The Pacific and Southern Hemisphere is a vast cruising ground. By 747 it is a 27 hour journey from London to Auckland, and to cross the Pacific from Auckland to the Panama Canal is a vast undertaking – after all the Pacific covers over 30% of the Earth’s land mass. The conditions are not easy and there is zero safety net with few satellites, and with distances so large that convenient safety services are most certainly not easily to hand. In addition, the movement of shipping whilst considerable is not of a volume where a handy rescue is likely to be accomplished by commercial shipping, as is the case in the busier waters of the Northern Hemisphere.
As communications and technology have improved, more yachts (both sail and power) are going further and around 50% of the Berthon blue water fleet at any point will have at least 1 ARC beneath their keel. World Cruising remain at the forefront of the Rally Business, providing the infrastructure and support to enable more and more yachtsmen to realise their dreams and to sail far. Whilst the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers remains their stand out event (always oversubscribed), they have extended their offering by developing World cruising events, as well as more manageable events like Rally Portugal for those with less time, but with a thirst for ocean sailing. We have supported World Cruising for the last 8 years and are proud of our connection with this stand out organisation.
About 10 years ago, the average blue water cruising yacht became a veteran of the North Atlantic circuit. Northern Europe to the Canaries, ARC to St Lucia, a season in the Caribbean and home. The home being accomplished either on the deck of a ship, solo or with the Trans ARC operated by the WCC. The adventure would be around 2 years, after which the yacht would normally be for sale, refitted and good to go again…
Well, life changes and the world turns and now this cycle (whilst still prevalent) is being overtaken by a new programme that is altogether more challenging. Aided by the World ARC, and the thirst for adventure, many yachts are sailing to the Caribbean and after enjoying its azure waters, are then sailing to the gateway of their next adventure – the Panama Canal, into the Pacific and beyond.
For some yachts and their owners this is a full time life experience. For others it is an adventure that whilst all consuming is something that owners dip in and out of depending on work, family and life commitments. Because the Rallies run in series, it is very common for a yacht to do a leg or two in the Pacific with one Rally, only to drop out, cruise or lay-up, and then pick up the next as it comes through. In this way yachts and their owners are able to manage their cruising programme as fast or slowly as they wish. If there is a cruising area that is particularly fascinating for them, they can take their time there, rather than pushing on with the rest of the fleet. In many cases they do some of the trip with a Rally and go solo for the balance.
The preparation of a yacht for the Pacific is a more thorough affair than for a North Atlantic circuit but as yachtsmen do more and builders and equipment suppliers respond to the needs of the extended cruising grounds, yachts built today or refitted today have much more capability than those say, 10 years ago. The kit is more compact, more accessible to service and of course electronics and communications are developing and are improving at lightning speed.
We are also seeing clients who have done the North Atlantic circuit and have then sold coming back for a new yacht for the new adventure, and going again armed with the experience of their previous cruising. There are also many who are diving into long distance cruising for the first time and who are keen to do the world. In many cases these teams of couples, family and friends are superb blue water cruising yachtsmen – learning as they go and taking advantage of all that modern technology, the Rally organisers and the courses available have to offer and learning fast as they sail.
Nothing can take away from the beauty and excitement of the Mediterranean or indeed of the Caribbean with their wonderful beaches, good sailing and in many cases great infrastructure. However, the Pacific is another world in terms of the wildness and the opportunity to go where few yachtsmen have been before, to explore and experience the culture and to meet wonderful people who live in the various islands and land mass of the Pacific.
Yachtsmen who have cruised this area will tell you misty eyed about the wild beauty of Vanuato, the Galapagos and
Fiji. They will tell of ancient volcanos, astonishing things to eat and drink, and of the charm and unspoilt friendliness of those living in these places. Many will cruise New Zealand where the Bay of Islands is like nowhere else on the planet. The distances are not trivial – it is a 2,000 nautical mile sail or motor from Australia to New Zealand and the waters can be wild.
From there many cruise to Japan, Singapore and to that whole much unexplored area by many, where the cultures, history and way of life provide a different dimension from any other place on Earth.
And of course, the Southern Hemisphere is also the gateway to the last great wilderness that is left – Antarctica. In terms of navigation, endurance and preparation this area is in yet another league and for many it is a bridge too far. However, for those who have the yachting hardware and the will to get very cold, from here they can realise the trip and experience this mighty place, it is life changing. 2 FPB 78’s will be cruising to Chile next year, GREY WOLF II and her sister IRON LADY II. From there they will make the trip to Ushuaia to prepare for the challenge of the Falklands and beyond. They will have experienced guides with them to help manage in this hostile yet beautiful cruising ground, safely.
For these yachts and the others who make this pilgrimage, there is wildlife aplenty, as well as sculptural ice that is millennia old. There is the chance to walk and climb, to kayak and to admire the majesty of the place.
There is Cape Horn which is on the bucket list of many experienced yachtsmen and can either be encased in cloud and white water or benign, allowing the passing yacht to anchor and visit the lighthouse and look out at this infamous passage.
Of course cruising in the Southern Hemisphere is not for everyone, as to take that trip through the Panama Canal, is a big step. It puts a semi colon on life and requires either a sabbatical, or the need to work remotely or time out. It puts the yachtsmen taking this path beyond the scope of a relatively easy aeroplane ride home and when grandchildren appear, many crews head back to the relative proximity of Caribbean or Mediterranean sailing. The passages in the Southern Hemisphere are long and when guests arrive it is often hard to keep to the schedule. Easy Jet do not fly from either Port Stanley or the Galapagos!
However, it is possible to keep a foot in both camps of life with a programme that sees the yacht laid up and left for as much as a year, with her crew returning when the time is right.
Because more yachts from the Northern Hemisphere are venturing into the Southern Hemisphere, the yachting market in New Zealand and Australia is developing. These islands are dependent on currency shift and this has sadly meant that the great collection of super yacht yards in New Zealand have disappeared and few yachts are now built there. Iconic names like Sensation and Alloy are just a memory, but nonetheless, good infrastructure is in place for the refit and repair of yachts in the Southern Pacific. A word of warning though. European parts take time to arrive as they ship mostly from the USA so a good stock of spares is essential, and if the yacht needs refitting – do not expect this to be a matter of a few weeks as it is in Europe or the USA.
We are also seeing European yachts arriving in the area and being put on the market. There are significant import taxes to pay for New Zealanders and Australians who buy, but this has to be weighed against the wear and tear and time involved in a trip home, or shipping (the latter for a 55’ footer carries a US $50,000 price tag).
We have sold yachts in the area to those living there but in general, to make a sale within a reasonable time span we would always recommend bringing the yacht back to the USA or Europe, particularly if she is of significant value. It is nice to think that a European or American or some other nationality will like to take her over in this wonderful cruising ground, but most do not wish to make your problem theirs. They also want to make the trip and prefer to buy in an area close to home where the preparations for their trip can be managed locally.
Having said this, we predict that as more people make the trip this will encourage more yachts to trade in this area – but it will probably be another 5 to 10 years before communications and the amount of product on offer will make this a significant centre for yacht brokerage. This is something that we are monitoring and something about which we can advise.
In the meantime, we do have some yachts available for sale in the area and we are able to discuss the best approach for those who like the idea of starting in God’s own cruising ground.
The rules around cruising in these areas in order to maintain their beauty are frankly, and rightly so, Draconian. The idea that you should cruise there leaving only your shadow is one that is taken very seriously.
This is something else that requires work and preparation if you are thinking of embarking upon a trip to this place.
For all the distance, big seas and challenges that go with making this great cruising adventure, the rewards are clear. We deal with a number of yachts that are veterans of the Southern Hemisphere and we have never met a yachtsman who was ambivalent or dismissive of the experience. For many it is a once in a lifetime gig. For others, the call of this place has them basing their yacht there and going back for more of the same.
Of course it is always possible to make the trip there without a yacht and to try to cover the bases chartering or in other ways. However, making the trip in your yacht is an adventure in itself. As one of our clients explained – it’s hard work and maintaining the yacht in the Southern Hemisphere is a time consuming and difficult process. However, I am pleased to look after my yacht, and hope to do so as well as she has looked after me. After all she is my magic carpet to the most amazing places, giving me the opportunity to meet extraordinary people, and to experience an adventure that would be impossible by any other means.
Amen to that.