Something to Prove

By Emily Gold Boutilier / January / February 2005
May 3rd, 2007

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

Nicholson can be reached at PMB #775, 411 Walnut St., Green Cove  Springs, Fla. 32043;

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January / February 2005