Sailing off into the sunset around the world takes a lot of guts and is certainly not a decision one would take lightly. For the Garcias – Miguel (69) and Carmen (67) – from Valencia, however, it was more of a natural process that began more than 35 years ago when they bought their first boat – a 28ft cruiser. Although they were new to sailing then, their passion for adventure started early, enjoying family holidays spent on the boat with their son Pablo, cruising the Balearic Islands and other destinations like Sicily and Sardinia.
With sailing now very much part of their lives and the thrill of adventure becoming a bit of an addiction, they upgraded to a larger yacht – a Wauquiez 43 PS named NUTELLA – and cruised it extensively in the Mediterranean. The opportunities for cruising and adventure opened up further because they decided to move to Brazil. They took the boat with them and enjoyed cruising to new territories along the São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro coast. The experience they gained there put them in good stead for their next big adventure – their first global voyage. Miguel said it was well planned and they were excited to finally set off: “From Brazil, we sailed straight to the Caribbean, but probably the biggest experience for us first-timers was transiting the Panama Canal. We really felt we were on our way after that.”
BEFORE SETTING OFF ON THEIR NEW OYSTER 595 FOR THEIR THIRD CIRCUMNAVIGATION, MIGUEL AND CARMEN GARCIA SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCES AND TOP TIPS FOR BLUEWATER ADVENTURE.
But it wasn’t all playtime during that trip as they were both essentially still working, with Miguel running the family business producing specialist adhesives and glues. Having transited the Panama Canal and arriving in Bora Bora in French Polynesia, the Garcias realised that managing the business while sailing around the world was a bit of a juggling act: “It was work commitments that forced us to stop and therefore we only completed half the voyage on that occasion. It was the time of the financial crisis too, so there was no option for us other than to return and concentrate on work and sell the Wauquiez 43.”
With business forcing the Garcia family to relocate from Brazil to China, sailing was put on hold for a few years. Carmen, commenting on the situation, said: “It was a decision we had to go with and because it wasn’t feasible to sail in China, we stopped sailing for a while.”
In terms of sailing around the world, there was a certain amount of unfinished business to complete, so it wasn’t long before the Garcias were on the lookout for a new boat. Carmen, commenting on the next stage of their sailing adventures, said: “By the time we started sailing again in 2014, we were in the position to buy our first Oyster, a 56, and it was also more or less the time we both retired, so we then had plenty of free time.”
In choosing their next yacht, the Garcias said they were keen to buy a reliable, bluewater cruising yacht with a good pedigree, which is why they opted for an Oyster 56. “It was a super boat and ideal for what we needed and proved to be a great success because this was the boat we completed our first round-the-world voyage aboard, in 2017.”
Although they had notched up a huge amount of experience on their first global attempt, Miguel and Carmen decided to join the 2016/17 World Cruising Club World ARC rally, which turned out to be a good decision. Carmen added: “It was a new experience to sail with and enjoy sharing the company of others when visiting beautiful places in the world, like French Polynesia.”
Having finally circumnavigated the globe aboard their Oyster 56 and now hungry for further adventures, Miguel and Carmen were keen to upgrade once again, to a yacht with more space. Because they were effectively living on the boat full time and their plans included another round-the-world voyage, the Oyster 595 fitted the bill perfectly and it wasn’t long before the lines of 595/03 Aliena were on the drawing board.
One of the biggest decisions they made, however, was opting for a lifting keel. Miguel said that their extensive world cruising plans over the next few years will be enhanced immeasurably, enabling them to go anywhere: “Apart from the lifting keel and a few other preferences, Aliena is virtually a standard boat. That’s the beauty of Oyster as a company, they are exceptionally happy to accommodate ideas”.
“We opted for the centreboard version because we are often in beautiful places in the world but our draft restriction with a fixed keel means we are unable to explore further up rivers and creeks. In Brazil, in the early part of our third, and latest, circumnavigation [in October 2022], it has been amazing because we’ve seen so much more. I think this, together with our choice of North Sails and the hydraulic furling system, will transform our sailing experience this time round. The reason I like North Sails is that they apply their regatta advances in sail making to cruising, which means their cruising sails have regatta performance.”
Miguel’s excitement was heightened further when he explained his favourite gizmo on his new boat: “The decision to opt for the hydraulic furling system for the colour sails is one of the best decisions we made, and we would highly recommend it to everyone who wants to fly a cruise gennaker or Code Zero. It’s astounding! To remove one of these sails – approximately 300sq m – with the conventional, manual method, it would take 10-15 minutes of fighting with the sail, but with this system, it takes 15 seconds. Just press the button and away it goes.”
The Covid-19 pandemic meant the build of Aliena was extended by an additional six months, which led to an unfortunate delay in the start of their third world voyage. “The experience proved just how super-conscientious Oyster was in dealing with the pandemic's impact on the planned build schedule. The customer service and support were excellent and the company always kept us informed. I am still in contact with Luke Porter our Project Manager. He is a fantastic person and was very helpful all along the way. He understood what we wanted and did an excellent job on our boat,” Miguel added.
The Garcias took delivery of 595/03 Aliena in January 2022 and, although there was no rush, they were keen to set off as soon as they could with the idea to spend at least two to three years sailing around the world.
The Garcias said that because they wanted to finish this trip in Spain, they wanted to start there too, so to save time and to avoid having to sail across the Bay of Biscay from the UK at that time of year, they signed up a crew to deliver Aliena to Gibraltar. Miguel commented: “Naturally, it was an exciting day when the boat finally arrived from its journey from Ipswich to Gibraltar, but we were keen to set off around the world as soon as we finished our preparations.
“Our first stop was in Praia, Cape Verde, where our family joined us for ten days. When we left, we headed south to Fernando de Noronha. It is a beautiful island 200 miles from the Brazilian coast. Our next leg was to Recife, northeast of Brazil, then to Rio de Janeiro. We arrived there in June and stayed there for two months.”
While they were there, they signed up for the Recife to Fernando de Noronha regatta and surprised themselves. Carmen added: “We are solid cruising sailors and have no focus for racing but somehow, we did well. We finished third in our class and we won loads of trophies. For us, it was a case of not breaking anything and we were happy to cross the line half an hour late. It was lots of fun and a great start to our voyage.” After the regatta, they headed to Natal, the capital of Rio Grande do Norte, and enjoyed a couple of weeks anchored in the river in front of Natal Yacht Club before they set off on their next leg.
Miguel said they plan to arrive in the Caribbean at the start of the season; the first stop is Trinidad and Tobago: “Although the idea of our world cruise is to make it as slow and relaxing as we can, and we don’t know when we’ll be back in Valencia, maybe 2025 or 2026, we have a bit of an immediate target because we’ve signed up to do the World ARC 2023 (Pacific). The aim is to spend a bit of time in Trinidad and Tobago doing maintenance, before sailing north to St Lucia, where we’ll meet with the rest of the fleet in February 2023.”
Deciding to join others on the Pacific route of the World ARC was something that Carmen was keen on: “I really promoted the idea of the World ARC event because it is so much more exciting when you arrive at new destinations in company. The nature of the event means you get to know other like-minded sailors before you set off and it is nice to share the experience and enjoy the camaraderie. We did the World ARC in 2016/17 but decided not to do it again this time because for us it is too fast, so we opted for the Pacific event, which we are looking forward to.”
Miguel said although the rally finishes in Australia, they plan to visit Vanuatu – an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, about 1,000 miles east of Australia: “Once we bid farewell to the rest of the fleet, we then plan to sail to New Caledonia and then to New Zealand for Christmas next year . The plans from thereon in 2024, get a bit sketchy, but we’ll first head north-west to Australia, maybe return to Fiji, later likely Indonesia but I think it is then a case of deciding nearer the time.”
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With plenty of world cruising experience under their belts, Miguel had no hesitation explaining one of their favourite destinations, which is perfect for cruising: “For anyone contemplating a similar voyage, we would recommend spending as much time as possible in the Atolls in French Polynesia and the Society Islands. These are the most beautiful South Sea islands, with clear, vibrant blue water, white sand beaches and iconic Robinson Crusoe-style, palm tree-fringed islands in the middle of nowhere. The Marquesas Islands are also beautiful. Speaking of beautiful places to visit in the world, mention should also be made of Brazil and the fantastic tropical 365 islands near Rio, at Ilha Grande Bay. Although not necessarily the first place that springs to mind, this part of the tropics is perfect for cruising.”
Having set off on their third global voyage, and spent over six months on her already, Miguel describes the transition from the Oyster 56 to the Oyster 595. “It’s the granddaughter of the 56,” he said. “Technologically and design-wise, the Oyster 595 is a much more advanced boat, but it didn’t take long to settle in. Like the 56, this boat [the Oyster 595] is also very well designed and built and everything works well. We are very pleased with Aliena and are delighted with the specification we decided upon. Everything is just slightly more comfortable with more room, and our centreboard and choice of sails are perfect for our cruising adventures.” Oyster’s reputation as a luxury brand was naturally one reason they chose Oyster over other bluewater yachts of similar size, but it wasn’t just that said Miguel: “Having cruised extensively in our Oyster 56 and experienced strong winds and rough seas, I have no hesitation in saying you can count on an Oyster to take care of you. This is a characteristic of Oysters and the main reason why we chose Oyster in the first place.”
Carmen added: “She gives me so much confidence. In fact, I can honestly say I never have any fears or concerns of crossing the oceans because she is a strong boat and performs exceptionally well in the wildest of conditions.”
Miguel and Carmen were keen to offer some advice to others contemplating bluewater adventures: “We are now on our third round-the-world cruise and we recommend it wholeheartedly because it is a fantastic experience, but I always say, you don’t need to go so far to have the same sort of enjoyment. "Whatever you do, whether it be a world voyage or a shorter cruise, enjoy the moment and know that when you are sailing, you will see more of the world because being on a boat allows you to go to places that would otherwise be impossible to visit.”
The timescale to fully enjoy a round-the-world voyage depends on the time available, but in Miguel’s opinion, you need 15-16 months minimum - ideally more. Miguel was also eager to point out that choosing a proper, sensible route is important: “We are often asked if sailing around the world is dangerous. It’s a tricky question to answer but I always say that if you choose the proper route and minimise the risks it’s not so dangerous. “For first-timers, we highly recommend joining the Oyster World Rally because the organisers do all the planning and they take you on the safest routes, whilst still visiting the most beautiful destinations imaginable.”
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