By Matt McGregor
Staff Writer 

Trip Included Pirates, Swimming With Whales – Brevard NC

 

February 27, 2017

One stop-off point for the couple was Egypt.Courtesy photos)

Chuck and Lynn Evans were in Cannes, France, walking along a pier looking at boats when they decided that someday they would sail around the world.

It was 1973. Chuck was in the Navy, and Lynn had been traveling Europe, meeting Chuck when he came to port.

As a child, Lynn painted pictures of sailboats, and Chuck had made sailboat models.

It wasn't until 2004, when Chuck retired and turned 57 and Lynn was 60, that they decided it was time.

Lynn said she told Chuck, 'It's now or never.'

So, that's what they did.

Chuck, now 70, and Lynn, now 73, sold their house in Augusta, Ga., where Chuck was a stock broker for Bank of America, bought a sailboat and sailed 40,000 miles around the world, leaving from Miami in January of 2006, and returning to the states in January of 2013, where they eventually found their way to Brevard.

"We talked about it for years," Lynn said. "People said, 'Oh, you are really not going to sell everything and buy a sailboat are you?' But we had a dream."

Long before they began their journey, they studied the general principles of sailing, practicing on their catamaran, and later a 25-foot sailboat that they practiced on in a lake in Atlanta, Ga.

They attended "how-to" seminars on everything from anchoring, using a generator, radio systems and even a course on how to repair the diesel engine.

"We knew how to sail from sailing smaller boats, and Chuck had navigation experience from the Navy," Lynn said. "But when you have a large sailboat, there are systems you must learn, like water makers, radios, generators, and you have to become proficient in them."

They chose their boat, a 40-foot sailboat called the Island Packet they later named the "Cyan," carefully, even going to the factory where the Island Packet was made.

"We found that they were sturdier, and if you are going to go out into the deep ocean, do you want a tank or a Volkswagen? We wanted a tank," Lynn said.

For a year and a half, they sailed up and down the Intercostal Waterway along the East Coast.

"It's basically a big ditch," Chuck said. "It's inside the coastline of the U.S. all the way from Florida to New York, and you can't stay in one place longer than a month or you have to pay a property tax."

During this time, they said they learned how to live on the boat.

"You are basically a self-sustaining environment, making your own water, electricity, using solar panels, maneuvering the wind, and it's a whole eco-system unto itself," Lynn said.

They said they learned some harsh realities of the ocean that almost changed their minds during the trial run, dodging three hurricanes, one of them being Hurricane Jeanne in 2004, but they didn't let it deter them, and they eventually took off from South Florida.

Using his globe as a guide, Chuck traced his finger along their itinerary.

"We transited the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and then down through the Lesser Antilles," Chuck said. "This took about eight months to do this. Then, we spent the storm season in Venezuela at the Port of la Cruz, which was south of the hurricane zone."

From there, he said, they traversed the Panama Canal and entered into what he said was the longest passage of their whole trip, from the Galapagos Islands to French Polynesia, spending that entire storm season, from March until November, sailing the South Pacific, across the islands of French Polynesia, such as Somoa and Tonga, where they got to swim with humpback whales.

"Tonga is one of the few places left where you can swim with whales," Lynn said. "It's an unbelievable experience. We are like mosquitoes to them."

Chuck said the whales are a population of a few hundred from Antarctica who spend their winters in Tonga, and that Tonga's tourism industry is based largely in part on making it possible for tourists to swim with them.

From Tonga, Chuck said they went to New Zealand, where they spent seven months, and at the beginning of the next sailing season they went North from New Caledonia to Fiji. They spent the storm season of 2008 in Australia.

"At the end of the storm season of 2008, which is from November to May, we navigated around Cape York Peninsula, across the Gulf of Carpentaria, then west to Indonesia," Chuck explained.

They spent five weeks in Singapore and then stayed on an island off Malaysia called Langkawi.

They then went around Southeast Asia for two months and spent five weeks in China.

"I'm still scratching my head how we did that," Chuck said. "It took a lot of nerve not speaking Chinese. Luckily, a lot of people there spoke English."

Later on their journey, they spent time in Thailand, where they learned to ride and steer elephants at an elephant refuge.

"I had always wanted to learn to drive an elephant, so I wanted to go to this place I had been reading about in the jungles of Northern Thailand called a mahout school," Chuck said. "It's where you learn to guide them, speaking to them in Thai."

Lynn said you get to learn all about the elephant, and she even got an award for the most outstanding mahout trainee.

"We were at a debriefing on what people did right and what people did wrong," Chuck said. "So, we are sitting around in this shack, and they announced that Lynn got the recognition for that class."

From Thailand, they set sail for the Andaman Islands, south around Sri Lanka, and into the Gulf of Aden, where Somali Pirates had taken boats.

"This was around February of 2011," Lynn said. "There was a boat 24 hours in front of us that was taken, and a boat 24 hours behind us that was taken, and for once I heard Chuck say, 'I'm getting scared.'"

Lynn said they were friends with the people who were kidnapped off their yacht, called "The Quest," and killed.

"At the time, we didn't think it would be dangerous to travel into this area, but it was," Lynn said.

At one point, Lynn said they had devised a plan for Lynn to use one radio frequency, pretending to be a panicked boat owner calling the Navy for help, and Chuck pretended to be a Naval officer, claiming he had received the call and would be there in a few minutes.

More than likely, Lynn said, the passengers of the approaching boat would hear this on their radio and retreat.

"We had heard this working for other sailors, so this became our only defense," Lynn said. "We rehearsed it several times!"

They said they happened to make it to Yemen as the civil war began there, and Lynn said she heard gunshots in the distance, and when they went to Egypt, they could not go to Cairo because of the Egyptian revolution of 2011.

After Egypt, Chuck said they sailed for Israel, where they spent six weeks. They then went to Turkey, Greece and Croatia.

They settled in Italy for seven months.

"In Italy, everybody said they had a cousin in New Jersey," Lynn said.

From Italy, Lynn said they went west, stopping again in the Mediterranean, then along the coast of Spain, Rabat in Morocco, then from Rabat to the Canary Islands to Cape Verde.

"You have to do it this way because of the Atlantic winds, so you go south into the prevailing westerlys, then downwind across the Atlantic," Chuck said. "About November of 2012 we jumped off from the Canary Islands to Antigua in the West Indies and closed the circle, as they call it," Chuck said. "We had traveled 40,000 miles, returning to Florida in January of 2013, almost seven years."

Knidos, an ancient Greek city, was another destination for the couple.

Chuck said, in that entire experience he noticed no one treated them with any disrespect because they were Americans.

"You hear that sometimes, that Americans are the laughing stock of the world, but we didn't find that to be true at all," Chuck said. "People treated us with respect."

Lynn said she is grateful she got to know people from other cultures and live among them.

"Anytime we got to know someone from another country, it was an honor," she said. "It was an honor that they took their time to get to know us. But it's an effort, and it didn't happen often."

Lynn said one of the reasons she likes telling this story is to encourage people to live their dream.

"I want our story to be an inspiration, especially to younger people," Lynn said. "If you have something you want to do, don't be afraid."

 
 

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