Circumnavigation: The Boat – Part I

Last week I announced the plan to begin a 5 year trip to circumnavigate the Earth by sailboat – and to make use of Google Earth in many ways. There are a lot of details behind this trip, so I’m sharing elements of the plan over the next few weeks in posts here at Google Earth Blog. I’m looking forward to telling you about some of the cool ways I will be using Google Earth to share our trip – but, now is a good time to introduce you to our new home and mode of transportation. Since the trip is for five years, we will be selling our house and our boat will be our main home starting sometime next year. We had previously owned a nice sailing catamaran and found it to be the ideal boat type for cruising and blue water travel. I should point out that sailing is an incredibly “green” mode of transportation. The primary means of movement is wind – you can’t get much greener than that!
We attended each of the Miami and Annapolis Boat Shows, did a lot of reading, and communicated with many boat owners during the last 4 years looking for the right boat. We ultimately settled on a St. Francis 50, by St. Francis Marine built in South Africa. South Africa has a reputation of building some of the best catamarans in the world. Our last boat was also built in South Africa. This boat has 4 queen-sized staterooms with a private head (bathroom) for each room (we plan to have friends and family visit along the way). There is a nice galley in one of the hulls; between the hulls there is a large salon area with a dining table suitable for up to eight people , a navigation station (and large desk area), and a TV entertainment center. There’s also an outside dining area suitable for eight, and the helm station with instruments all protected by a large “roof” area (called a bimini) giving protection from the sun and ocean spray – and there are solar panels on top (another important “green” element). The boat has two engines for times when you can’t sail, or while maneuvering in a harbor. And, it has a generator for charging the battery systems when solar power can’t keep up. See specifications including floor plans.
The boat we’ve just purchased was used by the builder at the Cape Town Boat Show last fall, and then at the Miami Boat Show in February (where I first saw it). Then, it was taken to the St. Francis Resort in the Bahamas where their sales representative lives (which is why we went to the Bahamas back in June). Here is a Google Earth file which shows where the boat was built, and the approximate route it took to get to the Bahamas along with the two boat shows. The boat had nearly 8000 nautical miles on it when we picked it up as a “new” boat. But, that’s often the case when a US citizen buys a South African boat. These boats are designed for long-distance travel. Here are some pictures of a St. Francis 50 from their web site (no, it doesn’t come with the cheerleaders). And, here are some pictures of it under sail.
The next part of this series will talk about going to pick up the boat and delivering it from the Bahamas to North Carolina where it will be kept part of the time while we are preparing the boat for the trip. Included will be GPS tracks, how Google Earth was used, pictures, and some other details about what happened during the trip.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. South African adventurer-explorer Mike Horn’s new expedition is starting something similar in October of this year as he sets out on one of the most remarkable voyages of exploration ever to be undertaken. It is a four year trans-navigation of our planet by sea and land.
    Mike Horn, together with his partners, are pulling together their knowledge and resources in an expedition called PANGAEA, a PAN Global Adventure for Environmental Action. SPOT Image will be supporting the expedition in with all its geospatial needs to include Google Earth/Google Map representation of the expedition.
    Mike Horn’s mission is to share his knowledge of 15 years of previous exploration experience with young adults, to create environmental awareness, find solutions and initiate projects that will help protect the planet for our future generations.
    At the heart of the expedition is ‘Pangaea’, a 35-metre sailing vessel which has been purpose-built to navigate all oceans and conditions from the arctic to the tropics. It is also equipped with cutting-edge communication and conferencing facilities to broadcast progress from the most remote corners of the planet. Pangaea will serve as a unique mobile platform to support environmental research and educational projects at its various ports of call around the world.
    At various stages throughout his journey, young adults from each continent, aged 13 to 20 will be invited to join Mike Horn on this amazing expedition as he walks, kayaks cycles, paraglides, skis and sails across all terrains including oceans, rivers, lakes, mountains, desert, jungle, tundra and ice fields. The YEP (Young Explorers Program) applications can now be made by all future young explorers, eager to join Mike Horn in this global environmental project through the website
    Educational specialists and local guides will join these young adults when they meet with Mike Horn on his route and share with them their knowledge about the flora and fauna, helping them understand the fragile and important interaction between man, nature and its elements.
    The Pangaea Expedition internet platform encourages global youth networking by providing an interactive community where all potential young explorers are asked to subscribe, can offer ideas, contribute sustainable solutions and participate in the environmental projects that will be focused upon during the YEP visits.
    The YEP projects are:
    Water Projects – emphasizing the need to study and monitor the oceans, their bio-diversity and the impact humans have on them. The projects will also engage in ocean clean-ups, debris removal and the cleaning of coastlines and water sources.
    Biodiversity Projects – studying, understanding and appreciating flora and fauna, and the importance of a balanced ecosystem, with roadmaps as to how to achieve these.
    Social Community Projects – aiding and educating local communities on optimizing water supplies in villages, improving sanitary and hygiene conditions and becoming self-sustainable from an environmental perspective.
    In order to achieve its goals, the Pangaea Expedition has partnered with leading innovators in various fields. As partner and main sponsor, Mercedes-Benz has underlined its commitment to sustainability by enabling the implementation of social and environmental projects with state-of–the art technologies. Officine Panerai, a long-time supporter of Mike Horn, is a presenting partner of the Pangaea Expedition, as is Geberit AG, a new Swiss partner to Mike Horn who is also proud to be part of this great enterprise. SPOT Image is the Pangaea Imaging partner.
    The Pangaea boat will be at the North Cove Marina in Manhattan on August 3rd through 7th as part of the expedition roadshow.
    The Pangaea Expedition begins on October the 18th when Mike Horn sets sail from Ushuaia in Argentina on the first stage of his epic journey to Antarctica, where he will trek to the South Pole. From there his route will take him through Australasia, China, Russia, to the North Pole, across Canada, North and South America, back to Ushuaia, and returning to Europe via Africa in 2012.

  2. damn, i wish you all the best for your undertaking! 5 years is a long time and if planned right you can see all continents, something only a few people on this planet are able to do;-)
    just please stay clear of somali coastal waters, i think up to 300 miles, since many have been kidnapped by modern day pirates, and those are not like the pirates of old, those are mercenaries that don’t give a damn…!!! many europeans and americans have fallen prey on their journeys passing by that coast…
    if you need a crew let me know;-)

  3. What a dream this would be for a boat lover like me! Not to mention that awesome boat that you will be traveling on.
    I lived on two different boats over the course of about 5 years. Marriage force me to be a land lover. I think I have her convinced to retire on one though. Still working on it.

  4. Great website and blog.
    I circumnavigated in 2006 aboard my 41′ ketch. I thought it was a great experience.

  5. Sailing is the green thing to do. Designers of large cargo ships are now exploring the possibilities. We will harness earth’s natural forms of energy in future. It is the only way to go.
    As for cruising, there is nothing more exhilerating than listening to the sounds of nature and not the thumping of a diesel engine

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.