“In 2012 I hiked the Appalachian Trail. Out there I felt like I was finally living, and I think that’s when I realized this dream I always had in the back of my mind was entirely possible.” Earth’s oceans are a vast, untamed landscape. Those who sail it are brave. Those who sail it alone are fearless.
Here in Michigan, we are preparing for the winter ahead. The days on the water are postponed until next spring. But for Jerome Rand, his adventure is just beginning. In late September he launched his Westsail 32 from Gloucester, Massachusetts, bidding farewell to land for the next nine months. What lies ahead of him is a journey very few could imagine: a solo, non-stop circumnavigation around the world.
Rand left with enough supplies to last him nine months, including a lot of books and podcasts. He will not step on land for roughly 270 days. His boat, named ‘Mighty Sparrow’, will be his only companion on the journey. Right now they are somewhere sailing south toward South Africa together, with nothing but the open ocean in front of them.
The freshwater lakes of Michigan taught Rand to solo sail. He spent entire summers on Walloon Lake, returning each day exhausted, sunburned, but with the biggest smile on his face. It was those Northern Michigan days which evolved his love for sailing and equipped him with the confidence to become one of the most accomplished sailors in the world.
In those times he and his sixteen foot sailboat would be the only two on the lake during windy days. “Those moments were pure magic”, says Rand. From the time he was a young adult, he read books about those who completed the adventure. The idea weighed on his mind for many years before one long hike from Georgia to Maine proved that happiness and success don’t come from normal gains of society. Instead, they come from grand adventures.
Those who have completed this endurance sail around the globe usually do so with the best technology on the market, along with sponsors and professional navigators. Nearly all who have sailed it leave from England. Rand is one of the first sailors to embark on this journey leaving from North America’s East Coast, which includes many more potential threats like hurricanes.
“There is no monetary or societal gain for a trip like this. But the personal growth it allows is beyond anything society can offer.”
His travel companion, Mighty Sparrow, is a humble boat, providing no extra technology beyond the essentials. He will steer by positioning himself according to the sun. Modern technology equips most sailors with a motor and a GPS helm. For Rand, he will count on the direction of the wind to steer him through the nights.
For some, it is hard to understand why Rand would embark on a such a risky journey. What reward comes with such risk? But he never questioned if the outcome would be worth it. But still, he says it won’t be easy. “I’ll miss pizza, bread, and cold beer”, says Rand, “but not more than just being able to sit down and have a conversation with someone at the end of the day.”
To embark on a journey of such magnitude, one must be strong both mentally and physically. But to Rand, there is no better place to experience such solitude. “Sometimes a lot of people don’t realize how beautiful it can be out on the open ocean. Pictures and videos don’t do it justice.” But those beautiful moments are what Rand says will be the hardest. “When we see something that beautiful, we want someone there to share it with.”
Rand and Mighty Sparrow are making their way south where they will pass through the five Great Capes. From South Africa, he will sail through the untamed and unpredictable waters of the Southern Ocean. Passing south of Australia and New Zealand before sailing across the South Pacific and around Cape Horn at the end of Patagonia in South America. What lies ahead of them are beautiful moments and incredible hardships. The roaring ocean is no playground, but Rand understands it and feels at home on the open water.
Without the crisp, clean, and magical lakes of Northern Michigan Rand’s sail would only be a dream. For the Great Lakes and Inner Lakes are more than just beauty, they are an open landscape of possibilites, goals, and adventure.
From the day he began sailing he knew he would never stop. What he never knew is that the journey held in his heart for decades would one day be set free. Far from the shores of the Great Lakes, Rand is on his adventure, sailing east for a continuous sunrise among the roaring waters.
To keep up with his journey, search for and join Rand’s Facebook page “Sailing Into Oblivion” which will post updates through the coming months.
By Shalee Blackmer