Ten years after his first cruising circumnavigation, Dan Bower is going again. He shares advice on essential preparation to sail around the world.

Personal preparations and sailing skills are still the biggest part of planning to sail around the world.  Knowledge and competence takes the stress out of situations, which is more fun for you and the crew.

That doesn’t mean you need to be a seasoned old salt, but you do need to invest time gaining some sea miles and learning about maintenance and systems (or take on some professional crew).

On 1 February 2024, Skyelark II nosed her bow through the Panama Canal’s final Miraflores Lock, and became the first yacht of this year’s World ARC fleet to enter the Pacific Ocean.

It’s now an entire decade since we first set off westward from the Caribbean to sail around the world. For myself and my wife, Em, the World ARC in 2014 was the culmination of six years of preparation and planning, working towards that dream – and the honeymoon we had promised ourselves.

Admittedly, our main hurdles were mainly financial—in our 20s, there was first the challenge of buying and equipping a cruising boat, then getting funding to how to sail around the world.

Our solution was to take paying guests, and as charter skippers (check out adventuresailing.com) we were not typical of the owners on such a rally.

The yacht sailing on relatively calm water. The boat has two sails

Photo: Edward Penagos/WCC

Back in 2014 we also wrote a series of articles and created accompanying videos (Bluewater Sailing Techniques) with Yachting World.

The series of instructional features and accompanying short videos on bluewater cruising focused on skippering skills and preparations.

They covered both the human elements on how to keep a happy ship, such as watchkeeping and provisioning, to the practical skills needed to keep both boat and crew safe, such as dealing with squalls, navigating tricky coral passes, and recovering a man overboard.

Before we headed back into the Pacific again, this time departing with the World ARC 2024, for both nostalgia and research purposes I revisited the Bluewater Techniques series to see how it holds up and whether it’s still relevant.

With the benefit of hindsight (Em and I now have 100,000 more miles under the keel and two more Pacific crossings), I wanted to see how much had changed and whether the challenges of sailing around the world were still the same.

On re-reading I’m pleased to see that the techniques we suggested then are still valid, and the articles are certainly worth looking at whether you are dreaming of – or indeed actually going – to sail around the world.

The videos perhaps aren’t as slick as the current proliferation of sailing YouTube channels, but they get the message across – and I am pleased to say my fish filleting skills have since improved!

Dan and Em smiling on deck, with flags behind. They are both wearing shorts and t-shirts.

Dan and Em Bower are sailing in the World ARC aboard their 62ft Oyster Skyelark II. Photo: James Mitchell/WCC

But, financial considerations aside, how much preparation is needed to sail around the world?

What are the obstacles to heading off around the world safely and enjoyably? And how can you plan to overcome them in 2024?

The following are my top considerations…

Human elements

Cruising is booming and the community reflects this influx of newcomers – it was great to see how many owners of boats that crossed the Atlantic in the most recent ARC were just a few years into sailing.

They went out, bought a boat, and they made it. The pandemic seems to have spurred people on to make the dream come true, blow the kids’ inheritance and get out and do it right now.

Four people looking happy on the yacht with the sun behind

Main: be sure you’re confident in your knowledge and competence, particularly in maintenance and systems. This is the start of the 2024/25 Oyster World Rally in Antigua. Photo: James Mitchell/WCC

Sailing the Pacific – and beyond – is more challenging, not so much the sailing itself but the lack of access to services, parts and help. You need to be self reliant and with today’s complex boats there are a lot of systems to learn.

This takes us on to communication – particularly Starlink, which has made cruising so much less remote.

Now you can get access to information to help solve problems as they occur: perhaps learning how to diagnose a problem with an electrical circuit on YouTube, making WhatsApp video calls with a supplier’s technical support department, or being able to have real time access to telemedicine in an emergency.

This is the first year Starlink has become truly widespread: almost all of the cruising boats I meet now have Starlink installed.

While it’s not a substitute for seamanship and knowing your boat, the ability to research problems or call for assistance does flatten the learning curve for the more technically shy.

A beautiful tropical landscape with a yacht and palm trees.

Advice from cruising communities might be a more reliable indication of safe anchorages than navigation software in poorly charted areas. Photo: Dan Bower

What Starlink has proven excellent for is sharing knowledge and managing difficulties at sea, and as a mass communication tool it’s made SSB obsolete.

Several ocean ‘incidents’ have been quickly coordinated by always-on-satellite systems that allow messenger apps to work all the time.

We all get out of our comfort zone sometimes, and I’m not condoning complacency, but when going offshore having access to information can matter.

For things like telemedicine I’d argue it’s almost negligent not to have quick, reliable internet connection available.

That said, like any emergency system you don’t have to use it and for us, and many other sailors, the joy of being offshore is the ability to disconnect from news and land life.

Gearing up to sail around the world

It feels like there are more newer boats, and bigger yachts plying the world’s oceans.

An explosion of performance catamarans, aluminium expedition yachts and luxury monohulls now swell the fleets of the sailing rallies.

Many of those new yachts have been specified for ocean sailing since they were built, and come fitted with essentials that 10 years ago were still ‘luxury’ items.

Watermakers, solar panels, hydro generators and lithium batteries that can run air conditioning units – life at sea is becoming a little closer to life at home.

When we changed from our classic 1982-built Skye 51 to a modern Oyster 62, Skyelark II, there were a lot of new systems to understand, particularly given the complexity of hydraulic sail handling and the size of the electrical systems required to cope with all of the loads.

In preparation to sail around the world we went through the recommended 10-year maintenance checks from Oyster which involve major overhauls of all systems.

This is quite straightforward as it’s well documented, and it’s a great time to get to know the boat and understand what you can do yourself or what needs specialist skills.

A shot of the boat speeding through the water from the deck. There's sun on the water.

Round the world cruising places a lot of strain on a boat – exhaustive maintenance checks will mitigate against failures. Photo: Ugo Fonolla/Oyster

These are exhaustive projects which need to be budgeted for, but we see pre-emptive maintenance as an investment.

Regardless of whether you bought new, or refitted an older yacht, you still need to invest time and effort into understanding the systems you have on board.

You need to ensure you have the spares and tools to fix things, or the ability and willingness to live without them, if and when things go wrong, rather than spend cruising time waiting for non-essentials to be repaired in remote places.

The rise in renewable energy sources, increased efficiencies, and the bigger areas available on larger yachts on which to put solar arrays, has made cruising without a genset more realistic.

Since smaller generators often produce the biggest headaches while cruising, reducing dependency on them does seem to be the way to go.

This has been coupled with a rise in gas-less galleys, of which I am a big fan, both for safety and reducing the hassle of sourcing LPG in different countries.

With all these systems you have to consider spare parts and, for the unfixable problems, redundancy – whether that’s having a second source of power, emergency food that can be ready without cooking, figuring out how to raise the anchor without the windlass, or towing the yacht into port with a tender.

All are likely scenarios that need thinking through in advance to sail around the world.

For example, our solution for losing the windlass is two chain hooks which can be attached to long lines and led to the primary winches.

Then it’s a game of leapfrog: one line is being pulled while the other one is being re-led forward ready to take over.

For the galley we carry a gas bottle and a barbecue, but also have an emergency two-burner hob, and we always keep a good supply of dinghy fuel in case of a main engine issue.

Article continues below…

Choosing the right sails

At the end of the a relatively benign ARC 2023, I called into the St Lucia sail loft and our old friend Kenny was as busy as ever – every inch of loft was covered in piles of downwind sails, while the lawn outside saw a procession of crews reloading socks and chutes.

This is all fairly standard with ocean sailing, but what was a surprise was the amount of damaged ‘white’ sails – mostly technical laminates.

These fabrics don’t do well in the trades, a combination of UV and the rigours of an ocean passage mean that there is every chance a new set won’t get you round the world or even halfway.

Someone sat in a St. Lucia sail loft with a bif sail on their lap

St Lucia sail loft is invariably kept busy. Photo: Elaine Bunting

If the boat comes with some nice sporty sails, keep them at home and they will be perfect when you get back ready to last you for years of local cruising or racing.

But for ocean sailing I would pop on a set of Dacrons: bullet proof and easier to fix on the way, and a lot cheaper than buying yourself the new laminates you will want when you get home.

Downwind sails are having a revolution. Bigger boats with smaller crews are not well suited to traditional symmetrical spinnakers and now there is a huge variety of downwind sail options on the market.

Asymmetric sails mainly use high torsion luffs and continuous line furlers which makes handling them much more straightforward.

These aren’t great for dead downwind sailing and to get the most out of them, you need to sail the angles. That means more miles, but hopefully worth it for the increased boat speed and less rolling motion.

For the more direct route the symmetric kite still wins, but as a compromise there has also been a proliferation of light weight twin headsails like Elvstrom’s Bluewater Runner or North’s TradeWind sail which allow for direct downwind sailing in lighter wind speeds than the traditional white sail route.

However, all of them come at a significant cost which may well be a factor in what you ultimately choose.

An aerial of a yacht sailing in the distance with blue skies

Photo: Yachting World

For me, it’s more a space consideration versus how often I really need light wind sails. With our masthead rig we can comfortably sail in 10 knots true so we no longer carry any light wind/coloured sails.

I’m not averse to an extra day at sea, but if the winds are light and I’m in a rush, the diesel will get me through at less pence per mile than a quiver of kites.

It’s worth thinking about what your priorities are.


Some areas of the world are notoriously badly charted and pilot information is woefully out of date. Fiji springs to mind – but it’s one of the most beautiful cruising grounds and well worth the effort to explore.

In 2014 we spent a lot of time using Google Earth images and visual navigation techniques.

We favoured having someone up in the rigging, with the sun at our backs, to con the boat through passages and into anchorages by looking out for coral heads and reefs.

A yacht sailing with a clear horizon and blue skies

Photo: Yachting World

Sending a crewmember aloft was a daily experience.

In many cases our chartplotters would show us as on land, or having sailed across reefs. I still have those GPS tracks and, having just downloaded the most up to date charts for those regions, I can tell you that they are no more accurate today.

Visual navigation is still key, as is real seamanship in only entering poorly charted areas in good light and favourable conditions.

To complement the old skills, there is now so much more cruiser shared knowledge. Navionics and MaxSea TimeZero are our choice of charts and both have user-updated information with anchorage reviews and potential hazards.

Many cruisers also detail their experiences on Facebook groups, and regularly post blogs and vlogs.

Cruising communities share waypoints and tracks that are known to be safe, and recent accounts can fill in the gaps in the out-of-date pilot books.

There are tutorials online on how to download or make your own charts from satellite imagery (see svocelot.com).

Get the research and planning stages out of the way while you’re at home – at the time you’re more likely to be searching for an elusive boat part, or you’ll want to be enjoying being where you are.

Cruising for a cause

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the boat preparations and updating your skillset that you forget you’re cruising the world to see it, not to just tick it off the list.

Time on passage can be spent planning for the time ashore, learning a bit about the area and considering what kind of things you want to do.

An underwater shot of a group of dolphins swimming close to the surface.

Photo: Tomasz Kunicki

Guidebooks can be useful, but reading other yacht blogs and experiences can really help.

More often, the people you meet when you sail around the world form the best experiences.

So it’s nice to think about what gifts and trading items you can carry on board to build those moments of connection and help the areas you’re visiting.

Alternatively you might consider partnering with one of the charities, such as sailaid.com, to take things that are needed to remote communities.

We find footballs for the kids and reading glasses for adults are in short supply and well received.

On a more global level there are various citizen science projects to get involved with, be it checking for plastics in the sea, taking water samples or even looking at cloud formations.

For many of these projects the field work is the most cost prohibitive aspect, and the results of studies may help protect the very things we are sailing halfway around the world to experience – the wildlife, culture and natural landscape that makes the Pacific so special.

Top upgrades

Ground Tackle

A decent anchor and at least 100m of chain.

Pacific anchorages can be deep and you need to feel you’re anchored securely enough to ride out a blow, and confident enough to leave the boat unattended for adventures ashore.

In addition to a spare anchor, a lightweight kedge is useful as a stern anchor in swelly or crowded anchorages.

Photo of the side of the deck with the buoys on the side and ropes.

Photo: Yachting World


Ideally powerful enough to plane in tradewind conditions, strong enough to survive contact with a rocky or reefy shoreline and light enough to pull clear of the surf and tide.

This can be a long way in places like the Las Perlas, or Australia.

I favour 2-stroke outboards for weight and because they can handle a dunking if the beach landing goes wrong.


There’s an immense joy in the simple pleasure of being anchored behind a reef, in a turquoise lagoon with just the sound of the waves and amazing stars for company (and the internet turned off!).

To get out and really enjoy and appreciate those surroundings, if you have the energy and space on board then it’s great to carry a few water toys.

Skyelark’s toy cupboard includes kit for kitesurfing and wing foiling, a Hookah (see below), drone, bikes and paddleboards.

Someone windsurfing with an island behind

Photo: Yachting World

Dive Kit

Used for maintenance or to free a fouled prop or stuck anchor. When things happen it’s best to be self sufficient.

We carry full scuba kit in case we have to go deep for a problem anchor (possibly caught on or wrapped around a coral head), but for routine maintenance we use our Hookah (my favourite toy for the Pacific).

This allows two people to dive down to around 10m with the air supplied from a surface compressor. It’s a crossover between diving and snorkelling and is perfect for seeing those sharks in atoll passes.

I like that you’re visible from the surface, and you can also leave a radio at the surface (see photo) in case you get into difficulty.

Someone in the sea with a snorkel on looking at the camera. The water is calm

Photo: Yachting World

Low friction loops

Cheap and easy ways to re-lead a line to avoid chafe without the bulk (and expense of) snatch blocks.

Chafe is the enemy (after sand) and some care in keeping the ropes running nicely can make a big difference.

For the Panama Canal putting lines through a low friction loop stops them from jumping out of the fairleads and catching on the guard wires.

We also carry Dyneema chafe protection sleeving that is easily whipped onto a line at the first sign of damage as a sacrificial layer.

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