Learning how to sail

baladin_cherbourg2It was Paul’s dream to live, travel, and explore the world by sailboat eventhough he had never sailed before in his entire life. Sundy has always wanted to travel around the world, but never imagined it would be by sailboat. She was apprehensive at first because she knows the ocean can be a foreboding beast. But, after gaining some experience she feels a lot more comfortable.

When we told our friends and family about our four year sailing journey, we received many different reactions. Some thought we were crazy and were talking nonsense like Paul’s father. Some were very nonchalant about it like Sundy’s mother, some were excited for us and want to share part of this journey with us, and some friends smiled and nodded as if we told them we are changing the colour of our appartment walls.

Sundy was in Kenya when they decided to do this trip. Paul was in Paris and the first thing he did was purchase the Le cours des Glénans (see Readings) and registered with the Les Glénans (a sailing school). However, he never took any courses because it was too expensive. Instead he bought a boat (remember he had never sailed before in his entire life) and wanted to learn by himself. He decided it would be cheaper to buy a small boat located close to Paris to practice with.

On the buy and sell website there were a lot of announcements for small boats “ready to sail” which cost less than 3000 euros. The next week-end Paul was the owner of Baladin, a Tequila built in 1974, located in Cherbourg, France! It was April 2011.

Paul’s good friend Thomas, an experienced sailor and rock climber, happily took Paul and taught him how to sail Baladin. It was a fantastic learning experience.

Thomas is a great teacher.

baladin_cherbourg_sundyAfter two lessons from Thomas, Sundy arrived in France and began learning how to sail alongside Paul. In Vancouver she had been sailing before…but only as a passanger. With Baladin they learned how to sail, first going on short trips close to the harbour, then with more experience they began to sail further and further. Saint-Vaast, Barfleur, Alderney Island, Anse Saint Martin.


We were recognized in the harbour because whatever the weather forecast we were out on the water sailing, almost every second weekend. The harbour of Cherbourg is really good because it’s well protected from the waves!


In October before winter, we decided to repaint and add a new coat of antifouling to Baladin. Our plan was to sell her and buy a larger more comfortable boat for our big trip.


We spent several weekends to clean, sand, and paint Baladin for her new owner. Paul’s father and stepmother Michèle helped us out a lot. It was great to have some extra hands.


looked amazing after her new paint job. Our neighbour in the harbour was so impressed he wanted to buy Baladin just after we put her back in the water!

We were happy to sell Baladin to our neighbor because he was on his boat almost every weekend. Our neighbor was really kind and loves the sea. We know Baladin will be well taken care of.


We will never forget our time with Baladin she taught us a lot. With Baladin we realized how complex it can be between a boat, the captain, and the sea. We have many great memories and we still talk about our adventures with Baladin to anyone who will listen.

It was time to find a larger, stronger, and more comfortable boat for our four year trip.


SSB Radio tests and experiments

paul_radio_antenaInstead of buying an expensive satellite phone, we’ve decided to keep in touch with others by HF radio. Transmitting data, like an email, is a lot more difficult with a HF radio than a satelite phone. Even the installation is complex because the radio requires the installation of a long wire from the top of the mast to the deck, an antenna tuner, a SSB radio (Deborah), a modem, and a computer (Albert).

After the installation is complete, you need good propagation conditions (especially if your are far away) to be able to send your data to a land station. The land station will then put your data on the internet…like magic! And is completly free if you have a ham radio license, otherwise you have to pay a commercial service of around $250USD a year. The commercial service is still a good alternative to a satellite phone.


Because it can be tricky to use the radio, Paul conducted a series of tests on land before installing Deborah on board. Paul build homemade antennas designed to be used indoors and outdoors.

The indoor antenna is a magnetic loop and it was incredible to see how this antenna was not deterred by any electrical noise around the appartment.


The outdoor antenna was gargantuan (for a fragile wooden homemade antenna). It was 10 meters high. Paul erected it in an open field just outside of Paris, and on one occasion the police stopped to ask him what the hell he was doing. Because the antenna was so large and delicate, it was difficult to adjust, physically move it for better reception…so it never worked.

Paul also built a simple outdoor antenna and was able to speak with a gentleman from Martinique.

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