Fearless is the name of the 46-foot sailboat scheduled to leave the shores of Marina del Rey on Saturday, November 17th, to sail around the world. At the average speed of a sprightly walk, Brett Shirley and his wife Naomi, with a couple of revolving crewmen, will be slowly and methodically working their way through six oceans and 35,000 miles.
While the boat is designed for coastal cruising and not blue water traveling, Brett and Naomi are no strangers to difficult adventures. On their Web site, www.fearlessmdr.com/, Brett is described as a 37-year-old backpacker who has “logged travel miles on most of the world’s continents, challenging himself in jaunts such as a hitchhike across Africa, backpacking through South America, scuba diving off the Galapagos Islands and many more adventures.” And Naomi is also an experienced traveler, comfortable in rugged and remote environs.
After meeting and working in the entertainment industry for years, the couple moved up to Valencia to start a family and live the suburban American Dream. They bought a home and were about to have children when they began to question the ideal.
“I just wasn’t into it,” said Brett of the settling-down prospect. When Naomi questioned him at the time, he said, “I don’t think I’m ready and I don’t know if I want this — traveling is what I want to do.”
After much discussion and with no real background in boating, the couple pulled up stakes, moved out of the suburbs and onto a 1999 Hunter 460 in Marina del Rey. After experiencing the traveling potential of a big sailboat and enjoying its comforts, the couple was hooked.
“Right after we got the boat I realized we were going to tie this thing into traveling,” Brett said. “My two favorite things are staying home and traveling, and this had both.”
The couple began taking weekly trips to Catalina Island and the Channel Islands, and enjoyed it immensely. After a year of local cruising they decided to pursue the ultimate challenge of sailing around the world. For the next three years they would invest their time in the learning process. They pored through sailing books, learned their onboard systems thoroughly and sailed often.
Today they are ready. They will take the next three years to see some of the most exotic and remote places on the planet.
They plan on being conservative in their approach and not challenge the forces of ugly weather whenever possible. And they will have extended stays in the South Pacific Islands and New Zealand.
The boat has been gone over by the best craftsmen in the area and been reinforced where suggested. The standing rigging has all been replaced and the holds are loaded with spare parts and redundant systems.
Although the couple has logged thousands of hours of sail time they have no extended voyages under their belts. The longest they’ve ever been out at sea was for 27 hours and that was in the local vicinity.
And while some seasoned sailors might frown at the prospect of heading out into the sometimes-hostile ocean with such limited experience, the cruising world is full of this breed. Just last year a Japanese man stopped in Marina del Rey who was soloing around the world in his 48-foot cruiser. Like the Shirleys, Hideshige Seki decided one day to hop in his boat and go around the world and that’s where he is now — somewhere out there.
On Saturday Brett and Naomi will be doing the same thing — unplugging the shore-power and casting off the lines. They won’t be leaving them on the dock; they’ll be coiling them up to be used somewhere else — in lots and lots of other places.
When asked if he’s nervous with the launch day so near and no ocean crossings on his resume, Brett said smiling, “I guess I should be more nervous, but no I’m not. I feel ready.”