Plotting a Course to Sail Around the World Safely

What is the ideal sailing route for a circumnavigation of the earth? The possibilities are almost endless. With so many places to sail and potential routes across the oceans, it can seem difficult at first to choose the best way around. Fortunately, with a little knowledge about world sailing routes, you will soon discover that planning your route around the world can be both fun and interesting. 

After developing an understanding of the prevailing winds and currents of the world, as well as the behavior of predominant weather systems, it will quickly become apparent why almost all cruising sailors stick to just a handful of popular routes. The easiest and safest routes around the world are west to east through the tropical regions. The further you sail from the equator, the more challenging your circumnavigation is likely to be. 

The route that you ultimately plan to sail around the world will depend very much on the time of year of your departure, the amount of time you have set aside for your world cruise, and the types of places that you wish to see on the way. 

Looking for blue lagoons and lonely beaches? A trade wind loop of the globe via the Panama Canal and the Mediterranean may be your best bet. Looking for the challenge of a lifetime in the most remote waters on the planet? A Southern Ocean circumnavigation may be the route for you. Want to experience a combination of the two? Maybe a westabout circumnavigation via Cape Horn, the Torres Strait, and South Africa will offer you both extreme challenge and reward. 

For many aspiring circumnavigators, the long list of potential ports of call can seem overwhelming. Should you visit Bali or Cocos Keeling Island? The Canaries or Brazil? Greece or Madagascar? To plan your ultimate world cruise route, keep reading…

In this guide, we will cover everything that you need to know to plot a course across the seas, and around the world!

Choosing the Right Season

The most significant factor when planning your departure is the weather patterns and seasons that affect the regions that you will be sailing through during the voyage. For the majority of cruisers, that means timing your schedule to avoid the tropical storm seasons in the trade wind belts of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. 

Tropical Storms

Strong tropical storms have different names depending on the part of the world where they develop, but they all have the same consequences for any sailor who gets stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whenever a tropical depression develops during hurricane season, it has the potential to develop into a much stronger storm.

The depression can become dangerous to cruising vessels when the sustained wind speed reaches 40 knots, and it becomes a hurricane when the sustained wind speed reaches 64 knots. In the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific Oceans, such storms are called hurricanes, in the South and West Pacific they are called typhoons, and in the Indian Ocean they are called cyclones. 

There are also areas in the tropics such as the South Atlantic and West Coast of South America where hurricanes don’t traditionally form – although that may change as the climate warms and tropical storms continue to push the boundaries of where they are “supposed” to develop. In the Western Pacific, typhoons can form at any time of the year, but they tend to be most common in the summer and early fall. In the Northern Indian Ocean, Cyclones can form at any time but they are most prevalent between May and November. 

Areas affected by tropical storms have a cruising season when it’s safe to sail, and a hurricane when you should either sail outside the hurricane zone or be safely moored in a “hurricane hole” – a well-protected harbor that can provide enough security to safely ride out any storm. 

Some cruisers choose to continue to sail during hurricane season, but they are taking a very serious risk. Many overconfident sailors have been lost when they were trying to reach a safe port in the nick of time. 

Regardless of your willingness to take on risks, hurricane season can be an unpleasant time of year to sail even if no serious storms hit. It tends to be hot and humid, with lots of rain and thunderstorms and light, unpredictable winds. Sometimes the worst part of hurricane season isn’t the storms themselves, but the heat and humidity. 

In most regions, the hurricane season lasts about five months of the year. After seven months of non-stop cruising, the storm season offers a good opportunity for world cruisers to give sailing a rest and use the time to focus on earning a few extra dollars, catching up on boat work, touring inland, or flying home to visit friends and family. 

Tropical Storm Seasons by Region

The established tropical storm seasons are listed below:

North Atlantic, Caribbean, Central America, and the Northeast Pacific: June to November

South Pacific and Eastern Australia: November to May

Northwest Pacific: Can occur year-round, most storms occurring June to October

Northern Indian Ocean: Can occur year-round, most storms occurring May to November

Southern Indian Ocean: November to April

If your circumnavigation takes you beyond the tropical regions, you will have other seasonal weather conditions to take into account as you plot your course around the world.

Seasonal Weather Conditions Outside of the Tropics

For sailors departing from Northern Europe, you will want to cross the Bay of Biscay before the end of September, and leave the Canary Islands for the Caribbean by December or January. Leaving Europe too late could mean dealing with some real nasty weather right at the start of your world voyage. 

The same applies to departure timing from the East Coast of North America, where a late departure can also mean encountering a late autumn gale. Unlike the Eastern Atlantic, however, there is still a risk of hurricanes until the end of November, so it’s best to take your time sailing south along the Atlantic seaboard, and time your arrival in the Caribbean to coincide with the start of the cruising season in late fall.

If you are planning to depart from the West Coast of North America, the strategy is a little more complicated. The best time to sail down the west coast (May to September) is too early to sail down Baja. Most Cascadian sailors headed for the tropics end up leaving Puget Sound or British Columbia in the summer and then find a secure place in California to moor up for a few months until it’s safe to continue the cruise along the coast of Mexico in late November. Then they enjoy exploring the Sea of Cortez or the Mexican Riviera until April, when it’s time to head for the South Pacific. 

If your cruise takes you to the high latitudes at some point, you will want to be sure to venture there only in the summer season. For the northern hemisphere, that means limiting your cruising in these areas to May to September for the far north and November to March for the southern hemisphere. Getting stuck outside of these cruising windows will almost guarantee an encounter with severe weather. 

El Nino and La Nina

Another consideration for any trade wind circumnavigator is El Nino and La Nina. El Nino is a phenomenon when a large area of warm water forms in the Eastern Pacific which drastically alters the normal conditions for the region. El Nino typically occurs between every two to every seven years.

During an El Nino year, the usually reliable trade winds can die out or even reverse direction, making it extremely difficult to sail across the Pacific. If you end up crossing the Pacific during an El Nino year, you will need to be prepared for long periods of motoring or fighting headwinds, and a lot of rain, humidity, and thunderstorms. 

The opposite of El Nino is La Nina – when the same part of the Pacific is affected by extreme cooling. Both El Nino and La Nina have significant effects on weather around the world, causing everything from droughts to floods, and impacting the severity of the hurricane season in the Atlantic. 

How to Plan a Successful Route

Each sailor chooses to plan their world cruise in their own way. Some sailors try to plan every passage down to the mile and each stopover down to the day, attempting to keep a strict route and time frame all the way around the world. Others go wherever the wind blows or wherever they feel like from one moment to the next, with no idea where they will go in the next year, or even the next day. 

I like to sail somewhere between the two. I plan my voyages with a rough schedule and with a plan of where I want to visit, but I know from experience that it’s difficult to keep a strict schedule while sailing. I like to have a plan for the places that I would like to visit, but if the conditions make that difficult or impossible, I may adjust my route accordingly to account for acts of weather or god.

Understanding Primary Sailing Routes

The first thing you need to do to plan a sailing route around the world is to develop an understanding of the primary sailing routes around the world. A good place to start is by reading this introduction to Offshore Sailing Routes then, to take a deeper dive, you should pick up a copy of Jimmy Cornell’s “World Cruising Routes”. This book covers almost every route along the cruiser’s sailing highways of the world and many more that are off the beaten path. It’s almost considered a Bible among offshore sailors and it should definitely be part of your onboard ship’s library. 

In order to understand where it’s possible to sail, you need to know about the world’s prevailing winds and currents. Generally speaking, in the tropical latitudes, the prevailing wind direction makes it easiest to sail east to west, and in the high latitudes, it’s easier to sail west to east. At the equator, and in the areas between the trade winds and the high latitude westerlies, there are areas of variable winds. The poles are generally areas with high pressure and light winds. Winds and currents also sometimes bend to contour to large landmasses. 

With a general understanding of the prevailing winds and currents of the world, you can easily see why sailors choose the routes that they do. For example, sailors headed from California to Hawaii usually sail south as soon as they leave the coast, in order to get into the stronger trade winds further south. However, nobody keeps south when sailing from Hawaii back to California. They would be fighting the wind the entire passage. Instead, they sail north or northwest all the way up to 40 degrees north (or more). Here, they ride the westerly wind all the way back to the coast, then take the northerlies back down the coast to California. 

Plan Your World Sailing Route

Once you have a solid understanding of the primary sailing routes, you can plan your own world cruise. The first major decision is the general route that you will sail. You will need to decide how you will pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific and which route you will choose to sail around the African continent (see the sections “Crossing the Gap” and “Pirate Waters or the Cape of Storms?” below).

The most popular sailing route around the world today is via Panama and South Africa, with a growing minority choosing to sail through the Suez Canal instead of around the Cape of Good Hope. A handful of adventurous sailors sail around the world by way of the Five Great Capes or through the Northwest Passage. 

After you have chosen your general route around the world, the next step is to decide where you will moor your vessel during each hurricane season. This will be your target for the end of each year during your voyage. For example, a sailor departing from Florida in November who plans to spend the South Pacific cyclone season in New Zealand has one year to make it through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific. You can then make smaller targets inside of this segment of the voyage, such as arriving in Panama by January or making it to the Marquesas by the end of April. 

Crossing the Gap – Transiting the Panama Canal With Your Boat

One of the first decisions that you should make when planning your voyage around the world is how to transit between the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.

Today, there are three proven routes: the Panama Canal, the Northwest Passage, and Cape Horn. When looking at the challenges involved with the three options, for most sailors the choice is obvious.

The Panama Canal

Today, 99% of cruising circumnavigators choose to transit the Panama Canal to get between the two oceans. The reason for this is simple: sailing through the Panama Canal is a whole heck of a lot easier than either of the alternatives. It’s also the only route that lies entirely in the tropical region.

Prior to the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, any vessel that wanted to enter the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic had to either sail around the bottom of South America – either through the dangerous and current swept Strait of Magellan or around the storm swept Cape Horn – or turn east and sail all the way around the Southern Ocean. Most boats chose to fight their way around Cape Horn, which was literally the end of the known world. Many boats never made it and over 10,000 sailors died trying. 

Any ship that sailed around the dreaded Cape from east to west was also fighting against the strongest prevailing winds and currents in the world. Sometimes it took more than a month to make just 100 NM of progress, and more than one ship gave up and sailed back home with their tail between their legs. 

For centuries, explorers tried to find an alternate route to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Every sailor knew the discovery of this new passage would unlock the door to untold riches and fame. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until 1906, just a few years before the Panama Canal was opened, that Roald Amundsen first navigated the infamous Northwest Passage. But even then, it was so choked with ice and other dangers that it took his team years to make it through. It wasn’t until recently that rising temperatures and melting polar ice made the Northwest Passage a feasible route for vessels to travel from one ocean to the other. 

Today, all you need to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific is a few thousand dollars, a half dozen cruising and vessel inspection permits, and a lot of patience. It’s not difficult to get your boat through the Panama Canal, especially if you have gone through other, smaller canals before. But it’s become big business in Central America, and the fees go up almost every year. 

In 1970, a small cruising sailboat could transit the canal for less than the price of an expensive dinner in Panama City, today it costs small vessels between $2,500 and $5,000, plus marina fees and other expenses. Some large freighters pay more than $250,000 to get through. The fees and bureaucracy alone sometimes entices me to give Cape Horn serious consideration, but most cruisers still choose to take “the cut”, despite the exorbitant prices. 

Most small vessels take two days to transit the canal. On the first day, you go through the first set of locks, from sea level up to Lake Gatun. Lake Gatun was formed when a dam was built across the Chagres River, flooding the jungle. You spend one night tied to a buoy near the first set of locks, then get up early the next morning and spend most of the following day motoring across Lake Gatun. At the west end of the Lake, you pass through the second set of locks, and by nightfall you are tied up at the Balboa Yacht Club on the Pacific Ocean. It’s a simple yet often frustrating process, made more exciting by the strong current and massive cargo vessels that must be avoided. 

The only mariners who get a free transit are the resident crocodiles, who are often seen transiting the locks.

Pirate Waters or the Cape of Storms? – Choosing Your Route Around Africa

Yes, the vast majority of cruising circumnavigators choose to cross the Americas via the Panama Canal, but opinions vary about the best route around the continent of Africa. Every circumnavigator will have to choose their own way around the dark continent, and it can sometimes be a difficult decision. 

The choice is between sailing around South Africa and the “Cape of Storms” or sailing through the Red Sea and Suez Canal, which is notorious for its history as a hotspot for pirates. Both routes offer great challenges and rewards. 

Sailing Around South Africa

Those who brave the Cape of Good Hope are rewarded with the opportunity to go on an African Safari and the beauty of Cape Town, one of the most scenic cities in the world. Sailors who transit the Suez Canal can explore the Pyramids of Giza and cruise the Greek Islands. After rounding South Africa, voyagers who cross the South Atlantic can enjoy a cruise along the beautiful coast of Brazil, while those who brave the Red Sea can take an overland tour of Europe. 

Let’s look at each route separately. For many years, most cruising vessels chose the route around the Cape of Good Hope, because the threat of piracy in the North Indian Ocean became too great a threat.


In the early 2000s, numerous yachties were kidnapped and held for ransom by Somalian Pirates and many of them were ultimately murdered when the money failed to come through. The ransom was often in excess of ten million US dollars, which few governments were willing to pay, and the families didn’t have anywhere near that much money.

At the height of their influence, Somalian pirates extended their range thousands of miles beyond the coast of Somalia, reaching as far as the Seychelles, Madagascar, and even India. 

Fortunately, in recent years the threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean has greatly diminished. Thanks to a combination of military interference and alternative means of employment for Somalian fishermen, piracy along the coast of Somalia has been reduced to the point where many sailors are again returning to the old sailing route through the Suez Canal. (Of course, this could change at any time, so it’s always imperative to do your research before sailing through any known piracy hotspot.) 

Of course, Somalia isn’t the only area along the Red Sea route that is known for pirate activity, and any sailor passing through Indonesia, the Strait of Malacca, the Philippines, or along the coast of Yemen must understand the potential dangers of sailing through these areas. 

Sailors passing from the Pacific Ocean to the Med usually enter the Indian Ocean via Southeast Asia. From Australia or Micronesia, it’s a beautiful and exciting cruise through Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia to Thailand, where most circumnavigators rest before crossing the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. 

Between Thailand and the Red Sea, there are a few fascinating potential ports of call. Most cruisers sail directly from Phuket to Sri Lanka or the Maldives, although more adventurous captains may choose to make a detour to India or Myanmar before completing the passage. From Galle, Sri Lanka, it’s a short passage to Oman, the last safe port of call before the long and challenging voyage up the Red Sea. 

Alternative Routes

Sailors headed for South Africa have an entirely different choice of destinations to choose from. From Darwin Australia, cruisers either make their way to Bali or directly to Cocos Keeling, an Indian Ocean outpost of Australia. From Cocos Keeling, the most direct route is by way of Mauritius and Reunion Islands, before rounding the southern end of Madagascar and making your way to Durban, the gateway to Africa. 

An alternate route is to sail from Cocos Keeling to the Chagos Archipelago, a group of deserted Islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean where sailors have been playing Robinson Crusoe for many decades. From Chagos, you can choose to either sail directly to the north coast of Madagascar, or make a detour to the Seychelles first, another mid-ocean paradise. From Madagascar, it’s a short but often stormy sail down the Mozambique Channel to South Africa. 

The southern Indian Ocean between Cocos Keeling and the Cape of Good Hope is notorious for strong winds and sharp seas, even in the trade wind areas. Many circumnavigators encounter their most difficult weather during this stage of the voyage. Prior to deciding your route around Africa, make sure to give the pros and cons of each route serious consideration. Unfortunately, there is no way around it, you must either choose to sail through stormy waters or areas of political instability. 

Choosing the Ports of Call

One of the most exciting parts of planning your world cruise is choosing the ports of call. The best part of sailing around the world is that you will actually get the opportunity to visit exotic destinations all over the world that most people only dream about and few can afford to visit. 

To choose the target ports of call, take a look at your general route for each year of the voyage. Look at all the potential stopovers that are close enough to your route to be logical stopovers and do a little research on each place. The best way to learn about your potential stopovers is to read the sailing literature by other cruisers who have visited these places in the past. One excellent online resource is, which is a kind of Wikipedia for cruising destinations, written and updated by sailors who have actually visited these places. 

It’s best to get most of your information from cruising based sources rather than those that were written with land-based travelers in mind. The reason for this is because some places that are excellent destinations for sailors are expensive and difficult to travel to overland, and some places that make great stopovers for tourists make poor cruising destinations. 

For example, French Polynesia is a cruisers paradise, with thousands of unspoiled islands and enough anchorages to keep a sailor busy for a lifetime. But it is a very expensive and difficult place to visit by plane. On the other hand, Easter Island is a fascinating and reasonably priced destination for jet-setting travelers to visit but has no secure harbor for cruising yachts and a notoriously poor anchorage that has caused many vessels to be lost over the years. 


While deciding which places to visit and where to pass by, there are many elements to consider. A deciding factor for many sailors is the cost. One clear example is the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are a beautiful and fascinating destination, with incredible natural beauty and an abundance of unique animals and plants only found in the islands. For centuries, sailors have considered the Galapagos as an ideal stepping stone into the Pacific Ocean, either after rounding Cape Horn or transiting the Panama Canal. 

But by the end of the 20th century, the Galapagos Islands became so burdened by bureaucracy and exorbitant fees that many sailors now choose to pass by this natural paradise. As recently as 2019, each yacht had to pay up to $5,000 USD just to clear into the islands, plus $200 per day, per crew, as well as hire a certified ranger to accompany the vessel at all times. Of course, all these costs are before accounting for the normal cruising expenses like food, water, fuel, moorage, laundry, and paying for transportation around the islands while venturing inland. 

The cost has become so extreme that many cruisers find it cheaper and more enjoyable to leave their vessel in Panama or mainland Ecuador and fly out to the Galapagos to join a commercial cruise. 

Obtaining a Visa and Cruising Permit

Another consideration while choosing ports of call to include in your itinerary is the ease of obtaining visas and cruising permits. Before clearing into a country, world cruisers must check to see if it’s necessary to get a visa prior to arrival – just like any other world traveler. But they must also obtain a cruising permit to be allowed to use the port facilities and cruise around the country. In some places, it is a simple matter of checking in with the port captain, handing over your vessel documentation, and paying a fee. In other places, however, getting permission to cruise on a private vessel can require weeks or even months of work.

One clear example is Russia, where a small number of foreign vessels have been allowed to visit ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, but obtaining permission to cruise here has always been exceedingly difficult. It’s a shame, for Russia is a beautiful country with thousands of miles of fascinating coastlines practically begging for sailors to explore. 

Don’t forget to research the extent of freedom that your cruising permit will afford you once you are checked in to each destination. In some places such as the USA and Canada, once you have cleared in you can sail and anchor just about anywhere you like – with some limitations, of course. 

Other countries, such as Cuba or Chile, require cruisers to present authorities with a pre-planned itinerary down to the day with every place they plan to visit, check-in and out of every port, and report their position to authorities every day. For cruisers that are used to freedom of movement on the water and “cruising where the wind blows”, this kind of control can be a major turn-off. 

Make sure to consider the nationality of each crew member when researching visa requirements. If you sail with an international crew, they may have totally different requirements to enter a port of call. 

Cruisers who sail with pets onboard will also want to take this into account when planning their route. If you sail with a pet it’s best not to visit Australia or New Zealand, both of which have extremely strict quarantine restrictions for any animals entering from foreign soil. 

Security in Port

Another factor to consider is the moorage security in port. Some countries have literally thousands of options for moorage, ranging from proper marinas to well-protected anchorages for sailors to choose from. But some destinations, like Pitcairn Island or Tristan de Cunha, for example, have no secure port and only one poor anchorage for visiting cruisers to use. Many islands like this are fascinating places to visit, but unless you have enough crew to keep anchor watch while others explore ashore, it’s extremely risky to visit such places by yacht. 

Moor for Free

With this in mind, I chose to sail past the Pacific coast of Guatemala without stopping – as there was only one decent port and no free options for moorage. Mexico, on the other hand, offered thousands of places where I could drop the hook and plenty of islands, bays, and protected waterways to explore, so I have spent many months cruising there. 

Other cruisers like to seek out countries where they can leave the boat and explore inland. Sailing nonstop for years at a time can get old for even the most dedicated sailor, so it’s often nice to take a break and go “up the country”. Some excellent destinations for inland exploration include Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Kenya, India, the USA, Canada, Mexico, and all over Europe. 

Finally, those who work as they cruise will want to consider how difficult it is to find employment in the places where they plan to stay for any length of time. Many sailors find it easy to get a job in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, while it may be extremely difficult to find work in many third-world countries where there are already far too many unemployed workers. 

Adhering to Your Schedule

For many cruisers, one of the greatest challenges during their voyage around the world is keeping to their planned schedule. There are just too many wonderful places where one could easily spend more time and too many new friends in exotic ports who it’s difficult to say goodbye to. 

Some cruisers end up extending their trip by many years, and some even spend decades slowly meandering their way around the world, stopping as they please and working along the way in order to keep sailing. But others have too many commitments back home to be able to afford to extend their schedule. In this section, we will discuss tactics that you can use to keep to your voyage timeframe. 

One thing you can do to make it easier to keep to your planned schedule is to account for unexpected delays in your original plan. I like to plan to finish each year’s cruise at least one month before the onset of hurricane season, that way if there are any delays I still have plenty of time to make it to a secure port before it’s too dangerous to sail. 

Understand the Time Table

Every experienced sailor knows that it can be almost impossible to keep to a tight schedule at sea. There are just too many variables and unexpected occurrences to know exactly when you will arrive at any particular port.

One passage may be faster than expected if you are lucky enough to encounter ideal sailing conditions all the way. Another passage may take weeks longer than expected after the engine dies during a spell of light winds or the rig is dismasted in a squall. 

The distance that you are going to need to sail each year will depend on how much time you have allotted for your voyage. For example, for a three-year circumnavigation, you will need to sail approximately 10,000 NM each year during the cruising window before the onset of storm season.

A sailor departing from the East Coast of the United States would need to sail through the Panama Canal and across the South Pacific to New Zealand the first year, then Across the Indian Ocean to South Africa on the second year, and finally across the South Atlantic to complete the circumnavigation by the end of the third year of the voyage. 

A cruiser who sails the same route but on a five year schedule would end up spending significantly more time in port and have to sail a much shorter distance each year. For most cruisers, three years gives enough time to enjoy the destinations, but still keep a sense of making progress throughout the voyage. Some experienced sailors on faster vessels can sail the same route in two years or even one year, but it means passing by many interesting ports of call and spending a lot of time at sea without rest. 

Some sailors use the “time bank” technique to keep to their schedule on long voyages. For example, you may set a reasonable daily passage time of, say, 100 NM per day, and plan to stay in the port of arrival for two weeks. For a 2000 NM passage, you would target arrival in 20 days.

If you were lucky enough to sail faster than expected and arrive early, you would get a few extra days to stay in port. On the other hand, if you had a slow passage, you would cut the layover in port by a few days to make up for lost time at sea. Either way, you depart from the port of call on the same date.  

While on a world cruise, it’s important to balance between trying to see everything and taking the time to really get to know the places that you visit. Some cruisers want to visit every possible country along the route and end up being so rushed at every port of call that they barely take the time to enjoy the places where they went.

Others choose to sail past many fascinating destinations so that they can really take the time to enjoy the places that they do visit. They may have missed some nice islands, but they return home with memories of months spent learning the lifestyle and customs of friends in faraway countries. 

I fall between the two. I do want to see it all, but I realize that on a small boat with a limited amount of time allotted for the voyage, it’s simply not possible to visit every country in the world. So I sample some countries – hoping to return again for a longer visit in the future – and I linger a little bit longer in some places that I feel deserve more time to properly experience. I also try to take advantage of hurricane season to spend more time in one place and I make sure to plan accordingly so that I am somewhere I really want to get to know for that season. 

Regardless of whether you plan to circumnavigate in one year or ten, it makes sense to spend more time in places that you find pleasant and to speed up departure from ports that are better left in your wake. I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy the vast majority of my stopovers in my thirteen years of offshore sailing, but there are a handful of ports that didn’t break my heart to leave behind. Some places, like Colon, Panama were only on the itinerary out of the necessity to transit the Panama Canal. Others, like Los Angeles, were simply an ending point for a delivery job. 

Sometimes a port is planned as a stopover simply because it’s the only place around to obtain provisions and fuel for a reasonable rate. Pago Pago harbor in American Samoa is a classic example. It’s not usually considered a pleasant destination on its own, but in the very expensive South Pacific, it’s perhaps the only place where you can buy food for prices that rival those in the mainland USA. Sailors flock there to reprovision and then get out asap. That way the boxes can get checked and valuable cruising time can be spent in paradise instead of a busy industrial harbor. 

Sample World Cruise Itinerary

Below, we have put together a sample itinerary for a classic three-year voyage around the world, departing from the East Coast of North America, and passing through the Panama Canal and around South Africa.

A Three ½ Year Westabout Circumnavigation 

Departure from East Coast North America October

Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands November to December

Panama Canal Transit January

Galapagos, Marquesas, Tahiti, Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji February to October

New Zealand November to April

Australia, Cocos Keeling, Mauritius, Reunion Island May to October

South Africa November to February

Saint Helena, Brazil, French Guinea, Trinidad and Tobago March to October

Cruising Caribbean November to March

Closing the circle and return home April to May 

The Next Steps  

With your vessel refitted and equipped, your business plan put into motion, your savings account stocked up and your route planned, the next step is to set sail! In the next article in our series on sailing around the world, we will cover the departure phase of your world cruise. Keep an eye out for our future articles where you will learn everything that you need to know to set sail on your circumnavigation, discover how to become comfortable cruising on the ocean, and learn how to make a living on the sea. 

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