While growing up and living in Drumheller for 40 years, the last thing Judy Hansen thought she would ever do was to sail around the world. After all, Drumheller is a long way from any seafaring influence. But life has its way of unfolding.
After raising a family in her home town and then finding herself single, she decided to make a brave move that would fulfill the longing of living by the sea. So after saying goodbye to her two grown children and parents Glen and Shirley, she packed up and moved to Victoria, BC.
After a few years in her new place, we met a couple of times; actually it was in the elevator of the building we both lived in. There must have been a spark because a date ensued. During that first date I made it clear I wouldn’t be around long as my plans were to sail around the world so if that was not an option for Judy, there wouldn’t be much sense in dating further.
Judy reacted with surprising enthusiasm and a romantic relationship quickly developed as well as the plans for the romantic adventure of sailing the seven seas.
As a married couple, we soon purchased a 35-foot sailboat that we named “Sea Turtle” and refitted it suitable for our life of open ocean sailing. Then on a foggy day in September 2009, we cast off the dock lines and headed off to discover distant and exotic parts of the world.
Originally I thought it would take about 5 years to circumnavigate the planet but with no deadlines to adhere to, as such an adventure deserves, our meandering route took nine years, nine months, and nine days before we finally sailed back into our home port of Victoria. We had put a distance of over 50,000 nautical miles (93,000 km) “under the keel.”
I like to tell people that’s about the equivalent of travelling 1/4 of the way to the moon.
Our circumnavigation was “west-about” which eventually had us transiting through the Panama Canal. At that point, it was a very significant event as it was where we crossed our outbound track laid over nine years previously. We then gained the covetous and rare title of circumnavigators.
The question we are asked the most is “Where was your favourite place?”
“It’s hard to say which the favourite place was because the experiences and sites were so diverse but equally amazing,” said Judy.
Our wanderings took us to some of the most remote and exotic destinations such as the unusual Galapagos Islands. Another was Easter Island, in a most isolated part of the South Pacific, made extraordinary because of the puzzling huge stone heads that the ancients carved. Or our trek into the jungles of Borneo to come face to face with endangered and majestic Orangutans.
The diversity of sights and experiences were great. Once in the remote fjords of southern Chile, we touched Sea Turtle’s bow to a gigantic iceberg that had just broken off an imposing glacier. Then months later while at a south island of Vanuatu, we sat in awe on the rim of a bubbling volcanic caldron while molten lava shot high into the night sky.
Our adventures included many overland, excursions mostly done on motorcycle either rented or purchased. We crisscrossed the Andies from Columbia to the headwaters of the Amazon. Asia saw us tooling through roads less travelled in both north and south Vietnam, the interior of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. We rode a classic Royal Enfield motorcycle through the canyons and peaks of the Himalayas, most of the time under the eye of the Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world.
From Asia, our westward journey took us past India, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean before returning up the west coast of North America where we finished that epic journey to a homecoming of waving friends on the breakwater at home port.
The experience wasn’t all relaxing with sundowners in hand but at times was really roughing it. I really relate to Hunter S. Thompson’s approach to life when he said “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a ride!”
I couldn’t have asked for a better and more enthusiastic first mate than this little gal from Drumheller to not only share my life with but to have shared in my lifelong dream of sailing around the world.
For more stories with several photos, check out our blog: www.turtlemail.blogspot.com.