'I think I can do more': Chinese woman sails the world in 497-day adventure

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 11:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 November, 2014, 1:20pm


Giant eight-metre waves, weeks alone at sea and a severe lack of sleep may not be unusual for a seasoned sailor, but for first time seafarer Wan Jinyu they were all part of an incredible adventure.

The 52-year-old businesswoman recently arrived in Hong Kong after a remarkable 497-day trip – and said she wanted to keep on going.

Wan and her Swedish husband Rolf Nylander set off from a Mexican beach on November 8, 2012 – their fifth wedding anniversary - before travelling south to La Paz, and then taking in a host of exotic destinations such as French Polynesia, Tuvalu and Samoa.

Watch: Sailing around the world for 497 days: A Chinese woman's adventure

The mammoth journey, which took in a total of 39 destinations, ended with a trip through the Philippines before they docked in Hong Kong on March 19 this year.

The longest the couple went without seeing land was a lonesome 38 days.

“Going on a transoceanic voyage was Rolf’s lifelong dream,” explained Wan. “After we got married, we started to plan it.”

Supporting her 62-year-old husband’s ambition was a brave decision for Wan, who had no sailing experience whatsoever.

Travelling with her seasoned voyager husband made her feel safer and more relaxed, but Wan still faced challenges as things easily done on land become significantly more difficult on a bobbing sailboat.

“Cooking on the boat is very difficult,” said Wan, “I had to try to stand firm and use a towel to wrap the pot to stabilise it. I had to hold something with one hand to keep steady and use the other hand to cook the food.”

The feat wasn’t without its dangers and splashed cooking oil left her with scars on her neck and ankle.

Sleeping properly became a luxury during their life on the ocean. Space in the 39-foot sailboat was limited, with the couple spending the nights on a small bed that folded out during the day to double up as a table. And even when they were asleep, they had to keep an ear out for the potential dangers of the changing weather.

“We just slept five to six hours intermittently every day,” Wan said. “When the weather was really bad and waves were big, we couldn’t even sleep.”

Life on the sea was more dangerous than she had imagined, with four- to five-metre waves often tossing their boat around. But it was a storm on September 10, 2013, which was most terrifying.

“Waves were seven or eight metres high. From 8am to 4pm, for the entire eight hours, the day looked like night,” Wan recalled. “Our boat was hit by the waves. The wind was strong. It was horrible.”

Apart from the dangers, life on the ocean wave left Wan with some unforgettable memories. One night she was lucky enough to see a “moonbow” - a rainbow produced by light reflected off the surface of the moon.

“It was the only time in my life,” she said excitedly. “Words are not enough to describe its beauty. It can only last in my memory.”

So would she put herself through such an ordeal again? Absolutely.

Braver and more confident now, Wan and her husband are planning to travel from Hong Kong to Gothenburg in Sweden – their home country, setting off in October or November this year.

"I've accomplished things I never did before, and I think I can do more," Wan said.