Today, Brandon Cristiano and two shipmates are in Amelia Island, FL, the 50 ft. Flying Dutchman-12 on which they intend to circumnavigate the globe birthed at a private dock awaiting repairs from a lightening strike that critically damaged the sleek but sturdy green cruiser's electrical components.
It's only a temporary setback, and while serious, it is not one that will end what could be a two-year adventure that began November 4 in Portland, ME, and is destined to literally take them around the world.
The cutter with its two headsails was purchased by Brandon's shipmate, Kyle James Davis, 33, in Portland.
Ky, as he is known, had been Brandon's student at the Sail Quest sailing school in Pattaya, Thailand earlier this year. The third shipmate on the cruise is Jacob Allen, 22, the mechanic.
While the Emerald of Pleiades is being repaired, Brandon has been aboard helping with that work and cooking. A world-class chef who has cooked for millionaires and olympians, he is making certain that plenty of great food is safely stowed in the big freezer hidden under cushions aboard ship. And, he's been able to spend some time with his mom, Jackie, and me over the last few days.
Soon, though, the Emerald of Pleiades will be ready and Brandon, Kyle and Jacob will set sail for the Caribbean; first stop -- Puerto Rico. "But, there is no telling when we will get there," Brandon says. "That's pretty typical of sailing."
Why the Trip?
Why is Brandon and these other two young adventurers taking this trip, one that promises great adventure but could also be fraught with danger from life-threatening weather or even pirates?
Here's Brandon's answer: "The same reason people ask why do you want to climb the mountain -- because it’s there. It’s not just the exploration of the planet, it’s a test of your abilities. I’m bored if I’m not always pushing myself.
"You do something like this and it’s like any other challenge…not just physical, its mental. It takes a lot of preparation…you can’t make many mistakes and get away with it. The weather is always the biggest challenge on the ocean.
"There is nothing that really worries me, but I think about the weather all the time. You’re always doing your checks of the boat to make sure your gear is OK. Kyle bought this particular kind of boat because it is a blue water cruiser…it’s made for this. You don’t race Formula One in the car you drive to get groceries. He picked the right boat, and with the right equipment and the right crew it can be done. If everybody is on the same page, you can do it. That’s why I’m on the boat."
Honestly, I asked Brandon, "Is there fear?"
"Ky and I had a conversation about that," he admitted. "Ky asked me, 'you don’t really get scared do you?' I said no.Then, I said, 'You don’t either, right?' He said 'no.' You can’t get scared and freeze and get this done. You just use your training and deal with the task that needs to be done."
The reward, said Brandon, is worth the risk.
"I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world, the mountains, the water," he said. "But the ocean is different…we don’t have gills. We can’t breathe underwater. But, you can’t have the good side of anything without dealing with the bad side of it, too.
"Being out in the middle of the ocean on a sunny day is great; or to me, it’s the middle of the night when the stars are out. The isolation, I love that. I like disconnecting from it all. If I’m out there for a week, the only thing my electronics are being used for is navigation, not to check on my social apps. It’s disconnection from society, if you want to put it that way.
"I have always enjoyed being alone. On the water, I feel calm, at peace, at ease. Nothing else matters. There is so much you have to do just to stay on course. If you are doing what you are supposed to do, using the stars, those six hours go by like that. (He snaps his fingers.) You are living. You are in the moment. Everything else…chooo…it’s gone." (Brandon talks in sound effects.)
The 'Loose Plan'
Once the lightening-caused damage is repaired (new engine components are needed), the crew will set sail for Puerto Rico. Then, it will be on to South America and Brazil, where they hope to spend the winter.
"We want to go to the Amazon," said Brandon. That’s our main target. But we’ll be going across the equator, which means seasons change and that will affect us. I would like to go to Tierra del Fuego (land of fire), an Argentinian group of islands at the southern-most tip of the South American mainland, where the Pacific and Atlantic oceans meet.
"We want to also head for the Mediterranean," Brandon continued. "I would like to sail up to Lisbon, Portugal, Barcelona, Marseilles, Sardinia, then up into the Adriatic to explore the eastern coast of Italy as well as the western coast of Croatia.
"Then, we'll do the southern route out across the Med and hit Morroco, down the western coast of Africa to South Africa, Madigascar, upwards into the Indian ocean to Sri Lanka, explore Southeast Asia, on to the south Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines and then we need to get the boat to Lo’ihi, Hawaii.
Why there? "It’s an active volcano," Brandon explained. "Ky wants to be the first to anchor there, although that might be a little difficult since the top of the seamount is 3,000 ft. below sea level. It's 35 km southeast of the island of Hawaii, where Ky lived for several years.
So that's the plan, subject to any number of variables, including changes of plans along the way. But, they are prepared. They have trained. They have the right boat and equipment. And they have the right mindset. Now, all they need is some decent weather and the equipment needed to fix the boat.
What if they encounter more problems like the lightening strike that fortunately came while the boat was in safe harbor?
"We'll figure it out," said Ky. "We always do."
"Besides," Brandon added, "What am I going to do, sit in around in my house for the rest of my life? I don't think so." Anybody who knows Brandon Cristiano, knows that will never happen.
Bon Voyage, you guys. We hope this journey and adventure provides the happiness, joy and fulfillment that you seek, and that you return home safely -- whenever that might be.
Note: Check out Brandon's website at brandoncristiano.com. There you will find an app that will allow you to follow along on this journey, wherever the wind takes them.