Portrait of a Cruiser – Eric and Tamara Barto

On the 8 December 2018, Eric and Tamara Barto completed their circumnavigation having successfully sailed 45,000 NM since 2008, visiting 49 countries. Their dream to circumnavigate the world began a long time ago, with a yacht race from Long Beach, California to La Paz, Mexico in 1979. Now cruising in the Caribbean they have shared their story with noonsite in the hope it will inspire others to follow their dream.

Published 4 years ago

couple both wearing sunglasses and white caps smiling at the camera holding on to the sign at the top of australia
Tamara and Eric at the top of Australia.

Names of Owners: Eric and Tamara Barto.

Nationality: USA

Boat Name: SEA CHILD

Boat Type: Aikane 56 (56’ Catamaran designed by VPLP. Built in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 2000).

Home Port: Lahaina, Hawaii

Blog: www.seachildsailing.blogspot.com

Facebook & Instagram: #seachildadventures

How did you start cruising?

We actually ran a catamaran charter company for 23 years on the island of Maui, Hawaii.  We had two 47’ catamarans and always knew that one day we would be able to cruise the world.  We began looking for the right boat around 2005, and finally found SEA CHILD in late 2007 in Trinidad.  She had already sailed around the world once and we found her to be the perfect boat for us to take on our world journey.

two women in pink wetsuits and green snorkels on the surface facing the camera next to a white boat in blue water
Snorkeling in the Similian Islands in Thailand.

Once we started cruising, we would sail for 2-3 months at a time, then go back to work for 6 months or so.  We were able to get settled into Sea Child and set her up the way we felt most comfortable.  We built sail inventory over time.  We spent two years really getting to know Sea Child in the Caribbean, and in 2009 we began our world journey, officially from Puerto Rico.

By the end of 2009, we had sailed through the Caribbean, Panama Canal, across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand.  We stopped in Galapagos, Marquesas, Tuamotos, Tahiti and across the French Polynesia islands to Bora Bora.  We sailed to Rarotonga and on to Whangarei, New Zealand.  In all, we had sailed 8,500 NM on our first big cruising effort, along with our son Carter for most of this time.

We continued to run our business on Maui, mostly by email and Satellite Phone, returning for dry-docks and other business related responsibilities, and cruised around Fiji and New Zealand for two years, before we sailed to Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Australia.  Our double-handed cruising began in Australia, and as we sailed up the Queensland Coast, over the top of Cape York to Darwin, we felt quite prepared to double-hand our way through Indonesia in the Sail Indonesia Rally in 2013.

In 2014, we finally sold our business which opened up our time quite a bit, though we still returned to the USA for family and other business obligations.  Sea Child was totally repainted in Malaysia, and we spent two years cruising around Malaysia, Thailand and the Andaman Islands, holing up in Langkawi, Malaysia while making the big decision of which direction we would sail after SE Asia.

two camels with people riding them in front of a line of pyramids
In Giza, Egypt.

We searched for accurate information on the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea option, which was our first choice as we both had dreamed of sailing up the Red Sea since we were kids.  In truth, making this decision was very difficult.  We consulted our families. We searched noonsite.com for current info and by early 2016, we decided that the environment was good for a passage NW from the Maldives.  The Mediterranean Sea was going to be our “icing on the cake” of our world journey, and if we went south around Cape of Good Hope, then we would have completed our circumnavigation before we hit the Med.  In 2016, as we sailed from Malaysia to Turkey, we took more time (8 months) to sail over 5,800 NM, including down the Gulf of Aden, up the Red Sea, across the Eastern Mediterranean Sea to Turkey and west through Greece and Montenegro to Adriatic Italy.

Once we arrived in the Maldives in early March 2016, we made a quick trip back to the USA to meet our 3rd grandchild.  Our agent in the Maldives, Realseahawks Maldives, assisted us in our quick return to LAX, arranging for Sea Child to stay secure offshore at JA Manafura Resort until our return.  We reprovisioned in the Maldives, adding to our frozen foods we purchased back in Langkawi (Sailor Foods, Langkawi, Malaysia) and we hoisted anchor for our journey NW on 19 March, 2016. (You can read about our Gulf of Aden crossing on noonsite here).

famous socotra trees with thick web like branches and green tops with a couple standing next to it and rocky dry landscape all around
Socotra Island, Yemen.

We visited Socotra, Yemen with the help of Tamam Tourist Agency in Socotra (socotra.info) and after a quick two day visit, we continued on to the security lanes of the Gulf of Aden and up through Bab-el-Mandeb to Massawa, Eritrea; Suakin, Sudan; Port Ghalib and Suez, Egypt before transiting the Suez Canal.  We experienced crazy bad weather on our passage from New Zealand to Fiji, but our passage across the Eastern Mediterranean Sea from Port Said was intense, as we were hit by a strong Westerly with big seas, finally anchoring in Marmaris Turkey.  We felt a huge sense of accomplishment, sailing smart and fast and without incident.  We ended the 2016 sailing season in the Mediterranean in Termoli, Italy.

In 2017 we continued our journey west across the Mediterranean Sea, visiting Croatia, Slovenia, Venice, Sicily, Malta and the Italian Riviera.  At the end of the 2017 we decided to join the ARC2018, from Gran Canaria to St.Lucia, to celebrate our passion for sailing with a wonderful new group of sailors and friends of the sea.  The World Cruising Club/ARC2018 provided the organization, parties, seminars and the type of atmosphere in St. Lucia that we were looking for to celebrate our 10 year journey around the world.

Describe what sort of cruisers you are:

We spend half of the year cruising on Sea Child, the other half in the USA with family, grandchildren, and other responsibilities.  We are a cruising couple who shares Sea Child with family and friends at times.  Our cruising style is relaxed and attentive, enjoying our unplugged time on Sea Child.

What type of cruising are you doing currently?

Currently, we like to call ourselves “yachties”.  Since we have completed our circumnavigation, we are happy to enjoy each island country, each anchorage and every new cruising friend we make.  We have been mostly sailing as a couple, though we have had some family and friends join us in the past.

What were the key reasons you selected your current boat?

We chose Sea Child for safety, performance and comfort.  She performs well under all points of sail and has comfortable accommodations, sleeping 6 in 3 staterooms.  She is strong and light, and we feel very fortunate to have found her.  Only three Aikane 56 catamarans were built, and all three are currently cruising around the world.

sunset and a white catamaran motoring along with the crew in the cockpit waving
Sea Child entering the Suez Canal, Egypt.

What other boats have you owned?

In our business, Sail Maui, we owned two Conser 47 Catamarans.  We both have done extensive sailing prior to our boat charter years, monohull racing and delivery.  My husband, Eric, has racing, cruising and design experience in a wide variety of boats.

What changes have you made to your current boat?

We have not changed much of Sea Child over the years.  We upgraded the flooring and the countertops right after we purchased her.  But we have kept her well maintained over the years, adding new solar panels and canvas sun shades as well.

Most useful equipment fitted, and reasons for this choice:

Our most useful equipment has been the new solar panels we recently installed in Mallorca, Spain.  Our old panels (circa 2000) were inefficient and we needed to run our engines for two hours a day to charge batteries.  We are now able to keep our batteries charged without the engine, saving wear and tear as well as fuel costs.  It’s a joy to have positive output on a daily basis! On the ARC2018, we only needed 3 hours of engine charging during the 3,200 nautical mile crossing.

Equipment regrets, or things you would do differently:

My personal regret is that we didn’t have good internet access while cruising around the world.

Sea Child came with a refrigeration system that includes two deep boxes, one refrigerator and one freezer.  These two boxes work well, and its nice to have ice cubes offshore!  But they are laid out in a deep recess that makes packing food/provisions for offshore passages challenging. However, while accessing these deep recesses can be difficult at times, they do provide great refrigeration/freezing for the long passages we have made.

tall pretty buildings in front of a castle around a harbour with yachts berthed
Sea Child in Bonifacio, Corsica in the Mediterranean.

List the countries you have cruised:

Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, Guadaloupe, Antiqua, St. Martin, Sint Maartin, US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba, Colombia, Panama, Galapagos (Ecuador), Marquesas, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India (Andaman Islands), Maldives, Yemen (Socotra), Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Italy, Slovenia, Malta, France (Corsica), Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal.

Future cruising plans:

Windward Islands of the Caribbean will round out our 2019 cruising season.  We are interested in sailing up the east coast of the United States in 2020, possibly joining another World Cruising Club event.  We are also interested in the World ARC 2020 or 2021.

In Sudan.

List the oceans/seas you have crossed:

Caribbean Sea, Pacific Ocean, Coral Sea, Torres Strait, Gulf of Carpenteria, Arafura Sea, Van Diemen Gulf, Timor Sea, Java Sea, South China Sea, Strait of Malacca, Andaman Sea, Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Gulf of Suez, Eastern Mediterranean Sea, Agean Sea, Gulf of Patras, Ionian Sea, Gulf of Venice, Adriatic Sea, Gulf of Taranto, Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Malta, Strait of Messina, Tyrrhenian Sea, Strait of Bonifacio, Balearic Sea, Strait of Gibraltar, Atlantic Ocean.

Approximate sea miles:

45,000 NM (current mileage on Sea Child); +20,000 NM on other vessels.

Scariest day on the water:

This is a good question.  I have a few that come to mind, but probably the worst weather-wise was 3 very rough days in the South Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and Fiji,  in mid-July.  We had waited for a weather window that would give us a good passage north to Fiji, but we waited too long.  It was winter now, and the South Pacific Ocean often has many storm systems across its wide path between Australia and South America.  We had chosen to depart NZ when the winds were favorable out of the south (a strong 35 knots) but we did not look closely at the wave patterns on the 1,000NM passage.  Our first 3 days out of NZ saw 8-10’ swells from the East, West, NW, NE, and S.  We were slammed hard by these swells and on our first night out, two other crew became very seasick.  We dropped sails and reefed down to ride out the next several days, continuing north very slowly.  We finally sailed into the tropics and warmer weather, arriving in remote Minerva Reef, (400 NM SE of Fiji, 400 NM SW of Tonga).  After a quick 24 hours, we continued on the Fiji where we celebrated our survival at sea.

A woman on the right in front of a plaque with the boats name in it and a girl opposite inside a makeshift shelter on the beach
Percy Island, Australia.

Best cruising moment:

Sailing between Fakarava, Tuamotus to Venus Point, Tahiti.  We had a full moon on this beautiful 30 hour passage, with gentle 4’ swells spaced 30 sec apart, winds warm and favorable at 10-15 knots.  The South Pacific Ocean glistened under the moonlight as Sea Child cruised along at 10 knots.  The warm, balmy passage still brings warmth to my heart, and gives me motivation to continue to love the celebration of cruising.

blue sea and sky with just a few clouds and a white yacht anchored next to a low green island
Sea Child at anchor in the Andaman Islands, India.

Favourite cruising area and why:

We are asked this question many times.  And our standard answer is every country has something wonderful to discover while cruising.  For optimal boating conditions, the milk run across the Pacific Ocean is by far a stunning cruising area.  But the distances involved are a huge factor in choosing to cruise the South Pacific.  Sardinia is a favorite cruising area for its stunning beauty, multiple anchorages and delicious food.  Malta is a favorite for its incredible history and epic anchorages.  The Caribbean is also a favorite, with Anegada Island in the BVI’s being one of our favorites.  But our overall best cruising area in the Eastern Hemisphere is the Adriatic Sea Countries (Croatia, Montenegro, Italy).  Sailing into the Grand Canal in Venice was a life dream fulfilled!  In the Western Hemisphere, the islands of French Polynesia are our absolute favorites, with the Tuamotus being on the very top!

a white catamaran alongside a concrete dock with a lady in a black short skirt and black sleeveless top standing next to it.

Favourite anchorage(s):

Lastovo, Croatia; Sanganeb Reef, Sudan; Maddalena Islands, Sardinia; Poor Knights, New Zealand; Comino Island, Malta; Santo, Vanuatu; Musket Cove, Fiji; Fitzroy Reef, Queensland, Australia; Fakarava, Tuamotus.

Favourite cruising apps:

windy.com, MarineTraffic, FaceBook, Instagram #seachildadventures

Favourite cruising websites:

noonsite.com, passageweather.com

Favourite cruising books:

Imray Pilots, Ocean Passages and Landfalls, Landfalls of Paradise

What advice or message would you want to pass on to anyone new to cruising or thinking about casting off the dock lines?

Embrace the adventure ahead.  The world is a big and beautiful place and the oceans are our highways to explore new and foreign lands.  By cruising, you will learn to open your hearts and your minds to all that makes us human.  Cruising will add years to your life and life to your years, if you go with the winds and learn from your experiences and the experiences of others as well.  We have learned that every person on this planet is the same, we all bleed red and we all want the same for our selves and our families.  The people we have met want to love their children, provide for their families, share their cultures, live in peace.  Be thankful everyday that you get the chance to have this amazing life adventure, and be sure to share your stories. Write it down! Take pictures! Taste the zest of life that each new anchorage will bring to you.  Sip your sundowners on the sand with those other cruisers around you.  Take that first step to cruise, it can be a defining moment in your life.

pink glow over the whole photo with a mum and daughter standing on the foredeck of the boat with the big foresail up
Sailing in Myanmar at sunset.

Why cruise? In a few sentences, what is it that inspires you to keep cruising?

There is something magical on the water, something serene and peaceful and relaxing.  It’s wonderful to unplug from the stresses of everyday life (not that cruising is stress free — it’s not!), but the ocean keeps calling us back: the water rushing past the hull in the lee of a beautiful island; the bazillion stars in the mid-ocean night sky; the moon rise that lights the path across the sea or the random blue-footed booby that grabs a ride on the lifelines for a few days while crossing the Pacific.  There’s this whole sense of self while cruising, looking strangers in the eye and asking where the laundry is in a new marina, or grabbing a few cold beers while sharing stories with new cruisers in a distant port.  I don’t know of any other activity in the world that can bring people together like sailing around the world can.  There’s peace through tourism, peace through cruising.

Any other comments:

We are happy to answer any other questions you or anyone else would have in making their decision to cruise, how to cruise, what to pack, tricks we’ve learned!  Just send a message to:  [email protected]

Eric and Tamara Barto
SY Sea Child

Related content from SY Sea Child:

If you think you have an interesting story to tell and would like to take part in our Portrait of a Cruiser series, please contact Sue at [email protected] with some details about yourselves and your cruising and to request a questionnaire.


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Noonsite.com or World Cruising Club.

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