Around the world sailing expedition. Article by Richard Bird.

Simon Smith has just completed a 33000 mile circumnavigation of the World in 30 months.
This was the culmination of a childhood dream when at the age of ten Simon dreamed of sailing his own small yacht to all those mysterious and far flung places he had heard about in his geography lessons at school. However it hadn’t escaped his attention that Solihull in the Midlands was about as far from the sea as you can get. Then like many others with dreams and aspirations life just carried on and growing up, earning a living and bringing up a young family took precedence.
Ironically many years after this dream he learned to sail taught by his daughter. That was it he literally took to it like a duck to water. For the next ten years he spent as much time as he could changing from a mechanic to an accomplished sailor.
In 1998 the big break came when he saw the boat that he new would help him fulfil this dream, unfortunately it was in Antigua, undaunted he flew to Antigua and saw Black Arrow and new it was a tough little ship that would look after you.
First problem was to get it back to England and prepare it for use as a sail training vessel for Simon’s new business venture. A crew was found and the first Atlantic crossing was made. In the intervening years Simon taught many people sailing skills aboard Black Arrow and on their own boats.v In 2006 – 2007 with a new pretty young wife they completed an Atlantic circuit sailing to Caribbean and then back to Lymington. This was attesting time for communication equipment and working out the best ways to use wind steering.
Finally in September 2009 the boat and skipper were ready, Simon had covered more than 300,000 miles at sea learning his trade and a crew of enthusiastic but with limited sailing experience joined for the first leisurely leg to Channel Islands then slowly down the coasts of France Spain and Portugal, stopping at many out of the way and delightful fishing villages.
Then onto Morocco which has only recently started to welcome yachts. Black Arrow tied up in the centre of Rabat in the midst of souks and ancient pirate fortifications, it was like being in a film set. It took visits from 8 different officials before anyone could leave Black Arrow. From this exotic location it was on towards the Canary Islands for the jumping off post for crossing the Atlantic to Antigua.
The Island of Graciosa is one of the most undeveloped of these Islands and with sand roads and clear seas it was giving everyone a taste of things to come.
A twenty three day crossing took Black Arrow back to where Simon had first seen the boat. The crew departed here and Simon and his wife Gosia made the next leg towards the San Blas Islands on the way to Panama.
The weather in the Columbian basin was the first real test of boat and crew, both came through and then arrival in the San Blas Islands which are inhabited by the Kuna Indians who live by fishing and weaving. The Islands are scattered over a wide area with very poor charting but Simon and Gosia were welcomed wherever they anchored .A visit always needed to be made to the village chief to ask if it was ok to stay. Then back to the boat loaded with gifts of lobster and fish. The Kuna were extremely poor but very friendly and generous.
Onwards to Panama and one of the wonders of the World which is the Panama Canal cutting a continent in half, the journey through was exciting because Black Arrow was treated as though she was a super tanker having to follow the same procedures including having a pilot onboard. The great moment came when the gates finally opened and there was the Pacific the ocean of dreams.
The Galapagos Islands was next stop but they were not as welcoming to yachtsmen and you couldn’t sail on your own to any Islands. With big engined speed boats and cruise liners they weren’t as environmentally aware as they should be. The marine and land wildlife was none the less spectacular.
There are some dots in the ocean which are the Marquesas Islands and these are some of the remotest places on Earth 2800 miles from Galapagos.
Fabled Islands where Hermin Melville jumped ship from a whaler and wrote of his adventures among the cannibals. Robert Louis Stephenson also spent time amongst them and the Artist Gaugin is buried there.
Here two crew joined the vessel Rich and Waldek who were to join Black Arrow in many destinations in the next part of the voyage. Cruising amongst these beautiful Islands was living the dream.
Beautiful Tuahmotu atolls were breathtaking beautiful blue seas and coral beaches inside the lagoon with pearl fishing and a vast array of spectacular marine life below the water easily seen by snorkelling. The Pacific Islands were as breathtakingly wonderful as one could possibly imagine. On to Tahiti the sleepy crossroads of the Ocean and - Bora Bora - reputed to be the most beautiful Island on Earth with soaring peaks and dreamy lagoons. The crew were leaving from Raratonga in the Cook Islands and it was in this sleepy , easygoing group of Islands that Simon and Gosia said goodbye to Waldek and Rich little knowing they would be back!
To Tonga and Fiji were whales, sharks and turtles were frequently seen. These Island groups consisted of thousands of Islands and atolls all with their own distinct characteristics and friendly inhabitants. Simon and Gosia wanted to stay much longer but it was late in the season and they needed to cross the Indian Ocean.
The trip across the Indian Ocean took 57 days nonstop covering 6,500 miles and skirted Australia with the authorities’ planes “buzzing” Black Arrow on many occasions informing them by radio about the complicated regulations, if they wanted to stop in Australia.
Finally a landfall was made at Rodriguez Island another small welcoming Island with challenging navigation due to the unreliability of the charts. Voyaging down to South Africa to round the Cape of Good Hope provided the opportunity to visit the interior of this fascinating country and meet up with the original owner of Black Arrow – who couldn’t do enough to ensure the stay was as interesting as possible.
With Ocean voyaging you are able to visit remote and fascinating locations and the trip from South Africa provided just one such place – St Helena, for this leg Black Arrow was joined by another Gosia (Waldeks wife) and Sven. St Helena is isolated and remote with no proper harbour, no airport and no mobile phones. The style of the town was reminiscent of Lymington with older English Houses and small streets. Everyone wanted to chat to you and life was at a very slow pace. It was a very special place.
Black Arrow was now on its way to Brazil where the crew would depart. Black Arrow was to spend six months exploring vast rivers and sailing into the interior where only water transport was available. It was amongst the slave descendants that many friendships were established and the chance to visit amazing waterfalls and caves and live off the jungle provided excitement and interest.
It was time to leave in order to get to the Caribbean after the hurricane season so cruising to St Lucia, Dominica and then Antigua. Once again the old crew joined in Antigua – Rich. It was here that the exciting news was announced that Black Arrow was to have a new younger crew member – Gosia was expecting a baby.
Antigua to the British Virgin Islands and once again we were amongst the wealthy yacht fraternity in these lovely Islands. Then with Waldek and Gosia back aboard it was onto Turks and Caicos which although a British dependency where very Americanised. These Islands are very challenging to navigate due to their shallow waters and uncharted reefs. It was here that the crew and the captains’ wife were to leave from and Simon was to sail on to Bermuda and then Azores.
New crew James, Marty and Matteo all young and fit joined for a long leg with strong headwinds to Azores. Where Black Arrow had, in the local tradition painted her Insignia for the third time of visiting. With just two crew on board Black Arrow made her way to La Corunna for the final leg.
Here Marty left and Rich rejoined – he was on the first leg and wanted to be on the last. The final leg to Lymington was accomplished in 5 days of mixed weather.
Black Arrow tied up on the Town Quay on 13th June in exactly the same place as she had left from on the 8th September 2009 after circumnavigation of 33863.83 miles. A group of old sailors tied up aft of Black Arrow asked whey the flags were out Simon said we had completed a circumnavigation. “The Isle of Wight?” one asked, Simon replied “No the World” to which the reply was “Ahh that’s different”.

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