The journey took eight years, 76 countries
Captain John Barry III, a resident of Durango, once spent 2.5 days cutting his sailboat through the ice while sailing alone in the Arctic Circle. He was in the first half of his expedition to sail around the world, and treacherous icebergs nearly ended it early.
“I thought that was it for the kid,” Barry said with a laugh.
Barry and a rotating crew of Durango and Pagosa Springs residents wrapped up the eight-year journey in September to circumnavigate the globe, but the adventure won’t stop there.
As a result of this trip, Barry received sponsorship to compete in 10 sailing races around the world over the next three years. In the meantime, he has speaking engagements scheduled to tell “scary” sea stories and more. Barry and the crew have had wild adventures, suffered tragic loss, and felt the bittersweet end to a well-traveled journey.
“John is a very iconoclastic individual,” said Chris Bettin, a Durango city councilor who joined the expedition for a month in 2015. “He flies planes, he kayaks big rivers. … Since I know him, he’s on the move.
In December 2011, Barry left San Francisco to see the world. Barry, the only person to complete each leg of the journey, sailed for six months each year on a 54ft trimaran sailboat, named Avalanche. Over the years, 24 people, mostly locals, have rotated on and off the yacht. By the end of the September 17 trip, they had visited 76 countries.
Thanks to the expedition, Barry realized a dream he had had since he was 6 years old – a dream inspired by his father who died 20 years ago.
“It’s good that we crossed the finish line in the dark,” said Barry. “I kind of choked up thinking about all the friends, all the trials and tribulations.”
Shortly after the expedition ended, the crew lost one of its members, Chad Easley, a Connecticut resident who died in October.
“Everyone is pretty pissed off. They’re pretty separate,” Barry said.
The crew will remember him the only way an ocean-bound group can: they plan to scatter his ashes across all the world’s oceans as Barry travels to compete in sailing races.
Easley was on the Avalanche when the crew saw dolphins “glow” in the bioluminescent water and when the crew hunted wild boar with locals from the Chatham Islands in the Antarctic Circle.
At night, the crew saw every star in the sky. Other crew members watched the water turn crimson red in the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean as locals killed a pod of pilot whales, their winter food source.
In Central America, some crew members faced dishonest customs officers. Others fled typhoons and hurricanes or were expelled from three countries. In the Mediterranean, they were constantly on the lookout for pirates.
“You are in the desert. It’s like being at the top of the Weminuche. … You have to be self-sufficient,” said Amy Knight, a Durangoan who periodically joined the expedition. “It was exhilarating.”
Novice to experienced sailors were in good hands with Barry, a former member of the USA Sailing Team. In 1994, Barry was the winner and World Champion of the Royal Western Yacht Club of England’s two-handed transatlantic race.
“For a lot of people, sailing is a very leisurely activity,” Bettin said. “For John, it’s an absolute full-contact sport.”
Barry started sailing in his childhood. His parents would spend all their time and money taking their kids on sailing adventures off the coast of New England, he said. In the family of five, Barry and his father, John Barry II, were a unit.
“They kind of did it all together,” said Cassidy Barry, daughter of John Barry III.
They started a propane business together. When Barry joined the United States Sailing Team, his father was at the start and finish of every race, even leading the team to the team pit.
“He was the kind of dad where he was always there,” John Barry said.
After spending eight years focused on the journey – and fulfilling a lifelong dream – Barry had the strange feeling that his life had lost its meaning when the journey came to an end.
But Barry is always looking for the next adventure.
He’s selling Avalanche, which is now “a little tired,” he said. He will take the next boat, also named Avalanche, to compete around the world.
“I’m so addicted to this sailing around the world and meeting people,” Barry said. “When you think about it, my tiny little line around the world…I’ve only seen a fraction of what the world has to offer. And the people, the people have been amazing.