|Something to Prove|
Nick Nicholson is living a sailor’s dream: he’s circling the globe in a forty-foot sailboat he built in his backyard. “Traveling on a boat,” says Nicholson, whose Brown roommate, Winscott Stokes ’69, introduced him to the pleasures of sailing, “is in some ways the ultimate form of travel. We have our books, we have our music, we have our Oriental rugs, and all of the other things you might have in your home.” The only difference, he says, is that his home is bouncing up and down in the middle of the ocean.
Nicholson, a former editor of Practical Sailor, began his round-the-world voyage from his Newport, R.I., home in November 1997. Having completed more than 11,000 miles of the 26,000-mile trip, he has left New Zealand and is moving toward the Mediterranean by way of Australia, Bali, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea. He and his companion, Maryann Mecray, expect to sail back into Newport harbor in 2002.
The voyage has been in the works since the mid-1980s, when Nicholson, finding himself newly divorced, decided to fulfill a longtime dream of building a sailboat that could circumnavigate the globe. “I think it was to prove something to myself,” he says. “My father was one of these completely self-sufficient people. I always felt that I had never quite lived up to those standards of independence. This was a chance to break away, and maybe make a step backwards, where you achieve the level of independence that people had before.”
For years, Nicholson’s weekends and weeknights were spent building Calypso. In 1990, realizing the work was proceeding too slowly, he retired as a full-time editor to devote himself to the boat. A year later, he was hired as an America’s Cup measurer, a job that entails writing, interpreting, and enforcing the new rules that govern the construction of sailboats. Nicholson set a goal: to finish his boat in time to sail to New Zealand to do his job as one of three measurers in the 2000 America’s Cup.
Nicholson’s boat follows traditional sailing routes governed by weather. “The biggest challenge is the planning, the timing, and meeting the schedule,” he says. “Sailing the boat is almost secondary.” The autopilot does most of the physical sailing, while Nicholson and Mecray take turns keeping night watches, navigating, and controlling the sails.
A year from now the boat will arrive in Europe, where Nicholson will start his job as a measurer in the Volvo around-the-world sailboat race. “Essentially,” he quips, “I’m commuting around the world to work.” – Emily Gold