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The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

Get to Know the OCA Speakers: Ken and Carol Gillstrom

Rosario Passos

Counting Stars
Whitby 42 Ketch
January 18th, 2016

Ken Gillstrom had a life-long dream of building a yacht and sailing all over the world. He only shared this dream with his wife when he was 40. Carol was brand new to sailing when they committed to this quest. Together, they experienced the milestones and pitfalls of building their custom aluminum cutter from scratch. Voyageur 10.10 was launched on schedule and on budget. After completing sea trials in 2011, they cast off the lines June 2012. Over the next three years they sailed 39,000 miles circling the North Atlantic Ocean, transiting the Panama Canal, and taking the long route to the Pacific Northwest. Share in this 18 year project and adventure at the presentation, “Sailing Away: Dream to Reality and Beyond”; part of the Ocean Cruising Adventure Series on February 12.

As we gear up for the OCA event, we asked some of the speakers six questions. Here are  Ken’s answers:

1)      When and how did you get into sailing?

I started sailing at the age of 10 with my father on our 16’ dingy. However, Carol only started sailing after I had popped the question to her at the age of 40. “How about we build a boat and sail around the world?” After an immediate and emphatic “yes”, we also agreed that she may want to try sailing before committing whole heartedly to the project. Carol tried, was hooked and our adventure began.

2)      What is your best sailing memory?

It is impossible for me to come up with “one memory” that stands above the rest. The whole adventure has been the best time of our lives. I do have a vivid image that comes to mind, though; the joyful look on Carol’s face when we are on the boat . . . it’s always there. . . whenever we cast off, every moment of a passage, and making landfall at a new destinations. Just loving this way of life!

3)      What was the most frightening or unusual experience of your adventure?

We were 100 miles off Cape Hatteras, 200 miles into our 1300 mile passage to St Martin. Carol woke me up at 0300 to inform me that we have no steerage. Absolutely no steerage and unrepairable! This is a point where many people give up, call for help and abandon the vessel. We refused to give in . . . but you will have to come to our presentation to find out the rest of this incredible story.

4)      Of all the places you sailed to, is there one in particular that stands out as your favourite?

Making landfall, we step ashore and exclaim, “This is the most beautiful place in the world”. At that moment in time, it truly is the most beautiful place, because the two of us are there to experience it. Quite often it can be difficult to leave that “most beautiful place”, so you need to remind yourself that the next destination will have its own unique beauty and bring us delight once again. If we had to choose one favorite spot of the hundred plus we have been to, Scotland and Newfoundland would top the list.

5)      What advice do you have for people looking to sail offshore?

Boaters become inundated with companies, marketing their new “must have gizmos” for sailing offshore. Many of these new gizmos are great, but not one of them replaces good seamanship skills. Sailors must have the ability to keep a clear mind when faced with adversity, analyze each situation and adapt themselves and their boat to the ever changing conditions while at sea.

6)      What does the future hold for you?

We are conducting sail training adventures between Vancouver, Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert this summer. Then, after our third winter in Vancouver it will be time to sail some serious miles again. In May 2017 we will sail to Kodiak and the Aleutian Islands, then following the seasons southward, way south to the tip of Chile. Our plan is to continue this adventure until . . . . ?


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