Clark December 15th, 2006
My name is Clark Beek and I started sailing around the world in 1999, when I was 29.
The first time I went offshore voyaging, in the South Pacific when I was 18, I was green with seasickness for a week. I lay in my bunk watching a hammock full of vegetables rot and drip in the tropical heat and concocting ways to get myself out of this horrible, horrible error in judgment. Soon I got my sea legs, had a great summer, and I was hooked. It was just a matter of saving up the money to buy my own boat someday.
My first and only real job was during the Go-Go 90s Internet craze as employee number five of a start-up called ATMnet. At one point one of my older, supposedly wiser partners told me, “Clark, you’re thinking about getting like three million dollars rich. You’re going to be like thirty million dollars rich, like you’re going to be able to own your own helicopter.”
I do not own my own helicopter. It was enough to put me off work for at least eight years, maybe forever.
I have this disease called ankylosing spondylitis. Some people end up in wheelchairs with AS, or just generally immobile and in pain all the time. I have only been completely stricken down a few times over the years, and have controlled it effectively with drugs, which I take every day. Back when it was Big Decision time in my life, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I figured I’d better go sailing while I was healthy. People cut you a lot of slack for being impetuous when you’ve got a nasty disease.
During my circumnavigation I sailed to over forty countries and put over 60,000 miles under the keel. This is the equivalent of putting a million miles on a car. I originally only set out to take a one-year sabbatical. At the end of this year I was only as far as Costa Rica and just getting warmed up. After that it snowballed into an odyssey with each year bringing some irresistible new place to sail.
While cruising I was torn apart by a Rottwieler, had dengue fever in Costa Rica and dysentery in India, went through a bloody insurrection in Fiji and the tsunami in Thailand, ran aground on shoals and reefs, sailed through storms, and was run over by a container ship, sustaining over $40,000 in damage (paid by the shipping company). Some would consider this to be pretty bad luck. Some would say I should have taken a hint. Averaged out, that’s less than one disaster per year, and I consider myself pretty lucky.