A “classical” trade-wind circumnavigation takes place almost entirely within the Tropics, therefore in rather hot climates. So hot in fact that the extreme evaporation of the warmer months may generate depressions of explosive violence, the tropical storms or hurricanes.
To avoid the risk of meeting these nasty beasts, the classical strategy is to sail in each hemisphere for 6 months during winter and spring and then either cross the equator to sail 6 more months or leave the tropics and the hurricane area altogether or – taking some risks – break the voyage for 6 months and leave the boat in an “hurricane-proof” location.
A two-year circumnavigation must necessarily take into account these constraints and must accept some compromises in the transition periods to allow enough time for visiting the places along the route.
Therefore boats must sail from northern Europe or from the Mediterranean during late summer and autumn (which are out of the tropics and therefore already cold and possibly stormy) to reach the Canary islands in November for an – rather early – Atlantic crossing (with the trade-winds which may be still weak and the risk of late-season tropical storms) to be followed by a pleasant cruise in the Carribbean, through Panama and then towards the Equator and the Galapagos islands which are left around end of March to sail towards the Marquesas, then the Tuamotus and finally the Society islands (it’s still the hurricane season down there, but usually at this time of the year they hit only much more to the west).
It looks a bit risky, but it’s a necessity, because the route remains in the southern hemisphere until Singapore, which must be reached before end of November by way of Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and/or New Caledonia, Australia and finally Indonesia and Borneo: a very long voyage!
After Singapore, it’s all down-hill! The rainy season is at the end, and the North-East Monsoon will push you nicely all the way to the Gulf of Aden, where you will have to tackle the pirates first, and then the strong contrary winds of the Red Sea, to finally reach the Mediterranean by early spring.
Cold season most of the time then, and although in the tropics the temperatures may be pleasant, the farther from the Equator the colder it is, expecially at night! Avoid our mistake then, and carry some warm clothing! Both “technical” wear for the nights at sea (heavy two-layer gear under the oilskin) as well as some warm clothing for nights ashore (and give a thought to equipping the boat with a heating system!).
Another aspect to consider is the frequency of rain in the tropics: short but frequent and heavy downpours for which you need to be properly equipped, both at sea and while touring inland; some considerations:
– bimini: much as we do not love sailing under a bimini, we had to surrender to it not only to shade the helmsman from the scorching sun, but also to keep him (relatively) dry under the showers! When it’s too windy for the bimini, it’s very practical to be able to shelter under the sprayhood, autopilot remote control in hand.
– cockpit enclosure: many boats from northern Europe had a complete enclosure for the cockpit, which turned out to be very useful to keep the cockpit dry when moored under heavy rain: we had only two side-cloths which were totally useless!
– foul-weather clothing: our breathable oilskins, while very comfortable in general use, lost their waterproof capabilities very soon, and the products to re-proof them were of limited effectiveness (besides being impossible to find around the world: carry plenty of spares from home!!).
Wet oilskins half-way across a passage can lead to a very miserable life: carry spare oilskins and – most important – take shelter under the bimini as much as possible!!
– light-weight oilskins for land excursions: not only a jacket, which would pour water over the trousers. Waterproof trousers are very useful when having to wear long trousers (an etiquette issue in many asian Countries).