It’s a fantasy really; a fairy tale to think that a young couple could close out their lives in the “real world” and set out to sail around the world…might as well begin this story with “Once upon a time…”
Dress flags were hung from bow to stern, hoisted to draw attention to a high profile accomplishment by a low key couple. PAE held a dock party last Tuesday to commemorate the voyage of Nordhavn 43#18 “Kosmos” and to honor and recognize Eric and Christi Grab of San Diego, CA. Their goal, a well thought out dream of a circumnavigation, has been completed and we all turned out with smiles of admiration for the energetic young couple – quite an impressive feat!
Nearly 40 revelers came to thank and congratulate Eric and Christi for safely piloting “Kosmos” around the world. Their triumphant return to the Nordhavn commissioning docks in Dana Point, CA provided a great opportunity for the many PAE employees who had a hand in readying this sturdy trawler to welcome her back to her starting point, the place where she had arrived for commissioning in early 2007. For most, it was the first time in over two years that they had seen Eric and Christi and it was a rollicking, emotional high for everyone in attendance.
If you didn’t know any better you would think “Kosmos” was just getting ready to take off – she hardly shows any wear and tear – but the world map with the route drawn in indelible ink and the handful of world souvenirs, including a carved wooden club from Tonga and a colorful face mask from Costa Rica, provided a glimpse of some of the many discoveries Eric and Christi made along the way.
Up in the pilothouse, I did a double take while scanning the gauges – 5,222 hours on the main engine and 30,825 miles on the trip log were proof enough that “Kosmos” has been out for quite a sail. Eric and Christi have affectionately taken great care of their home at sea, and “Kosmos” in turn has provided them with a fantastic platform from which they literally toured the world. (I can’t help but mention that Kosmos arrived in Dana Point mid-day last Monday with a punch list of items to be addressed by PAE, and almost everything – minus the issues that required special parts orders – was taken care of before the party began the following afternoon!)
The Grabs departed from their hailing port of San Diego, CA on April 28th, 2007 heading west towards the Marquesas Islands and they “tied the knot” by returning home to San Diego on May 1st, 2009. Two people circling our planet in two years and two days – too much!
PAE president, Dan Streech, praised Eric and Christi for their tenacity and determination in accomplishing this truly remarkable achievement with relatively little fanfare. Speaking to the crowd on the dock, Dan observed, “Eric and Christi have made us all extremely proud. It has been incredibly gratifying to follow their progress and watch them blossom from relatively green cruisers into seasoned ocean crossing veterans who made the nearly impossible look almost routine. We believe that all of the Nordhavns we build have the capability to traverse wide bodies of water, but it takes a special character and mindset to embark upon such an extraordinary adventure and complete the voyage with such humility and poise.”
It’s not just turning on the engine and heading to the next waypoint, you also have to think about the logistical considerations involved to visit 30 countries in 24 months…customs and immigration bureaucracy, exchange rates and currencies, docking facilities, fuel bunkering, spare parts inventories and proper tools to effect repairs, email and phone communications, critical supply replenishment, charts and guides – there are a lot of aspects that require a master juggler to keep all of the balls in the air. Fuel, for example, ranged from 40 cents a liter in Egypt to $5.75 a gallon in the Maldives, and the Grabs estimate they burned through about 11,500 gallons.
Dan went on to emphasize how important the people who own the boat are to making a trip like this work. It is one thing to buy the right boat, but it is another to have the fortitude, problem solving and decision making skills needed. The ability to make good judgment calls almost daily has a lot to do with the ultimate success of any voyage. Continued Dan Streech, “This may not be the best admission to make from a marketing view, but on a long trip, I think the people on board are much more important than the boat. I do not believe just anyone can complete an expedition like this. I’m afraid that some people just don’t have enough common sense and planning skills to pull it off safely. For two decades we have been building Nordhavns that are ready for sea, but the human factor is actually a more important part of the equation. Eric and Christi clearly have demonstrated the strength and determination they both posses within - a trait so essential for success - and they now join an elite roll call of seafarers. Our heartfelt congratulations to you both!”
After thanking PAE’s owners, Dan Streech, Jim Leishman and Jeff Leishman, Eric Grab also singled out Nordhavn 43 project manager Pete Eunson and myself as being invaluable assets in guiding them along the way, and praised the entire PAE organization for helping them not only construct a great boat, but also assist with their planning throughout the whole process, including ordering, building, commissioning and training.
Eric and Christi each spoke to the crowd touching on many of the highlights of the trip and thanking all in attendance for the encouragement and support that PAE has always provided them. Eric chimed in, “We were told we were crazy and had numerous doubters who didn’t think we could do this. More than once when we arrived in a distant port we would meet the cruisers in the cruising community and they’d ask us if we were the crew and wanted to know where the owners of “Kosmos” were.” Not a complete surprise when you understand that Eric at 39 and Christi at 35 are probably the youngest couple ever to circumnavigate in a power boat. And, from what we know, they are now the second smallest production power boat to circumnavigate the world. (The Nordhavn 40 ATW boat is the smallest).
Their pace was perhaps a bit quicker than they would have preferred, but they met a lot of great, friendly people and stayed in some amazing places. They were careful with route planning, avoided statistically dangerous areas, and kept up a healthy, cautious attitude wherever they traveled. Mostly they met and saw folks in sailboats, and there was a common perception amongst the sailors that a power boat couldn’t do what “Kosmos” did. Eric and Christi had to dispel the notion that it can’t be done, which led to a little bit of trawler educating and “waving the Nordhavn flag”.
“We saw a lot of sailboats out there,” Eric stated. “We averaged about 6 knots on passage while the sailors on comparably sized boats traveled closer to 4 – 4.5 knots. When we arrived in port we were refreshed, had full water tanks, clean clothes and plenty of food so we could go ashore and explore the local culture. Many of our sailing friends had to find water, fuel, laundry facilities and restock provisions due to lack of proper cold storage. Plus they seemed to often have rigging work, sail repairs and engine troubles to contend with. Because they usually needed fuel at every port, sometimes they had to get it from unsavory sources, and they had problems caused by dirty fuel, as well as salt water corrosion issues. We could be choosier about where we fueled up and had no salt water touching our engine. I’m sure glad we selected a Nordhavn. I wouldn’t have wanted to have attempted this trip on a sailboat - I can’t imagine it would have been anywhere near as enjoyable. We met a lot of friendly cruisers all around the world and even though PAE has done a great job marketing their products, there are still a lot of people out there who don’t realize the advantages of traveling on a power boat!” Christi added “Our boat was solid and our planning and preparation paid off in ways we are only now truly realizing”
Eric and Christi have kept up a comprehensive blog on their website – http://kosmos.liveflux.net/blog which chronicles their adventures and provides an amazing insight in to how this extraordinary couple has enjoyed a two year sojourn to places on the map that many people have never heard of, let alone visited. Returning home to family and friends has been an adventure all its own without much time for the duo to catch their breath and re-acclimate themselves to life back in the States. In fact, before heading up the coast to Dana Point, they were in Greece attending the wedding of Christi’s brother. And Eric is wasting no time getting back to work at DivX, his computer software company. Meanwhile, Christi is culling the best stories from their trip with an eye towards publishing…there are certainly many great tales to share. “Kosmos” remains their home for now and future plans are being formulated.
Congratulations to Eric and Christi Grab. They are the first to take a Nordhavn 43 around the globe and join an exclusive club as the sixth Nordhavn to lap our world.
“Kosmos” may feel a bit restless tied up to her new dock. But the sun that sets along the horizon just outside the San Diego Bay has already been chased down once. Continuing my storybook reference I know they will live happily ever after, but instead of closing with “The End” I’d rather wrap this up with “To be continued…”