What you need to know about sailing around the world

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It is possible to sail around the world, but it is a very big commitment and there are many things to plan.

Have you ever thought of sailing around the world? Imagine going back to the old days of sailing where there is nothing for hundreds of miles but you and your boat. For some it is a prison but for many it is freedom and paradise. Some determined people sail around the world – but what does that entail? How to sail around the world and how long does it take?

Sailing is very different from the past. In the past, some of the myths and legends that sailors had can be very surprising to people today. Of course, one could simply be less ambitious and sail the Mediterranean – like from Greece to Croatia.


How long does it take to sail around the world?

It’s a bit complicated because it depends on what you plan to do and in which boat. Is the goal simply to go around the world as quickly as possible or to take your time for all this? According to Improvesailing.com, for most people it takes 3-5 years (it’s much faster to fly) – it’s at a fairly leisurely pace that allows for some sightseeing along the way.

But it can be done much faster if all one wants to do is sail around the world. The world record is 40 days on a trimaran. If you want to sail non-stop, it usually takes about 100 days.

  • 40 days: World record on a trimaran
  • 100 days: Hard time required non-stop
  • 1 to 2 years: Express – Fast browsing with a few regular short pauses
  • 3.5 years: Average for some tours
  • 3 to 5 years: Typical duration


Thus, the time is not fixed and one can sail as much or as little as one wants. But it would be a shame to sail around the world and not stop on dozens of isolated islands in the Pacific where few set foot. Some people take up to 10 years to do this.

Here are some resources for planning around the world:

Related: Ready to Cruise America’s Mightiest River? What to expect while sailing in Mississippi

What you need to know about border crossings by sailboat

Crossing the border by boat is essentially like entering a country by plane or car. Only it is also longer and more complicated because customs are likely to check his boat upside down. According to Followtheboat.com, here are some things to be aware of:


  • Flag: Upon touching territorial waters, hoist the courtesy flag for that country and the yellow quarantine flag below (an international requirement for all ships)’
  • Official port of entry: Can only be entered and exited through official entry points
  • Stay on the boat: Once in territorial waters, stay on the boat until you reach an official port
  • Advanced warning: Some countries want advance warning of arrival (some don’t) – Japan, for example, is very strict about this

There are of course a lot of documents one will need to enter a country – and make sure you always have plenty of photocopies of everything. The paperwork includes:


  • Passport: With a valid visa if required
  • Certificates: Boat registration certificate and port authorization certificate
  • Assurance: Boat insurance policy – normally including third party liability and sometimes personal liability
  • Pictures: Passport size photos of everyone on board (in Indonesia also a photo of the boat)
  • Other: “Free Practice”, ship’s stamp (in some countries), and MMSI number

There are a lot of things to consider – remember that some countries like New Zealand and Australia have extremely strict customs when it comes to biosecurity. Many things like woodwork and foodstuffs can be refused entry.

Think carefully before bringing a pet – it can be difficult, if not impossible, to bring a pet to Australia, New Zealand and the UK.


Related: How Dare You Bring An Apple! ? Welcome to Australian Customs

A few other things to consider

There are many things to consider if one is considering embarking on an expedition like this. Some of them consider its purpose – why do we want to do it? Money is always a consideration.

You have to plan the route and plan the seasons – don’t want to be stuck in the doldrums or in a hurricane. Boats are all different – and different boats have different hull speeds.

The size of the boat also has an impact on everything. The smaller it is, the more often it will be necessary to stop for supplies and the larger boats are more stable and can normally withstand harsher weather conditions.

It takes a lot of preparation to plan a trip (as well as experience and navigation skills). Expect to have to stop for breakdowns and repairs – these tend to add a lot of travel time.

Next: Can traveling by freighter be free? (and other useful travel tips)

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