Port Fairy sailor tunes in to ocean during six-year around-the-world odyssey

FORMER Port Fairy man Tony Beks didn’t plan to sail around the world when he left Darwin in 2007 in his 13-metre (43-foot) yacht Ragin Cajun.

But when he docked in Port Fairy this week,  six-and-a-half years later, that’s what he had achieved.

Mr Beks, 61, said he intended to sail to the Netherlands but after he got there, kept doing “a series of small hops” that took him round the globe.

Mr Beks, a former Warrnambool teacher and passionate Cajun fiddle and mandolin player, mixed his trip with long stays, including a year in South Africa where he worked as a volunteer with street kids.

He also ducked back to Australia about 18 months ago to have prostate cancer treatment before returning to his yacht in the Caribbean.

Mr Beks said his passion for performing music had given him a universal bond with people around the world.

He would ask customs officers if they had any friends who were musicians, and play with them, performing a wide variety of musical genres.

His love of music transcended language and he was often the only white person in the band, sometimes the only white person in the vicinity.

About three years ago, he met Jessica Moriarty in Ireland and she joined him later in the Caribbean, sailing to Columbia, through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific to Australia.

Mr Beks said he had bought the yacht about five years before heading off in 2007, living on it in Darwin while he refitted it.

He sailed through Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, then south-west to Mauritius and on to South Africa.

After his stay there, he headed up the west coast of Africa to western Europe before crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean where he took part in music festivals such as the Mustique Blues Festival and the Bequia Music Festival.

The trip has had lots of challenges as well as idyllic moments.

Sailing solo across the Atlantic in 50-knot winds with waves “plenty big enough” was not a comfortable experience.

Either was the sleep deprivation essential to the 29-day solo crossing when 20-minute snoozes were all that he allowed himself.

“I have been in tears with exhaustion and frustration a number of times,” he said.

Mr Beks said sailing was nowhere near as fast as car travel and the experience had taught him the folly of trying to plan everything.

“This boat does 100 miles a day. It’s like you are walking round the world.

“The weather will conspire against you. You realise how arrogant people are. You are just a spot on the water,” he said.

Mr Beks said he had no best place from his travels but hoped to return to Capetown to resume working on the project with street kids.

In the meantime he hopes to find work to renew his funds and repair his yacht.

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