For the past thirty years, I have had Trade Wind Dreams. I'm not sure
when they started. Perhaps it all began when I was in college, and I
read in National Geographic of the adventures of the sixteen year old
circumnavigator Robin Lee Graham who took four years to sail single-handed
around the world. No doubt that started me thinking about sailing
around the world - circumnavigating the globe in a yacht is one of the final
frontiers still available and affordable to the common man. It planted
an idea in my mind requiring nearly half a life time to take root and fully
I started reading sailing magazines when I was in medical school, and that
stoked the fire of desire, but as yet I had never gone sailing or even set
my foot on a sailboat. By the time I graduated from the University of
Louisville School of Medicine, I was ready for a major life change, and my
internship gave me the opportunity to make that change. I selected an
internship at Gorgas Hospital in the Panama Canal Zone. This was the
perfect place to fan the flames of sailing desire into a
burning passion. Every cruiser who sailed around the world had to
pass through the Panama Canal unless they went south around Cape Horn to get
around South America.
During that internship year, I saw hundreds of cruisers transiting the
canal, and I discovered that the majority of them were ordinary people with
extraordinary dreams. Although most of them lived on a tight budget,
it didn't stop them from living their trade wind dreams.
It was there I went sailing for the first time with my good friend, Dr.
Tom Walker and his wife Bette Lee. There were relatively novice
sailors at the time, but they had a boat and cruising dreams as well.
They took me out on their schooner, and I was hooked. My trade wind
dreams became a life long obsession.
In Panama I purchased my own small twenty-two foot sailboat and learned how
to sail. Unfortunately, my boat healed up to thirty degrees when I
sailed to windward, and my wife and I discovered that sailing on an angle
was tiring, wet, and sometimes scary. At the same time, we met a new
breed of sailors voyaging on homebuilt catamarans and trimarans. Some of
these do it yourself multihulls looked like they were built by amateurs, but
others were well designed and beautifully finished, and they sailed flat and
fast, perfect for trade wind dreams.
Toward the end of my internship, I told my friend Tom that someday I would
sail around the world on a multihull. That is one of the few
prophecies in my life that I got right, but then even a stopped clock is
right twice a day, so I not going to get a big head over predicting a multihull circumnavigation that happened thirty years later.
From that point on, for the next three decades, trade wind dreams dominated
my life. Those dreams were put on hold while I was doing an
ophthalmology residency and becoming a board certified ophthalmologist at
the University of Kentucky. Nevertheless, even in land-locked
Kentucky, I had a twenty-two foot trailerable sailboat that I used on
weekends, and that helped keep my trade wind dreams alive.
Once I was a fully qualified eye surgeon, I called up the Navy to see if
they could help me with my trade wind dreams. I told them if they gave
me an assignment at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico, I would
join the navy. They agreed to the proposal, and I spent the next five
years working and sailing in Puerto Rico. I even purchased my
dream ship, a Westsail 32 Colin Archer heavy displacement yacht. It
was built for the trades, and gave me the opportunity to gain more
experience in trade wind voyaging. When the Caribbean winds were cranked
up and blowing hard, I could run downwind at eight knots in my dreamboat. My
five years in Puerto Rico kept my trade winds dreams burning bright..
After those five years in the navy, I faced a major choice. Go cruising with
my wife and two young children, living and sailing on a shoestring, or shift
gears and go to work in Saudi Arabia. I put my cruising dreams on
hold, performed a fellowship in vitreoretinal surgery, and then spent the
next eleven years working as a retinal surgeon at King Khalid Eye Specialist
Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Eleven years in Riyadh did not snuff
out my cruising dreams. Instead, I used those years to increase my
navigational skills while traveling in remote sections of the Arabian
desert. I used a bubble aircraft sextant to take star sights, noon
sights, and moon sights out in the desert. I became comfortable
navigating through a sea of sand so that one day I could confidently
navigate the seven seas as I lived my trade wind dreams.
In 1991, the Gulf War rearranged my life. For the first ten days of
the war, skud missles rained down on Riyadh every night as soon as the sun
went down. The thunder of exploding skuds made our windows rattle, and
it seemed like a good time to take a six week vacation. After ten
nights of Riyadh roulette, we bailed out of town on an evacuation flight to
Torrejon, Spain, and then on to the USA. As serendipity would have it,
the Miami boat show was in session, and we drove to Miami and attended the
I couldn't believe my eyes when I trooped the docks at the boat show.
Right before my eyes there were cruising catamarans on display, and it was
love at first sight. The biggest boat in the show was a Privilege 39
catamaran that was thirty-nine feet five inches long and twenty one feet
wide. It was a mind boggling trade wind dream machine, and I
could see myself sailing around the world in this powerful catamaran.
Now I knew what I had to do. I flew back to Riyadh, saved my money,
and ordered a Privilege 39 catamaran. Two years later I put my family
on board Exit Only and we started our sailing voyage around the world.
When I left Riyadh, I left with an exit only visa in my passport - an exit
only visa is like a one way ticket. It means you are leaving and not
coming back because you are moving on to other things. That's why we
named our catamaran Exit Only. We were exit only and we were sailing
our trade wind dreams around the world. And it's been an awesome
We visited more than thirty-two countries as we sailed on an eleven year
circumnavigation of the globe. We sailed in the trade winds across the
Caribbean, the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean.
The picture (above) shows our trade wind cruising rig. It consists of
twin headsails poled out to port and starboard with eighteen foot spinnaker
poles. We can run our double headsail rig for weeks at a time.
Our autopilot steers the boat effortlessly day after day, and we get to
enjoy the ride. We sailed in the wake of Columbus, Magellan, and
Captain Cook as we imagined what it was like to circle the globe hundreds of
years ago in square riggers as they lived their trade wind dreams.
Trade wind dreams have been around for a long
time. The worked for me, and they will work for you. Give it
some thought. Maybe you might get infected with the trade winds virus,
and before you know it, you'll be on your way, sailing downwind around the
world. Trade wind dreams never die.