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Blind Circumnavigators Depart Australia

During their stay in the Cook Islands, Pam and Scott had a tour of another circumnavigating vessel, the 180-ft three-masted Picton Castle.

© 2008 Courtesy Starship

During our three decades of reporting on all aspects of sailing, we’ve met a fascinating cast of characters. But Scott Duncan and Pam Habek are two of the most remarkable — although both are legally blind, they have successfully sailed from San Francisco to Austrailia unassisted, and now intend to continue on around the world aboard their Pearson 390 Starship.

We’re happy to report that Scott and Pam departed ‘Oz’ last week, bound for New Caledonia, after enduring a year-long setback caused by a blown engine. "No worries, mate," says Scott. "It’s all part of the adventure." Typically, he and Pam took it in stride, picking up work to replenish their losses and making a slew of new friends — as they always do.

"We have met and reached out to thousands of blind people around the world with our message of independence. We have had our hearts broken by a blind girl in Mexico. We have exchanged ideas and experiences with our good blind friend Rolland in Tahiti. We have felt our hearts soar in Australia while sailing with a group of blind children and young adults, just to name a few of our wonderful experiences."

Sharing an ironic moment, Pam and Scott strike a pose near Blind Bay, New Zealand.

© 2008 Courtesy Starship

Starship‘s intended route this year will take them to New Caledonia, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Darwin (Australia again), Indonesia, Malaysia, and finally Thailand for the Indian Ocean cyclone season. "We are more determined than ever to complete this epic quest, but at the same time we are clear that the true adventure is in the voyage and not the final destination." (Learn more about this amazing couple at

Meanwhile, the circumnavigation of 16-year-old Zac Sunderland had a similar setback before his Islander 36 Intrepid ever left port. His family has just made the regrettable announcement that a new engine will need to be fitted before Zac  can leave. Although most other Pacific passagemakers have already left the West Coast, weather routers tell the Sunderlands that Zac will still have an adequate weather window to follow his proposed route from Marina del Rey to the Marshalls and on to Samoa before the South Pacific cyclone season kicks in.

While we’re on the subject of seasonal storms, we should mention that the eastern Pacific season has arrived, with the first named Tropical Storm, Alma, now heading toward Costa Rica. However, this and similar storms should be no threat to Zac as they typically fizzle out hundreds of miles south of his rhumbline.

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