By Viktor Berg
Gillingham resident Tom Dymond-Andrews met James Haggett in Year7 at Sexeys School, Bruton. Now the two 27-year-olds have sailed the Atlantic, crossed the Pacific and currently are navigating the Indian Ocean on their way to the infamous Red Sea.
Since August 14, 2016, funded by savings and selling articles to magazines, Tom and James have made the former naval vessel Nicholson 32’ their home.
“To be able to say at the end that we sailed around the world in a 10-metre boat is something we’ll be proud of,” Tom said.
From the moonlit cockpit of their boat Blue Eye off the coast of Sri Lanka, he recalled how it started: when James told him his grand plans to circumnavigate, there was no doubt in his mind. “As long as he wanted me, I was just simply going,” he said.
Tom had built an urge to explore the world working on a superyacht – his first contact with the nautical world – but he needed to learn how a sailboat worked, and, most importantly, how to sail.
He crewed on the Atlantic and he and James sailed Blue Eye into the English Channel every chance they had, and helped James’ father Nick bring his boat back from the Mediterranean in rough conditions.
“If we could get through that, we could get through almost anything,” Tom said.
For two and a half years Tom and James have shared the limited living space onboard the 10-metre boat, which frequently needs repairing.
They rarely spend more than a few days in one place, and unless they are out at sea, a typical day might involve snorkelling, hiking or Tom’s favourite: mingling with locals.
For longer trips, they have taken on family or friends found along the way.
Tom’s mother Helen and stepfather Pat have a map in their kitchen outlining the route. They stay in contact through a tracking device.
“We want to enjoy it with him, it’s a family trip,” Helen said.
Pat was on the boat on the, at times, unpleasant 19-day trip from Cape Verde to Antigua. “We had severe weather for four days, I thought: ‘now we’ve had it’, but I saw Tom and James control the boat which was reassuring,” Pat said.
Tom recalls lying awake in the comfort of home before departing, questioning why he was about to trade that for the open sea – but he has found it is mostly a benign place.
They have had no issues despite sailing through several “risky” areas with bad repute, such as parts of the Caribbean, Panama and Indonesia.
“The only place we’ve ever had an issue in is sleepy Dorset, where Blue Eye was broken into and burgled while in Poole Harbour,” he said.
Instead, they have generally been greeted with open arms in the less developed parts of the world.
“We’ve found, more often than not, the best way to get a feel for a place is to throw yourself into these ostensibly mundane parts of a community, and see how they work,” Tom said.
While in the South Pacific, the locals would send Tom and James away with coconuts, bananas and fish, for free.
“Those who have the least really do give the most. Our experiences with the poverty-stricken Fijians, Papua New Guineans and Indonesians of the world, have far surpassed that of the wealthy Europeans, Antipodeans and Malaysians, for example. This has brought us to the confusing realisations of, one, just how fortunate we are in terms of wealth, but two, how unfortunate we are to not be part of such a friendly culture.”
But the grass is not always greener on the other side. “We’ve seen the shipping around Singapore that stretches for as far as the eye can see: the thousands of fishing boats that are emptying the oceans across the world, the millions of pieces of plastic filling them back up, the acres of bleached coral and the deforestation in Borneo,” Tom stressed.
A more ‘local’ issue is that the challenge of circumnavigation is a great motivator for Tom, but it does not necessarily present itself daily, which has at times led to a sense of lack of purpose.
“I’ve learnt that even living out these dreamy adventures is no guarantee of a perpetual happiness, and I’m starting to realise you can’t rely on external conditions for that.”
A more pressing challenge lies ahead as the pair is en route to Eritrea from Sri Lanka, a 2,500-mile trip across the Indian Ocean – the longest passage so far with only two on board.
On their return home, scheduled for July, Tom plans to write a book on their adventures. “I think we will have proved something to ourselves, although whatever that is will probably be quite different from what we had in mind when we first set out!”
Follow their journey on their Sailing Blue Eye website, and track their progress, read blogs and watch videos.