Our first big adventure: circumnavigating the globe aboard Heretic, 2006-2010
The Story: Seth was just out college and Ellen only a junior–and neither of us had any offshore experience!–when we set sail in September 2006 aboard our leaky and decrepit, but beautiful, little cutter Heretic. We’d also only just met! The fact that a voyage like this had long been a dream for both of us drew us together. The realization of the dream was a lot harder than we even knew to expect, however, and the many human and physical obstacles we faced almost put an end to the voyage many times. We forged ahead, though, and sailed westward around the planet by June 2010. It was a life-changing experience and a feat we’re both really proud to have accomplished!
When we first set off as cocky kids we focused mainly on the end goal of sailing around the world, but it didn’t take long before we discovered the truth of the saying that the journey is the destination. This changed our voyage in many ways, and is one aspect of Ellen’s book. Since the full story is told in her book, these pages—2006: East Coast to 2010: Return to Maine—are devoted mostly to photographs.
2006: East Coast, USA. Steep learning curve as we learn to repair and restore Heretic and then sail down the coast from Maine with winter fast approaching.
2007: Bahamas – Panama Canal – Pacific Crossing – Polynesia – New Zealand. First foreign ports, Heretic breaks down in the middle of the Canal, we spend a month out of sight of land, Heretic receives more restoration while waiting out cyclone season in New Zealand.
2008: New Zealand – Fiji – Vanuatu – Australia. Heaving-to in a gale, snorkeling on coral reefs, befriending locals, and – as always – keeping up with the boat repairs.
2010: Rounding Cape of Good Hope – Atlantic Crossing – Caribbean – Maine, USA. The worst storm of the voyage, crossing the Atlantic the long way, enjoying the beautiful Caribbean, and return home – full circle – to Maine.
Oceans sailed in: 4, Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Southern.
Nautical Miles sailed: 32,000.
Number of Countries/Territories visited: 26
Longest Passage (miles): Atlantic crossing, Ascension Island to Barbados, 3200nM.
Longest Passage (days): Pacific crossing, Galapagos to Polynesia, 27 days.
Favorite Place: Hard to say! Polynesia? St Helena Island? Reunion Island?
Biggest Storm: Rounding Cape Agulhas, South Africa. 60-knot winds, 30ft seas.
Biggest Repair Job: Rebuilding part of the hull and re-doing the whole barrier coat in Darwin, Australia.
Heretic, which Seth sold upon completion of the circumnavigation, is a cutter-rigged sloop, built in 1968. Her design is modeled on Finisterre, the classic ocean racer produced by Sparkman & Stephens. She’s 38ft overall, 27ft on the waterline, and has an 11.5ft beam, tapering to slender bow and stern. She has a solid fiberglass hull, mahogany cabin, and traditional full keel coupled with a centerboard.
Restoration: Poor Heretic was in a rather sorry state when Seth bought her for the circumnavigation. So the two of us and a few friends restored her to a state fit for offshore sailing, learning to do so along the way. The projects included, among myriad smaller items, installing a entirely new rig–mast, boom, and running rigging–, new wiring and new plumbing throughout the boat, rebedding all the fasteners and hatches, and installing electronic and safety equipment including life raft, EPIRB, radar, and single sideband radio.
Over the course of the voyage the two of us fitted her with a new-to-us diesel engine, Aries wind vane, Air-X wind generator, 120 watts of solar panels, Engels refrigerator, new stove and sink, and a new barrier coat under the waterline. We also rebuilt a large area of her hull around the rudder post.
Why Heretic? We’ve always been suckers for classics… and she was affordable… undoubtedly because of all the work to be done!! But we didn’t know about any of that… being ignorant newbies! But her design was proven on the open ocean and her shoal draft meant we could poke into shallow places like the Bahamas and some Pacific islands. We also liked how primitive she was, completely lacking in any modern conveniences of any kind. No shower, no heat, no hot water, not even pressure water, no autopilot, no chartplotter, no electric anchor windlass, no oven, no outboard engine for the dinghy, etc. It was less to fix!
Why’d we sell Heretic? Upon completion of the circumnavigation, we thought we wouldn’t have time for sailing in our new landlocked life in Switzerland. But once a sailor always a sailor, so now we’ve managed to make time for our big voyage to the Arctic! (For which our current vessel is much better suited.)
All text and photographs © Ellen Massey Leonard and Seton Leonard, 2015, All Rights Reserved.