you'll head east to Europe first. 

Eastwards is the most common direction for sailing around the world. That's thanks to the prevailing winds, due to the rotation of the Earth.

In fact, only six people have sailed solo around the world heading westwards.

One person who did it, Steve White from England, described it thus: 

"When you're heading against the wind and the waves, it's like they're trying to knock your boat flat. It's like sticking your head out of a car window at 60 miles per hour."

So head east. Once you hit Europe, you'll have to decide whether to cross to the Indian Ocean through the Cape of Good Horn or the Suez Canal.

Circling Africa will add a month or two to your journey. Heading through the Suez will be faster, but a lot more expensive. You're looking at over $400 for a one-way trip.

If you set out from the Pacific coast, you'll also need to factor in the Panama Canal, or the extremely dangerous Strait of Magellan at the tip of South America.

You're looking at between one and three years total.

How to Plan Your Voyage

By now you're probably either itching to go sailing around the world or starting to consider buying an RV instead.

If you've stuck it out this far, it's time to look at some practical steps to plan your voyage. Sailing around the world isn't something you do haphazardly. 

Well, not if you want to survive.

The truth is that it's still somewhat dangerous. There are parts where you'll be completely alone in a vast ocean for days on end.

Paul and Caroline Frew have been sailing around the world since 2011. They say they meticulously plan every detail. Also, they create list after list.

They make sure their boat has everything they need to live on it; and they have all their ports of call, and backup ports, preplanned.

Learn the ropes first

The first thing any experienced sailor will tell you to do is to take a sailing course. Even veteran sailors learn new things. There are plenty of courses across the U.S. to help you out with this.

You'll learn all the basics of sailing, as well as sailboat maintenance. You might even learn a nautical knot or two.

But the best courses are the ones that give you practical experience. You'll be cruising the world, and you need to get hours under your belt.

However, you'll also need some intense first aid training. Imagine if you end up with a casualty while out at sea? What if that's you? Make sure you take more than just the basic CPR course. You'll want to know how to splint a broken bone, reset a dislocated shoulder, and sew a deep gash.

Finally, take some navigation courses. If you're not very good with technology, you may want to enroll at a few community college courses to learn how to operate digital shortwave radios. 

You'll need to be able to use a GPS and know how to plot your position on a map.

And don't forget a swimming course or two.

Kit yourself to the max

Are you looking forward to shopping for some new sailing toys and gadgets? Because before you go, you'll need a bunch of tech-related gear to help you on your way.

Now, a lot of people might be purists and shun technology. They say that all they need is a compass and the stars. While the compass was cutting-edge technology in its day, you could ditch it to go the old-fashioned way...

If you do that, you might as well give up the boat too, because sailing was considered mind-blowing technology at one point.

Or you can get with the 21st Century and use every tool at your disposal to go sailing around the world. While doing a shorter trip using only the most basic gear could be fun, your goal is to make your trip safely and efficiently, so you’ll want to gear up.

Here's just a small sampling of what you'll need:

  • Radar
  • AIS
  • Electronic tiller pilots for autopilot
  • A new anchor and electric windlass
  • Solar panels and a converter
  • Freezer and fridge
  • Wind generators
  • Radio transmitter
  • Diving gear for underwater damage
  • First aid kit

A home in every port

Finally, you'll want to plot every port that you're going to stop at. And you'll want to plot a backup port in case that one is closed for whatever reason. Knowing which ports you're heading to will help you plan things like your route and account for the weather.

But there's more...

Some places will require that you obtain a visa from their consulate beforehand. Take Sri Lanka, for example. If you're planning on stopping, you'll need a visa in your passport from the Sri Lankan consulate in America.

Some other countries that require Americans to obtain visas in advance include the following:

  • Australia
  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Cuba
  • Eritrea
  • India
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Myanmar
  • Nigeria
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • Turkey
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam

There are others, but these are the major countries you're likely to consider stopping at along the way.

Ready. Set. Go!

It all boils down to this: If you're going to be sailing around the world, plan your trip in advance.

Does that mean you can't have any fun? Of course not! Otherwise, what's the point?

All in all, your trip is for you to enjoy. So get planning, buy your boat and your gear, and go!

Are you ready to sail around the world? Tell us all about your plans in the comments!

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