The keys to heaven

This last leg was not easy. Passing the Doldrums, on the equatorial belt, was more challenging than expected. We had to sail with little wind and an annoying cross wave that made Milanto roll heavily. All the weather reports we analysed were inaccurate: the Doldrums are treacherous and unpredictable. The air at the equator is heavy and dense with humidity. The bridge was totally wet at night and the squalls followed one another every few hours, spilling tons of water on us. We often took advantage of it to take a shower while saving the precious fresh water in our tanks. The equatorial shower was beautiful: we just got naked under the end of the boom, where the water conveyed by the mainsail copiously flowed as if under a waterfall, while the elements raged above Milanto as it slowly advanced on the waves. What a sense of freedom!

The front of the Doldrums on the prow of Milanto
The front of the Doldrums on the prow of Milanto

The wind arrived once we passed the third degree of latitude in the northern hemisphere. From that moment on we had a constant trade wind that gradually allowed us to go up off the coasts of Brazil, French Guiana, Suriname and Venezuela with a route to the windward islands of the Caribbean.

The Easter dove
The Easter dove

We arrived in sight of the island of Saint Lucia on Easter morning after two weeks of sailing and – incredible but true! – a white dove flew over Milanto. We took it as a blessing of this world tour that we had completed and a good omen for our next endeavours.

The arrival in Saint Lucia
The arrival in Saint Lucia

When we started our journey, Saint Lucia was full of life: open clubs, tourists, boats anchored and moored in the marina of Rodney Bay. Now along the island we did not see any boats, we saw few inhabitants on land, and no tourists. Here too there is a lockdown regime and all tourist facilities are closed. We took the opportunity to sail along the leeward coast visiting the most famous bays. Marigot Bay was completely deserted. We realised that we are living a unique experience that will never happen again.

Marigot Bay
Marigot Bay

When we started from here with World ARC in January 2020, the future was something that could still be planned. The stages of our journey were established, the routes plotted on the charts, the stops planned, the traveling companions who would join us were ready to leave. But all our plans were upset by the advent of the pandemic that surprised us as soon as we reached the Marquesas Islands. We were arriving from the Galapagos, after about three weeks of sailing, and needed to stock up on food and fuel to charge our batteries. The authorities of Hiva Oa had ordered us to stop at anchor in the bay. It was not possible for us to go ashore, all the borders of the Polynesian islands were closed. We spent 10 days in quarantine in front of the island along with a few other boats that, like us, were waiting for the developments of the events. The news that reached us from the land was increasingly worrying. The virus was spreading across the planet and all nations were progressively closing their borders. The organisation of World ARC could do very little and would soon have to suspend the rally. With the permission of the Polynesian authorities we managed to reach Tahiti. Most of the boats participating in the World ARC stopped there, the crews were repatriated, some decided to return to the United States, others to New Zealand, others sent their boats by ship to their original destinations, others pressed on and reached the Fiji Islands or as far as Indonesia. Milanto chose to continue sailing along the route it had set for itself, accompanied by the Sea Lover catamaran, determined to return to Mexico, its port of departure.

Our journey had become a real Odyssey. Many of the stops we had planned were closed to maritime traffic and in some cases we were forced to face long and demanding voyages. Australia – just to give an example – did not allow any stopover, not even for food supply alone; then from the Fiji Islands we had to reach Indonesia, through the Torres Strait, sailing for a long route of more than 3,000 miles. As well as for the Indian Ocean, which we crossed without stopping until RĂ©union Island. Every time we set sail or reached land we had to undergo a new Covid test. We took our first one in Raiatea, before departing from the Society Islands. Entry procedures everywhere were complicated and often the problems seemed really insurmountable.

Sunset in the Doldrums
Sunset in the Doldrums

If we had made a decision solely based on reason, it would have made sense to stop, secure the boat and take a return flight to Italy. The following year we could resume the world tour. But every time we took this hypothesis into consideration, we felt a feeling of restlessness within us and came back to believe that we should not abandon our dream. And so we moved on from one point to another. And our efforts paid off. Because we have sailed in seas of extraordinary beauty, often without sighting any other boats, landing on islands that seemed enchanted. In some cases it seemed to us that we were living an unreal experience, as if we were projected into the past or into a daydream.

But looking at all these months spent at sea, I clearly see that the most beautiful part of this long journey were the encounters with the people we met: the sailing community, the civil authorities, the inhabitants of the islands, the fishermen, the marine workers, the many friends with whom we lived unforgettable moments; they too pushed us to move forward, not to give up, to continue dreaming.

A fisherman from Saint Lucia
A fisherman from Saint Lucia

We believed that in a moment when the whole world closed like a hedgehog; nations closed borders and rejected boats that came from the sea, the fear of contagion dominating the life of each of us – making a journey like this represents a great hope for the future. It wasn’t easy. But it was possible. And it was especially so due to the help we received from the many people we met on the land and from all the travelling companions who accompanied us as long as they could. We carry the memory of each one in our hearts and we dedicate the conclusion of this world tour to all of them.

Finally, if it was possible, it would be to say thank you to the sea that allowed us to continue sailing, giving us wind and giving us the amazement of extraordinary landscapes, spectacular sunsets and moving sunrises every day. Because the sea has no confines, no borders, it does not belong to man, it belongs only to those who listen to it.

The Pitons of Saint Lucia
The Pitons of Saint Lucia

I write these notes raising my eyes to the distant outline of the Pitons of Saint Lucia, with a waning moon in the sky as Milanto skirts the island heading towards Rodney Bay. We are the only boat that left with the World ARC that has completed the round-the-world tour on schedule. The circle comes full circle, the dream has come true. The Polaris returns to shine on the horizon. We mainly sailed in equatorial and tropical latitudes, embracing the planet in its widest circumference, driven only by the force of the trade winds and currents, while the sun, planets and other stars orbited around us. Heaven is on this earth and each of us has the key: it is our common home, the planet we live on: so big, but also so small that it can be circumnavigated by two people on a small sailboat; so beautiful and wonderful, so mysterious, so welcoming, so fragile, and so in danger.