Insight | Life’s a beach! Sailing the world’s oceans with Inmarsat


Life’s a beach! Sailing the world’s oceans with Inmarsat


We caught up with Volvo Ocean Race skipper, Chris Nicholson, currently on a round-the-world sailing adventure with his family, to see how Inmarsat is keeping the ‘Aussie Family Nicholson’ connected at sea during his 12-month journey.

It’s been almost two months now since we did the Atlantic crossing and time to reflect on the journey and adventure we’re having so far sailing around the world in the family yacht Toothless.

Believe it or not it was quite hectic getting everything and everybody ready to cross the Atlantic. Once we arrived in St Lucia in the Caribbean, my wife Megs could finally relax a little. It has been a big ask of her to take this journey on.

She has had to home school our seven-year-old son Banjo, then help sail and do her watches whilst at times cursing how much the boat rocks and rolls on the waves. I keep telling her it’s the destination not the journey when sailing a cruising boat!

Having done the 2,700 nautical miles (nm) across the Atlantic, it’s given us the confidence to be able to make it all the way home to Sydney, Australia by September this year. 

Medical access 24/7

Safety is always top of the list when we are heading into quite remote parts of the world. We have a great medical kit on board and 24-hour access to doctors, made possible by Inmarsat’s connectivity on board the boat.

I had this service when I took part in the Volvo Ocean Race offshore sailing competition and I’m glad I’ve organised the same for my family. To be able to get onto the FleetBroadband 250 satellite phone immediately and speak with a doctor in difficult situations, no matter where you are at sea, is reassuring.

There has been a couple of nasty piracy attacks in recent weeks in between Grenada and Trinidad so we decided to stay a bit further north than required when sailing across. Piracy threat is not new to me, again having done the Volvo, so it’s a no brainer to have the satellite phone at the ready in case of an emergency.

Snorkelling, scrubbing and haircuts

The weather in the Caribbean was stunning. I like a place where you need your sunglasses at breakfast! Banjo and Tully, my four-year-old boy, are thriving, snorkelling with turtles and stingrays and helping me scrub the outside of the yacht.

Yes the haircuts are bad in the picture! During the crossing I came downstairs to find Tully sitting on the floor cutting his own hair. They say it only takes a week to make a bad haircut grow into a good one – but this one is taking months!

Christmas was spent in Bequia and very different from normal. Somehow Santa managed to find us and drop off far too many presents.

Next we headed to Grenada so I could lift the boat out. We needed to do some rudder bearing repairs before sailing any more big distances. It’s quick and straightforward to do these jobs in Europe however down here on “island time” things tend to be a little unorganised!

Next stop – Panama Canal

When you are reading this we will probably have reached Panama. We were expecting 20-30 knots near the NW corner of Columbia, so went over our safety drills for man overboard and general sea keeping on board the boat. It’s amazing how quickly you get rusty with this when swimming and snorkelling most days on anchor!

We will be stopping in Panama for a week until my brother and his family come over for some cruising and then to transit the Panama Canal with us around mid-February. Lots to get organised in the meantime. Never did I think I would be taking my family through this iconic canal.

As Tully would say – life is a beach!

Throughout his adventure Chris Nicholson and his family are relying on Inmarsat’s FleetBroadband 250 service for all their voice and broadband connectivity needs across the world’s oceans. The mid-range service provides always-on connection for applications such as email and internet access, real-time electronic charts and weather reporting, live applications such as video conferencing and satellite telephony.

About the author

Chris Nicholson has more than 20 years of professional sailing experience. He’s represented his country, Australia, at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, and won six world championships in the 49er and 505 classes. He has also raced in five editions of the Volvo Ocean Race, the 38,739-nautical-mile extreme offshore sporting event. Chris’s experience as skipper of Team Vestas Wind in the 2014-15 edition proved to be the most dramatic of all when their Volvo Ocean 65 race boat ran aground on the Cardagos Carajos reef in the Indian Ocean, forcing the crew to abandon ship, taking Inmarsat’s IsatPhone 2 with them, which Chris later described as a ‘lifesaver’.