The spark to see the world

circumnavigate map of the world

When my husband Jamie was 11, he received a copy of “The Boy Who Sailed Around the World Alone” – the story of teenager Robin Lee Graham’s solo circumnavigation. This book was that spark for him: the awakening that irrevocably instilled a desire to see the world under sail. For me, it was a high school teacher who embedded in me a love for experiencing, and trying to understand, the world through the eyes of different cultures. It took a surprisingly long time to realize this could be accomplished through my other great love- sailing!- to which I owe Jamie.

What was the spark for you?

This week, I’ve been trading email with Bo from Sailing B+A. He and his wife Allie are newlyweds gearing up for their own cruising adventures: to share experiences from afar and help fund their adventures, they’ve started a program called Junior Captains as a vehicle to share their experiences from remote locations with kids at home: to bring them the world, and hopefully be that spark.

Bo told me about the origin of his spark to go cruising. He has articulated it beautifully, so instead of paraphrasing– with Bo’s permission, I’m sharing it in his words below.

I was never really the cool kid growing up. When I got to college, I really didn’t have a direction or purpose. I had no clue what I wanted to do when I grew up. Over Christmas Break that year, I discovered an old 19′ sailboat under a foot of pine straw in the woods behind my family’s lake cabin.

I’d never been into sailing, but it seemed cool, so I convinced my parents to let me live at the lake for a month that next summer. I picked up a book from Barnes and Noble to learn how to sail, and a friend and I fixed up the old sailboat.

That summer started something awesome. I read Tania Aebi’s “Maiden Voyage,” detailing her circumnavigation at age 18. I was 18 and I didn’t even know sailing around the world was still even a thing!

A couple of summers later I’d bought a 25′ sailboat and decided to take a semester off of college to sail around Florida. I sailed 1300 miles singlehanded that summer from Orange Beach, Alabama to Key West and back. My first day offshore to begin that trip to Key West was my first time offshore ever. It was incredible, and even though I almost died a few times, I made it.

That summer I went from being a shy, purposeless teen to a confident, outgoing adult. I suddenly had an identity and a purpose!

A few months later, having finished the trip, I was back in class trying to graduate. I was totally over school, doodling in my notebook when I wrote this…”If I turn 28 and I’m not married with kids and a house, I’m going to sell everything, buy another boat, and go sailing again–this time around the world.”

Granted, I was 21 at the time, fully expecting to be married with kids and a house by 28, just like any good southern boy is. Hah.

So life happened, I got a good corporate job and did the biweekly paycheck thing for a few years. Which was great, until I wrote out a bucket list and quickly realized I wasn’t getting closer to any of the goals and dreams I wanted to accomplish in my life.

So on my 27th birthday, I woke up remembering what I’d promised myself, and quit my job. It’s taken a few years to figure it out, but as you know, I’ve since found the boat (and a wife!) and began the trip. Coincidentally, quitting my job was the best move I could’ve ever made in my career, and I’ve gotten the chance to work some incredible events (like the super bowls & Olympics we’ve talked about…).

I tell you all of that to get to this. When I was 18, Tania Aebi’s story taught me to dream big. By dreaming big, I’ve been able to discover my passions, which allow me to become a confident and successful adult. And I’m not special…I’m just a chunky kid from a small town in Georgia.

So by sharing my story–and the stories of the people and places we encounter–I hope that we’re able to introduce kids back home to a world they didn’t know existed. A world where normal people are doing incredible things.

By doing this, I hope that I can do what Tania did for me. Inspire kids to dream big–and live it.

Sharing the inspiration

I love the story of the spark for Bo, and I REALLY love that it’s his goal to help share that with other kids. Helping other families through the hurdles to share the world with their kids was a huge motivating factor for writing Voyaging With Kids: is there a better way to raise our children than helping them appreciate how big the world is, how varied and colorful and precious, so they can be more responsible stewards in our wake?

To help kickstart their program, Bo & Alli have a giveaway that will get at least three kids started as Junior Captains (you can also win a copy of The Boat Galley Cookbook, or Voyaging With Kids).

The giveaway ends really soon- like TOMORROW, Sunday October 25. So if you think you might even possibly be interested: go for it, enter here! Nothing to lose, and the world to gain.


1st Prize: A real life sailing trip + a free lifetime subscription to the Junior Captains program. (Weโ€™ll take them sailing with us for a day, or pay for them to go on a daysail on a charter boat in the location of their choice if it isnโ€™t feasible for them to sail wherever we are.)

2nd Prize: 1 year free subscription to the Junior Captains program + free copy of The Boat Galley Cookbook

3rd Prize: 3 months free subscription to the Junior Captains program + free copy of Voyaging with Kids

I want to bring around the question I asked above. What was the spark for you? A person a book, a movie, an experience? I’d love to hear about it- add to post comments, submit a blog contact form, or tell me on Totem’s Facebook page.


thanks to the other cruising bloggers who helped share Bo and Allie’s program: Brittany (Windtraveler), Carolyn (The Boat Galley), Genevieve (Necesse), Jody (Where the Coconuts Grow), and Jessica (Matt & Jessica). Grateful to be part of the tribe.


Links to Bo’s giveaway in this post are tagged, so Bo will know I sent him your way. If you sign up, he tips me a portion. But just get there however you want (the Junior Captains home page is, and pass it along! This is a cool way to share the world with kids.

This post is syndicated on Sailfeed.

11 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing, Behan. We’ve already signed up for and shared Sailing B+A’s offer as well. But your “spark” question set me to thinking. I’ve already chronicled our family’s motivations for exploring the world by boat ( but I never really gave much thought to the spark idea.

    It didn’t take me long to remember it. It wasn’t a spark to explore by sea so much as simply a spark of wanderlust, wilderness and adventure. I don’t remember my age or circumstances, but somewhere around 10 or 11 I got my hands on The Call of the Wild (Jack London). That was it. I soon after found a copy of the Unabridged Jack London and devoured everything he wrote, not to mention every nature and wildlife show I could find on TV. That led to an undergraduate degree in wildlife ecology and an obsession for adventure sports.

    Somewhere along the way, traditional life happened. I developed a taste stuff and creature comforts. I pursued an IT career to satisfy those tastes, and of course met my lovely wife and started our own family. Nothing wrong with that path, per se, but now with some age and maturity, we’re revisiting those existential questions and are now plotting a course to satisfy those dreams from our youth, and perhaps break the cycle of a traditional life for our kids. Time will tell.

    Fair winds.

    1. Great story Josh- and I love that you still have *that very book* (thanks for sharing that pic on our FB page!). It’s interesting how life gets in the way of following our dreams for a while… very similar with us. Here’s to breaking the cycle. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hi Behan
    Thanks for sharing Bo’s story, it was a good one that I quite enjoyed. I wonder if Tania knows the role she played in Bo’s life? She is a friend that I cross wakes with infrequently and will pass it on next time we are in the same bit of ocean.
    My “spark” probably started with an old TV show called “Adventures in Paradise” of which I never missed an episode. Of course, hunky and handsome Gardner McKay who played Captain Adam Troy was a girls dream in the early sixties so it was easy to get hooked. The show was supposed to take place in the South Pacific on the schooner “Tiki” …Captain Troy wore a carved tiki on a leather thong around his neck so I did, too ๐Ÿ™‚

    Eventually later during my flight attendant stint I took a vacation and went sailing on a Windjammer Cruise in the Caribbean. Even though many things went wrong from a fire onboard to delays due to Windjammer debt settlements, I had a ball and tried to get a job on one of the ships. That wasn’t very successful so I played fly girl for awhile longer until shoveling my car out of the snow one hard winter and decided I had enough. Packed my bags, hang glider and moved to Hawaii to fly and finally learn to sail in the warm! After telling someone how I wanted to sail around the world, after having hardly sailed around even Oahu, I received the advice to cross an ocean first. Made sense so I became delivery crew to Seattle on a 42′ boat short on any comforts (not even a dodger or self steering and a giant tiller!) but long on adventure. When I disembarked in Seattle I felt I could say with conviction that I wanted to see the world by sail. Since then I went on to acquire my 100 ton masters license and do deliveries, charters or whatever will keep water under me. My dream is still to sail the oceans of the world but in cruise mode with a great partner. One of these days, I hope….
    Since I am stone in love with the Stevens 47, I follow your adventures with great delight. I hope one day our paths will cross, you are my hero ????
    Happy Trails!
    Judy Hildebrand

    1. Judy- I just looked up that program on Wiki. HOW did I not know about it?! that *is* a hunky captain! I love your story – wow, 100 ton masters. I aspire to that but it’s a long road from where I am now. Wish we could compare notes in person… wo here’s to sharing an anchorage someday, and THANK YOU Judy! We love the Stevens 47 too. ๐Ÿ™‚ <3

  3. Oops, those were supposed to be exclamation marks and a smiley face after that last line, not question marks ๐Ÿ™‚ no question about it, you are my hero ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. Aloha!
    We were traveling and missed the deadline on Bo’s program but loved reading about it! As we make our way to the Southern Hemisphere next week to kick off our third year of travel with our three kids, we are pondering your “spark” question. Although we are not a cruising family, we are a traveling family and we don’t like to rule out any form of transportation, so you never know, right?

    My inspiration was Jaques Cousteau. The only channel we were allowed to watch, or even that really came in when we were little was PBS. I remember him saying something like when one man has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has to share it in a way that benefits others.I just remember thinking about he concept of an extraordinary life and for me that always included travel.

    This past summer when we were back in Seattle for the first time in a few years, we asked ourselves a lot of questions. My husbands office was still there and our kids fell back into friendships and routines quickly. We loved so much about our old life but the longing to wander was still there. A dear friend gave us “The Boy Who Sailed the World Alone” that you mentioned Jamie received as a child. We had never read the story which is shocking given my above mentioned PBS viewing time. Anyway, my 12 year old was transfixed for days as he turned the pages. When he closed the book, he looked up and said, “How can we not go? There is so much still to discover.” It was a monumental decision and one that we make repeatedly. We are so full of gratitude for our adventures together every day and also thankful for inspirational families like yours!


    1. I grew up in a similar situation- TV kept in a closed cabinet, and Jacques Cousteau’s program was one of the time times it came out for us as kids (that, and Mutual of Omaha’s Wildlife Kingdom!). My 11 year old just read Robin Lee Graham’s book for the first time and had the same reaction. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing Colleen!

  5. I love this! I actually have a project I created around this very same thing! My spark was “Dove” by Robin Lee Graham too. I made a film for a book report on it in 6th grade and have been determined to live like him ever since. I grew up day sailing in Southern California but always dreamed of sailing off to faraway places.

    When I met my husband I had no idea he grew up sailing too! Once I realized that my farfetched dream could actually become a reality with someone else, I was hooked. We set sail in 2000, our first passage from San Diego to Hiva Oa was 27 days at sea. It changed us.

    My project is about us wanting to take our kids now. We are struggling with finding a boat that suits our needs but the dream is alive and well and we are hoping to be leaving San Clemente, CA by next November 2016.

    Here is a link to my book project:

    Thanks for all your inspiration!! I love following your travels.

    1. Very cool Kristianne. I love that you have that report, and Robin Lee Graham for your spark!

      (Oh hey, Universe? Please send Kristianne and family that perfect boat so they can take off next year! Thank you.)

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