Updated: Jul 7, 2019
Finally recovered after their 50-ft. Flying Dutchman-12, the Emerald of Pleiades, was struck by lightening last November 27, my step-son, Brandon Cristiano, and his shipmates are finally underway on what they hope ultimately will be a journey of a lifetime that will span the globe.
When I first wrote about their trip last December, they had no idea the extent of the damage to the custom-built 1987 cutter, nor how long it would take for repairs. Ultimately, the vessel's entire electronics system, engine and mast had to be either rebuilt or replaced -- an expensive and time intensive undertaking.
The cutter with its two headsails was purchased by Brandon's shipmate, Kyle James Davis, 33, in Portland. Kyle had been Brandon's student at the Sail Quest sailing school in Pattaya, Thailand early last year.
The lightening struck while they were birthed at Fernandina Beach, on Amelia Island, FL, and at first was not considered serious. But with every repair, additional problems were discovered and, ultimately, it was learned that the massive mast would have to be replaced. To accomplish all of that, they limped into Saint Augustine, where the necessary work was completed.
But now, after more than six months of delay, the expected two-year around-the-world adventure, which initially began November 4 in Portland, ME, is underway. First stop will be Key West, FL, and then southwest to pass the western edge of Cuba and head towards Panama, with the goal of reaching the ABC Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao by November 1.
With hurricane season approaching, their southwestern route is hoped to avoid the hurricane danger zones and take them off the northern coast of South America, Brandon explained, "which is pretty much a hurricane-free zone." Once they arrive at the ABC Islands, they will then decide about the next leg of their journey.
Yesterday, Brandon, Kyle and another crew member took the boat for a sea trial with the help of experts from a Saint Augustine rigging company. "We did some tweaking, but the boat is feeling great," Brandon said. "We had 13 to 15 knots wind and cruised at about seven knots. It was great. I feel good about the boat."
Because Kyle is the boat owner, he is the official captain, explained Brandon. But he taught Kyle what he knows about sailing and so is in charge of navigation. "You can just say I'm the first mate," he said. A world-class chef, he also is in charge of cooking, so the food aboard the Emerald of Pleiades will no doubt be excellent. Fresh fish anyone?
In addition, Brandon has installed a small still to make rum on board and already has quite a supply stored in two kegs.
"Sailing makes me happy," explained Brandon. "I just love being out on the water. There are no worries about all of the stuff you have to think about when you're in rush hour traffic.Sailing takes all of your attention, or it had better take all of your attention."
Brandon likes the challenge of such a trip, recognizing the possible dangers that could lie ahead.
"It’s not just the exploration of the planet, it’s a test of your abilities," he said. "I’m bored if I’m not always pushing myself."
Bon voyage, Brandon and Kyle. May you encounter comfortable winds and safe waters on your journey of a lifetime.