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The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

OCA Series: Olive Odyssey — A Mediterranean Sailing Adventure

Julie and Colin Angus

Small boat (sail and row)
January 20th, 2015

National Geographic adventurers of the year, Julie and Colin Angus, retrace the ancient maritime routes of the Phoenicians with their infant son searching for the secrets of the olive tree.

Julie and Colin are presenting their journey as part of our Ocean Adventures Series – more details here.

Explore the Mediterranean with Julie, Colin, and their infant son in search of the secrets of the olive tree. Inspired by Julie’s Syrian forebears’ intimate relationship with the olive, Julie and Colin unlock the secrets of the fruit that meant so much to them. Travelling from Spain to Israel by sailboat and overland, they collect samples from ancient trees to determine where the first olive tree originated; feast on inky black tapenades and codfish drizzled with olive oil, among many other delights; witness the harvesting of olives in Greece; and visit perhaps the oldest olive tree in the world, on Crete. The result is a remarkable sailing journey and a fascinating history and biography of this most influential and irresistible fruit.

This National Geographic supported journey is detailed in the book Olive Odyssey: Searching for the Secrets of the Fruit that Seduced the World and which will be for sale at their show.

In addition to the above accomplishment, Julie and Colin have explored some of the most remote and inhospitable parts of the world and documented their adventures through books and films. Colin is the first person to circumnavigate the globe by human-power, a 43,000 kilometre journey across three continents and two oceans by foot, bicycle, ski, and rowboat. Julie was his teammate for much of the journey, including the five month row across the Atlantic Ocean, which made her the first woman to row across the Atlantic from mainland to mainland. For their achievement they jointly received the 2007 Adventurer of Year Award from National Geographic Adventure.

Colin is also the first person to raft the entire length of the Amazon River, as well as the first to descend the world’s fifth longest river, the Yenisei. With Julie, he rowed thousands of kilometres across Europe and explored the North and Black Seas by rowboat. Julie is a molecular biologist and uses her scientific training to understand and share the unique circumstances of the environmental habitats they travel through. Collectively they have written six books and produced four documentaries. For more about their various adventures, visit

Ancient olive tree in Sicily

Ancient olive tree in Sicily

We have asked five questions of all of our OCA Speakers. Here are  Julie and Colin’s answers.

1. When and how did you get into sailing?

Colin decided he wanted to go offshore cruising at the age of 12 after reading the book Dove. With no knowledge of the sea, and no mentors to guide him through the process, he relied on books to gain the appropriate knowledge. In Grade 11 he bought an Enterprise sailing dinghy with paper route savings to put some of that knowledge into practice. Shortly after graduating from school, Colin purchased a 27’ cruising sailboat with which he spent five years sailing the South Pacific.

For me, sailing came at a much later age, and was an evolution from smaller human-powered craft. I’d embarked on several long distance voyages by rowboat, including rowing 7,000km from Scotland to Syria and rowing across the Atlantic Ocean from Portugal to Costa Rica. The Atlantic crossing in particular provided me with skills that crossed into the realm of offshore sailing. The first major sailing trip that I did was with Olive Odyssey, when we were uncovering the story of the olive. Colin and I purchased a 27’ boat in Spain and spent several months sailing it in the Mediterranean with our baby son as we explored ancient Phoenician ports.

2. If you could share a couple of your very best memories from your offshore cruising experience, what would they be?

Colin: My most memorable moment was arriving in Hiva Oa, French Polynesia after spending 33 days sailing from Mexico. For me, the jagged volcanic spires, rich tropical smells, and Polynesian people were the realization of a dream I’d had from when I was a kid.

Julie: Some of my favourite moments on the Mediterranean were anchoring in picturesque locations, and enjoying delicious meals and good wine while surrounded by spectacular scenery. I especially loved the rugged coast of Sardinia and Corsica.

3. What was the most frightening or unusual experience you had during your adventure?

Julie: Undoubtedly, it was riding out Hurricane Vince when we were crossing the Atlantic Ocean in our rowboat. There’s nothing quite like being in a quarter-inch plywood boat, with a storm that has the power to decimate a city bearing down on you.

4. Of all the places you have sailed, is there one in particular that you would name as your favourite destination?

That’s a tough one – so many beautiful and unique places! The Mani Peninsula in Greece was one of our favourite places. Unfortunately, we weren’t sailing at that point, as it seemed a perfect place to explore by boat.

5. If you could give one piece of advice to people who are starting out cruising, what would it be?

I think a great way to learn how to sail, and to get a feel for life on a boat is to get a $2,000-$3,000 second-hand trailer sailor. Spend a couple of months cruising our beautiful (and forgiving) backyard here in the NW getting comfortable with the whole process. This is a very inexpensive way to gain a huge amount of knowledge and have fun at the same time. Too many people jump in the deep end, and then decide it isn’t their cup of tea, after wasting large amounts of money and time.

Olive Odyssey Trailer from julie on Vimeo.


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