Some of the Best From Immanuel's Picture Library




What seems like a lifetime ago we left California with the conviction that we would cross the country, buy a boat in Florida, and cruise on it for at least one year with the Caribbean as our training ground. We had all agreed when the one year was up if one of us did not want to continue we would go back. Well... we were hooked and about seven years later, July 5, 2004, we found ourselves back in the Caribbean having completed a circumnavigation on our 56' ketch Immanuel and having visited over 50 countries. This is the pictorial account of our journey--edited from Immanuel's picture library of over 4000 pictures. Due to space limitations, this pictorial account cannot be a complete account of our circumnavigation. So much has been left out that I could not even include all the places and people that are very special to me and, as this is a pictorial account, I can only mention those highlights that I have pictures of. We also bought our first digital camera in Australia so that is where our story in pictures has to start. BUT... first a bit from New Caledonia using pictures from our friends on Sea Witch and Kyrnos--the last picture being taken by our friends on Kyrnos


Kid haven at "Camp Gadji" in New Caledonia! 14 kids all in the same anchorage. We had a great time kiteboarding, wakeboarding, camping on the beach, snorkeling, scuba diving, and everything we could do pooling all our toys together.



The real highlights of our six month stay in Australia were staying on a sheep station, playing volleyball with cruisers and local Australian friends every afternoon, and taking a week or so long dive trip on the nautilus/shark research vessel the Undersea Explorer.





Onwards we sailed and found ourselves in Indonesia. Anchoring all alone in Rinca with some of the best diving in the world and huge komodo dragons on the beaches, watching two gigantic male orangutans fall a hundred feet through the thick tangle of trees fighting with each other over the quiet females with babies at our feet in the jungles of Kalimantan (the Indonesian side of Borneo), Gazing over Bali's emerald green rice paddies, and experiencing the friendly people were real memories.






Malaysia was not at all the same as Indonesia. The people were not as open and truly friendly like the Indonesians we met and the Christians, and members of any other religion save Islam for that matter, are persecuted against. This was the first time that I could really SEE with new eyes that this persecution has a lot less to due with religion than it does with political power and control of the people and I could see how ridiculous and unfounded it is.


Ahhhhh Thailand. What a great place and what great people. The temples with their Buddhas dripping with gold leaf, the Oriental splendor and richness of the king's palace, the elephant demonstration/show and elephant trekking through rivers and dense foliage, the snake show where we pet King Cobras that were still full of venom and not de-fanged, and Phen Nga Bay (so beautiful it was used in the James Bond Film The Man With the Golden Gun) with its steep sided islands like inside out caves pointing to the sky, were quite simply spectacular.







Sri Lanka was our first and, sadly, our only, experience with the friendly but dirt poor Indian people. Taking a day trip into the wilds of the Ruhunu-Yala National Park and the elephant orphanage were amazing. Our 18 day Indian Ocean passage from Sri Lanka to the Maldives was one of our best passages.




The Indian Ocean turned out to be one of the fishiest places in the whole world. This fish was caught from Maldives to Oman



Less than a week after Operation Iraqi Freedom had begun we made landfall at our first Arab country, Oman. The people we met in Oman were very welcoming but it sure was weird to see men in their white robes with turbaned heads being followed by their multiple black shrouded enslaved wives with only a slit for their eyes. In the heat of the sun I do not know how the women do not simply collapse. Not only do they have to be completely covered in black but they have to wear many layers. Even if they want to swim it must be in all their layers. This was also our first experience with camels.


On our way from Oman to Eritrea through the pirated (actually opportunistic people-smugglers smuggling people from Somalia to Yemen) waters of the Gulf of Aden, the presence of the U.S. military, on their way to the Persian Gulf for Operation Iraqi Freedom, was a comforting sight.



Eritrea, our first African port, took us back to biblical times. This place is the poorest place I have been or will probably ever go to but I will never meet a nicer and prouder people. In the 1950's, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that Eritrea become part of Ethiopia, but govern itself. Well... as you can probably guess Ethiopia, under the Communist regime of Haile Selassie, began to undermine Eritrea's self-government by banning political parties and trade unions in Eritrea.  The U.N., after designing this mess, did nothing so the Eritreans, seeing their freedoms being taken away, fought back.. In 1993 Eritrea won their independence from the Soviet/Cuba backed Ethiopia with only knives. It was amazing to talk to a man in his twenties about the war who had scars on his arms and chest from a knife fight he had with an Ethiopian. He had been fighting for his freedom.



Onwards to Sudan. I will never forget the diving or walking through the desert with the Bedouins and visiting their camp and waterhole. The Bedouins are great, gentle, and friendly people but the Arabs are beyond bad--enslaving their multiple wives while they sit in the dirt and do nothing but brood and hate. Inland the Arabs are killing so many black Africans that it is bordering genocide and they are filleting Christians alive.





Next we we beat up to the land of the Pharoahs. Ancient Egypt was fantastic--the new Egypt is a dark place. The temples and pyramids are mind boggling--a good reminder that we are not so advanced as we think and a reminder that the ancient Egyptian's splendor, richness, and technology could not protect them from the Arabs and total destruction.



Turkey, a Muslim nation but totally different from the Arabs. These people are good people. The thing that really sticks in my mind about Turkey is the time we were able to spend with a local Turkish family living in a remote village on Ravine Cove in Scopea Limani Bay. Michael and I, Robby, went out with their two teenage sons to sell fresh herbs, honey, and home made olive oil to help raise money for their school while my dad, Bobby, talked with their dad, an Imam (Muslim Priest), and my mom taught the youngest how to play backgammon. The boy's mother also wove beautiful carpets and we got a chance to watch her at work.


It was great to visit our homeland for a couple months again!



Our tour of Europe was just incredible as far as the beauty of the countryside, Renaissance art, old (ancient by American standards) architecture, and the lavish churches (financers of the Renaissance) just stuffed full of beautiful art go. Our opportunity, given to us by a nun with extra invitations, to go to mass with Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Basilica was one of the top highlights. The one thing, though, that almost counterbalanced all the good--I know it is hard to believe--was the rude arrogance of the people and their hate and prejudice (is hate and prejudice ever justified?) against Americans. I am not saying all the people were like this, we met quite a few that were really good people, but that the large majority of the people are. In Washington D.C. every time we had to pull out a map within literally 30 seconds we would have someone come up and ask us if they could help. In Rome, if you pulled out a map, not only would you not be offered any help, I am fine with that, but you might have people huff and push rudely past you if your map was at all in their way. You would also have to watch your back as we experienced first hand that there are a lot of pickpockets.  Europe holds almost an infinite amount of things to see as a tourist but I would much rather go back to Eritrea where there is practically nothing for the tourist but welcoming, friendly people.





The water in Sardinia was stunning...



The antics of the monkeys on the rock of Gibraltar were hilarious.



We left Gibraltar and were planning on staying a few days in Morocco but, after an overnighter, when we arrived we were told that we couldn't stay in the harbor at Casablanca. Not long before leaving for Morocco we had talked to a boat in Gibraltar that had been there only two months before and the guide books said that you could stay in the harbor so it was rather weird. We had no good choice but to sail on to the Canaries, a four day sail away. What sticks in my mind most about our stays in Grand Canaria and Teneriefe is the vibrant flowers and incredible views and walks through Teide National Park in Teneriefe and Gran Canaria's central highlands, also a park.



Next, we set off in Columbus's wake on the second longest passage of our circumnavigation--the longest was the Pacific--across the Atlantic (for a detailed account of our Atlantic crossing and to experience what it is like to cross an ocean check out the monthly feature story). Just about no one crosses the Atlantic in June but only because June is when the cruising season is opening in the Med. and closing in the Caribbean--the weather is actually better at this time of the year. We had already cruised the Med. and the Carib., we would also get a chance to cruise the Med in the future, and only needed to get back home so this worked out great for us. While crossing the Atlantic, the feeling that was most prevalent--we were all barraged by a multitude of conflicting feelings--was a total detachment from the world. To explain this fully, here is a quote from one of my position reports, "At this point in the passage I am starting to feel a sort of detachment from land or, although it sounds funny, the world. Time has seemed to stop. I can almost get a sense of what it would be like to live in a world without time. To look back on the days of our passage is like looking back on only one day. Just one long instant in time if that makes any sense. Everyday is the same, it is only the degree of comfort that is different. Even though the storms and rain of the weather or the cold and heat of the seasons are a pain and uncomfortable, I am glad that God made this world a changing one. Part of Human Nature seems to make it so we get calloused to the beauty of say, something like a tree, real quick unless that tree transforms from vibrant green to gold and finally stark black against the white of the snow. We are moving forward but it feels like we are getting nowhere. I guess to cheat on my description I could say that we are in "The Twilight Zone." I know I am over romanticizing all this but it is the best way I can think of to describe only a part of the mental feelings of being on a passage of this magnitude. I couldn't imagine doing this passage on one of Columbus' ships not knowing how long it would take, having no knowledge of what the weather was like, not knowing what I would find at the end if we made it at all, and not having any definite destination. To make things worse, the wind and current would have been, as it is for us, right on the stern so turning around would not have been too feasible." And another quote, "Sometimes I feel relief and sorrow as if this were the end and sometimes I feel excited and nervous as if this is the beginning. I guess it is both. Rather confusing!" (read all of the position reports in this months "Monthly Feature Story") In the end it took us 20 days to cross the Atlantic, amazingly only one day shorter then Columbus's fastest crossing. It is also amazing that boaters, including us, still use the same routes that Columbus used on his crossings of the Atlantic.




"We are anchored in Admiralty Bay, Bequia (13 degrees 00 minutes North, 61 degrees 14 minutes West) concluding our Atlantic crossing and our circumnavigation. We arrived at about 3:00 this afternoon. Our crossing took 20 days (we were hoping for 18), beating Columbus's fastest Atlantic crossing by only one day. It is great to be back in the Caribbean. The people are so friendly and the vegetation so lush. I forgot how nice it was here. We opened a bottle of fine champagne, each made a toast, and went out to a nice dinner to celebrate. I am really, really tired so I better go to bed." An excerpt from our last position report.  One of the best things of coming back into the Caribbean was meeting old friends...



Baking bread



Homeschooling is one of the best things that came out of our choice to live on a sailboat.



To make a loooooong story short. In the Bahamas, at the start of our life on board Immanuel, we met the boat Gabra and noticed the beautiful rowing dinghy tied off to their stern. My dad fell in love with the dingy and asked if it was for sale. Tony and Suzanne, the couple living aboard Gabra, said it was not for sale but that they wanted to let us "borrow" it. My dad explained that we were sailing down to Trinidad and possibly around the world so there would be no way we could return it. In reply they said that we could have Gabby until/if our paths crossed again. So started our life with Gabby. Our trip would not have been even close to the same without Gabby. I do not know what we would have done without her! She has given us uncountable hours of fun and learning, while sailing, rowing, and varnishing her gunnels. THANK YOU Gabra for giving Michael and I some of the best adventures of our whole circumnavigation.




Sadly I do not have pictures of them all but we have met many really great kids on our travels, some of which we have met throughout our entire circumnavigation.













Cruising around the world has shaped my life like no other thing I have ever done. If you were to look only at the things you did in the past and not how they have shaped you, you may be tempted to think that those things you did were a waste. All the stuff we did and others did for us (isn't that what life is made up of--stuff you do and what others do for you) for those seven years, and anytime for that matter, was a waste if I wasn't changed by it but, since my life has been shaped for the better, cruising around the world was as far from a waste of life as I could possibly have asked for. Now I know what the meaning of life isto be changed by God by following his commands into a more Godly person to be prepared for heaven. It is not the things in life that are the meaning of life, it is how God can use those things to change you in preparation for your future with Him. Sometimes it was hard but, as in school, you are not learning anything in life unless it is hard. I have been blessed by God to lead this life. He has given me, among many other things, the chance to see life, as it is known on land, from the bleachers--to step away from "the real world" to the real world. In the real world I have been able to form my worldview with a clear view of the game from the 50 yard line. Soon I will be back in "the real world"  but I pray that I remember what the world looked like when I had a clear view of it and that my worldview may be strong enough to hold against those who can't see clearly and have been blinded trying to see past all the other players. Now I am off to Patrick Henry College in Virginia, classes start on August 23, 2004. I believe that the next four years of my life at PHC will be ones of great discovery inside and out. Please pray for me as I go to PHC, and embark on the next chapter of my life, that my time there may be as fruitful, joyful, and full of learning as the seven years I had on the good ship Immanuel. "If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." Psalms 139:9-10. Thanks to all of you that helped make this happen!

--Robby Gray