Andy Stephens has sailed halfway around the world. And for the 34-year-old Coast Guard veteran from Everett, that’s far enough.
Nearly a year ago, Herald readers met Stephens in this column. With a dream of sailing around the globe, he had left the Everett Marina on July 12, 2016. He embarked on the solo voyage aboard his 30-foot Cape Dory sailboat, “Cascadia.” It took him to the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and the Philippines.
Last March, he was home for a boat engine repair. That’s when I met Stephens, who had left his boat in the Philippines and brought its transmission back to Everett for the fix.
By May, he was back on the water. On a website chronicling his journey, www.sailingwith andy.com, a video shows him in a downpour and talking about monsoons while sailing off the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.
His plan was to sail another year and a half to two years — eventually to India, South Africa, across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, then home. Plans change. Checking his website the other day, I saw a surprise. Along with pictures and news of his adventures, there’s a place to click that says “Purchase Cascadia!”
Yes, his 1986 Cape Dory 30-foot sloop is for sale. For $22,000, about the cost of a nicely equipped small sedan, you could own it. There’s a catch. It’s not in Everett. It’s moored at Pulau Indah Marina outside of Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.
Stephens isn’t there. He is living a new dream in Japan.
“It has been such an amazing journey,” Stephens said via email earlier this week. “I fell in love with Asia and moved to Tokyo.”
In September, Stephens wrote a final post about his travels. He had another transmission problem and wasn’t looking forward to sailing on into the Southern Hemisphere. The biggest reason he chose not to keep going, he wrote, “is because I don’t want to leave Asia!” He had already sailed 12,000 miles.
By email Wednesday, Stephens said he arrived in Tokyo last week. “It took several months to process my residency here, but I am so excited. It’s such a lovely place,” he said.
Stephens, who has friends in Japan, attended Everett’s Whittier Elementary, North Middle School and Everett High before graduating from Stanwood High School in 2002. In the Coast Guard, he served aboard a 225-foot buoy tender. Helped by the GI Bill, he graduated from Seattle University with a degree in business economics.
He now has a job teaching English to adults in Tokyo, but hopes to transition to public schools there.
Along with beautiful days of sailing, fishing and meeting people of many cultures, Stephens experienced a few tense times on his voyage. A jihadist militant group, Abu Sayaff, had been active on some Philippine islands. The group has targeted tourists, and in recent years captured and killed several sailors.
En route to the island of Borneo, he took precautions that included turning off his satellite tracker and sailing what he called “dark ship — far offshore to keep out of range of their boats.”
“Needless to say, I was quite relieved when I reached Borneo,” he said.
Nature brought more dangers. Crossing the South China Sea, he ran into a severe storm. “It was not forecasted, and intensified so quickly that I had little time to react,” said Stephens, whose headsail was shredded by the tempest. “The next day it was flat calm, and I had a peaceful passage with dolphins guiding me all the way to Singapore.”
Stephens’ interest in Japan goes back to time he spent with a former girlfriend from Yokohama. “The food, climate, traditions and emphasis on humility and respect, for not only nature but one another, makes this culture undeniably unique,” he said.
Even before sailing out of Everett, he thought of moving to Japan. But at that time, “the sea was calling,” he said. His wanderlust had faded by the time he reached Kuala Lumpur, halfway around the world from his start.
“I remember sitting in my boat, planning my next route across the Indian Ocean,” he said. “I was just looking at the chart and thinking there are no other places I am excited to sail to.”
Several people have expressed interest in his boat. Its moorage in Malaysia is paid until June. “There are not too many boats at this price range that have proven to be able to take you anywhere in the world,” he said.
Someday he hopes to tell grandchildren about his sailing adventures.
“There are so many things that I learned about myself and life,” Stephens said. “The greatest takeaway is the fact that we all only get one chance at living it.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.
Read more about Andy Stephens’ voyage and his boat Cascadia, which is now for sale, at www.sailingwithandy.com.