Récits de voyage Harmony Two Nautitech

 Best Sailling Route Around the World

Sailing around the world :

Step by step guide for the best catamaran itinerary

Sailing around the world on a catamaran is not a crazy dream: couples, families with three ou four children on board Nautitech 40 or 46 prove at this very moment that adventure is within reach.

Because this adventure does not present, far from it, the same level of sporting, physical and mental demand as the Vendée Globe.
Because it’s entirely possible, as many sailors have told, it is quite possible to sail around the world without encountering a single storm, not even the slightest gale.

Only thunderstorms or squalls, sometimes going with strong gusts of wind.

Best time to cast off on a sailboat, practical guide and tips

Obviously, when you look at a chart to find the best possible route around the world, sailing a catamaran, the first question that arises, in addition to the one of the budgets, is not so much of where to go, but when leaving for this journey of a lifetime. Which naturally leads to a prerequisite: how much time do we have?

Aboard their Nautitech 46 Open catamaran Kumbaya, the Dolley family was off for a three-year journey. As a matter of fact, they’ll spend four years to complete it. Of course, it’s still possible to race against the stopwatch, but as you’re not exactly on a Jules Verne Trophy or a world record, its better, with a sailboat, to plan with a wide margin, even if you’re not going on a cruise: three years is a reasonable amount of time, we’ll see why.


Routes and Winds: Understanding the Trade Winds for your Trip.


Another obvious observation: the best route around the world when sailing a catamaran, is the one where the wind always blows in the right direction, in other words the one where you’re heading. With following seas. With the wind and waves on the stern, catamarans are made for sailing an average of 160 to 200 nautical miles per 24 hours. Now, nature being well made, this route exists, it’s the one that follow the trade winds. In both hemispheres, Highs have the good idea of basking between the tropics and mid-latitudes.




In the Northern Hemisphere anticyclones, the winds rotate clockwise around the high-pressure bubbles. And in the opposite direction in the South. Thus, by following a course south of the Highs in the Northern Hemisphere and north of these in the Southern Hemisphere, you are sure to benefit from this wonderful find of Nature that is the trade winds, a real all mapped out itinerary.


As the Atlantic islands are located right in the trade winds of the Northern Hemisphere, and the Pacific and Indian ocean islands in the trade winds of the Southern Hemisphere, the would be circumnavigator tells himself that all he has to do is leave and let himself and his sailboat be carried away by the warm and steady breezes which the Anglo-Saxons call trade winds, the winds of commerce.


The importance of weather when planning


All that remains would be to be more specific about the most idyllic route around the world aboard a catamaran, for a trip that would be remembered for the rest of one’s life.

But it’s not that simple. Of course, tropical regions do not experience winter. But in summer, they suffer nasty disturbances called hurricanes, cyclones, or typhoons, depending on the part of the world where these dreadful whirlwinds are rampant.


And everyone knows that summer in the Northern Hemisphere is winter in the South, and vice versa. This leads the candidates around the world by catamaran to build a route that, much more than a choice of departure and arrival dates, simply avoids cyclone season in both hemispheres. Or at least one that rules out the possibility of crossing an ocean during this infamous period. You are now faced with the choice of dates, route, and destinations. It’s the moment when you dream… while keeping your feet steady on deck !

The ideal crossing of The Atlantic for a round-the-world sailing trip


From La Rochelle to the Canary Islands : Start of the trip

So, let’s leave La Rochelle and France in the summer. Our Nautitech is ready. The got his sea legs during short weekend sailings or brief vacation cruises. We set sail, heading to 240° to exit the Bay of Biscay without too much delay. It’s not that the Bay is hostile during summer, quite the opposite, even if a stormy low can sometimes make it look threatening. It’s that here, on occasions, the sea can be very unpleasant. The Atlantic swell bounces off the edges of this chamber pot and often produces a kind of messy chop that jostles the hulls of the boats and their crew.

When to cross the Atlantic with a sailboat ?

You might as well pick up your moment by looking at the swell maps. If, for the best reasons in the world, you can’t leave in July or August, don’t linger too long in early autumn. A departure at the end of September or beginning of October is obviously still possible, but be wary of the stopover in A Coruna, in the northwestern corner of the Iberian Peninsula. You can get stuck there for days on end with the big autumn lows.


It is therefore better to aim directly for Cascais, at the mouth of the Tagus, which can be reached in five days on average from La Rochelle. On the way, you pass Cape Finisterre, our own Cape Horn and, Portuguese trade winds filling your sails, you sail downwind to the Blue Country and to Lisbon, a stunning capital city that offers everything you need to prepare for the next stage of your itinerary, the Canary Islands.


In the summer, the 600 nautical miles crossing (allow four days or less) to Graciosa or Lanzarote let you get used to the open seas without risking weather traps, which is not always the case in autumn. The anchorage of Graciosa, at the end of the crossing, offers a delightful transition before heading to one of the three beautiful marinas of Lanzarote. There, you’ll be able to prepare for the next crossing.


From the Canary Islands to Le Marin marina in Martinique, transatlantic crossing

Better to cross the Atlantic in November, hoping that the trade winds will have settled in, which is not always the case in this season.


If the schedule is a bit tight and the route more flexible, you will embark directly on the crossing to the West Indies. The best thing to do with a Nautitech catamaran is to aim for the south of Martinique, a little less than 3 000 nautical miles away. This will take fifteen or twenty days on average. Dropping the anchor in Sainte Anne, at the end of the crossing, offers a magical transition. The boat is stationary, the water is still. Then, you can reach Le Marin marina, where the local Nautitech dealer will be able to check your catamaran and fix the possible small damages of the crossing.


Let’s sail to Dakar and explore a captivating Africa

On the other hand, if you have eternity ahead of you or almost, leaving Lanzarote for a crossing -sometimes not free from calms- of a thousand miles towards Cap Verde Islands or Dakar has several advantages. If you are aiming for Mindelo, in front of the captivating Santo Antao, in the northwest of the archipelago, you continue learning the open sea with a crossing roughly twice longer than the previous one. Then, you dive in the Cape Verdean melody, made of smiles, music and strong traditions.


Set sail for Dakar and the amazing country of Senegal and discover an incredibly vibrant Africa. And give yourself the opportunity to sail up the Sine Saloum River, a day’s journey from Dakar, where the shallow draft of the catamaran will allow wonderful explorations in the land of the lions of Teranga.


Leaving Africa for America

A new choice then opens up : either set a course 220° for the shortest possible Atlantic crossing – 1650 nautical miles towards Jacaré marina in Brazil, between Recife and Natal, with crossing the Doldrums and the equator, which can take up to two weeks on average, or sailing to French Guyana, which lengthens the crossing by about 600 nm (approximately four days) following course 255°, but gives access to a piece of Equatorial France, from the Salvation Islands to the Kourou site, with a little further north, the possibility of sailing up the river Maroni. There, the catamaran once again proves to be a perfect fit.


Note that you can choose this American tour on the way back, if you’ve decided to sail round South Africa rather than daring to sail the dangerous Red Sea and the Suez Canal… Also, bear in mind that Cayenne being located at 4°52 North, the weather there is equatorial, with very muggy, very humid, and boastful conditions.


The good news is, the next goal being to sail to the Caribbean, if the trade wind is lazy, a branch of the North Equatorial current leads northeast to the West Indies with up to two knots of speed.

From the West Indies to Panama, an essential stop on the journey

You sail up to the island of Grenada, a little-known pearl of the West Indies, that some consider the most beautiful of all. There, you can prepare your Caribbean Sea crossing toward Panama, at the southern tip of Central America. Before departing for this leg, you can moor in the Grenadines islands (which depend on Saint Vincent) then visit on the way the Dutch ABC islands (Aruba, Bonnaire, Curaçao), a striking change of scenery, and finally stop in beautiful Carthagena, Colombia, then the San Blas archipelago, reaching at last Shelter Bay marina, in front of Colon, in Panama, where you have all the time and resources you need to prepare the boat and crew to cross Panama Canal.

Best itinerary across the Pacific Ocean


Explore the mythical Galapagos, an iconic South American location

Once crossed this strange cargo ships elevator, you won’t hang around Panama City too much. It is preferable to prepare the crossing and the route to the Galapagos islands (consider the cumbersome and expensive administrative procedures mandatory to enter there) in the Perlas islands archipelago, for instance.


The 850 nm crossing to the mythical Galapagos (course 232°), a true wonderland off the coast of Ecuador, can be done very quickly, in less than a week, especially during the favourable period, from February to May. However, it is possible to encounter headwinds that force you to tack and therefore seriously lengthen the route in South American waters. Keep in mind that currents can also complicate this maiden crossing of Pacific waters.


Entry formalities into the archipelago, listed as World Heritage site, can only be done on the main island of San Cristobal. Don’t forget that, if you do not wish to make a paid visit to the archipelago, the duration of the ship’s stopover is limited to 72 hours. This is enough to secure food and water supply before undertaking the first major crossing of the Pacific, but maybe a shame, considering the richness of the magnificent islands.


Heading for a dream destination: Tahiti

The next leg to the Marquesas is about as long as the crossing between the Canary Islands and the West Indies (a little less than 3000 nm on course 258°). With a big difference: in the Pacific, the trade winds are generally less strong than in the Atlantic. Especially since you start from the equator on which the Galapagos are located, and you only sail down to 9° south. Which means the south-east trade winds are sometimes poorly established. Therefore, counting on an average of twenty days at sea for this leg is a reasonable, if not conservative, approach of the ideal route. 

Jacques Brel, the singer, showed that you could spend your life in Marquesas. The circumnavigators have other countries and other islands to visit. Nevertheless, many will be surprised to discover that since the beginning of navigation on the Pacific, offshore wanderers often meet from islands to islands. For the good reason that the alternation of seasons dictates the moments of crossing by sailing boat.


Thus, the best time to reach Tahiti from the Marquesas is from April to June. About 800 nm long, the route cuts through the Tuamotu archipelago, approximately three days crossing from Hiva Hoa (520 nm on course 235°). Long dreaded by navigators, the crossing of these atolls and reefs on which the great swell of the Pacific breaks has not become a formality with the GPS – the lagoon entry passes remain tricky to take by sailboat- but close to. Stuck aboard their catamaran Nautitech 40 Open by the Covid 19 lockdown, the Laudet family spent a month and a half in this paradise without experiencing a second of boredom…


Continue the round the world trip to the Fiji archipelago

Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora… the seduction of the French Polynesia islands is undeniable and hardly needs publicity. Once again, a round-the-world trip on a catamaran cannot be satisfied there with a simple Formula One pitstop. So, you have to allow yourself to stay there a few weeks, or even a few months, bearing in mind the rest of the trip and giving yourself a departure date. The best season to continue sailing to Fiji, New Caledonia, and possibly New Zealand (like Kumbaya) is from June to October. This means that it’s possible to reach the antipodes, roughly half the distance of the journey, in a year or a bit more. As long as you never hang around. But then again, the whole thing is not about breaking a record.


Speaking of distance, precisely, at this point of the journey, you realize that the Pacific is very big. The Fiji archipelago is located in the west of Tahiti, at 1800 nm, or two short weeks, even only ten days, of catamaran sailing. From there, you can sail down to New Caledonia (650 nm course 245°) and its legendary lagoon. Then set the course -for the first time since leaving France- to east of south (150° precisely) to reach Auckland, in New Zealand, at 950 nm. Needless to say, these archipelagos -Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand- deserve to spend weeks there.

Last leg of the Pacific crossing, bound for Australia

However, the issue deserves a careful review of the dates and routes of the continuation of the trip. Because the best itinerary for the rest of the round-the-world trip suggests sailing up to the Torres Strait, between Australia and New Guinea. Again, then, the best time to leave the Pacific and to cross Torres before making a stopover in Darwin, in the north of Australia, before heading to Bali and possibly Indonesia, is also from July to October. As the Torres Strait is nearly 2500 nm from Auckland, keep in mind it takes at least 15 days of sailing. And that the cyclones season begins in December, November is already estimated late in the season. But with all the time in the world aboard a sailboat, who would want to skip Sydney (1300 nm away, course 277°) and the Great Barrier Reef, hundreds of miles long (there are still 1500 nm to sail to reach the Strait)? In short, stopping in New Caledonia, New Zealand, Australia for several weeks or even months is not an option to be ruled out at this stage of the trip.

Best Route across the Indian Ocean


Choice of route by sailboat: North or South

Once at the gateway to the Indian Ocean, a new choice arises, potentially difficult. Is it better to aim for an exit through the North, in other words through the dangerous Gulf of Aden and the even more dangerous Red Sea, then the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea and all its treasures, or through the South, round South Africa and across the South and North Atlantic ?

The North route, a perilous journey


The North choice allows to visit fabulous destinations: Sri Lanka and Maldives islands, 2500 nm away from Bali (course 286°), then following the 250° course, Seychelles islands, 1200 nm from Maldives, before sailing north-westward towards the infamous Gulf of Aden, then sailing the 1200 very tricky miles of the Red Sea, with its very rough weather and political hazards. This last stretch is not trivial in terms of safety. Even though pirates’ attacks have been rarer these days, they have not disappeared. Crossing the Gulf of Aden in a convoy of boats imposes many constraints, specifically a mandatory engine speed. It’s best to collect as much information as possible before opting for this solution. Not to mention the new dangers of the Red Sea.


When crossing the Indian ocean through the North ?


Concerning the ideal season to sail across the northern part of the Indian Ocean, it runs in theory, from November to April.


Knowing that in the Seychelles, for example, the south-east trade winds blow from May to October while the prevailing winds blow from the northwest from December to April, you’re getting a little closer to the puzzle. In theory, at least, because off-seasons in the Seychelles -October and November then April and May- promise steady winds of 10 to 15 knots on average and good weather. But you must keep in mind that in the South, the hurricane season which can threaten Mauritius island, Réunion island and Madagascar begins around the 15th of December…


In short, which looked like an obvious and peaceful route into the Pacific, becomes a bit complicated in the Indian Ocean. This is the reason why it’s a good idea to plan to spread out your round-the-world trip over three years by sailboat is a good idea. Both for the catamaran and for the crew.


Choosing a crossing through the South 


You can then aim for Mauritius, Reunion Island, and then South Africa (with a possible detour to Madagascar) at the best possible moment, that means between June and October. From Bali, the route goes through Christmas Island, less than 600 nm away (course 260°) then the Cocos Keeling archipelago (roughly same distance and same course). Then, count 2500 nm to Mauritius (still the same course), and its neighbor Réunion island (100 nm away).


Cape town is now 2200 nm away. But it could be wise to plan an alternative route to Durban (1500 nm) and/or Port Elizabeth (1800 nm). This is arguably the most delicate moment of a round-the-world trip in a catamaran. South-African waters can be very rough: they are swept by powerful currents, such as the Aadmingulhas current, and strong contrasts in large air masses, between the hot African air and the freezing one coming from the Antarctica. That’s why wisdom commands you to take your time. That won’t be wasted time. Don’t hesitate to plan some stopovers. South Africa is one of the most beautiful and endearing countries in the world. There is no record to set, only beautiful memories to build.

From the island of Saint-Helena to La Rochelle, the perfect sailing back home across the Atlantic

Then, around the beginning of January, it will be time to get back on track and resume sailing across the South Atlantic. Saint-Helena is 1500 nm away from Cape town (course 310°), meaning a week or slightly more sailing a catamaran, with a steadier south-east trade winds blowing from the back of the boat. After the historical stopover in Saint-Helena, the logical route to avoid having to beat against the north-east trade winds -not a good idea with a catamaran- this route goes back to the Caribbean, with the option of new stopovers in Brazil -possibly sailing up the Amazon? a catamaran can do it- and in French Guyana. Then back to the West Indies, sailing up to Antigua and Barbuda, and in May, crossing towards the Azores. This route, following a 54° course, is 2100 nm up to Horta, in the Faial Island, is now preferred to the one which takes a detour through Bermuda, even if it means taking extra cans of Diesel on board the catamaran, to motor through the calms of the high which lay right in the middle of the path! On the other side of the high pressures, you’ll find again the westerly winds all the way to the Portuguese archipelago. There are then 1300 nm to sail to return to France, and La Rochelle at the beginning of summer, around the world completed, three years lived to the fullest and million stories to tell.