Couch Sailors: sailing around the world with Tiwal

In 2015, Gina and Jose set off on what they hoped would be the adventure of a lifetime. They quit their jobs and decided to sail around the world on their 43 foot Beneteau, with a Tiwal inflatable sailing dinghy onboard…

It’s just after sunrise and I can hear the whizzing of the wind generator taking off in the gentle morning breeze. The humming sound brings me back to reality from a deep sleep and I peek out the v-berth hatch to catch a glimpse of what that reality looks like. The water around S/V Carthago is crystal clear; 40 feet deep and I can see blue starfish laying on the bright coral below. Palm trees line white sandy beaches where fishermen from the village are coming in from a long night of work. If Fiji is my reality, then I am living in a dream.

In 2015 my partner and I set off on what we hoped would be the adventure of a lifetime. We quit our corporate jobs and got off the well-paved path in search of one less traveled. We knew that beauty existed beyond the skyscrapers of San Francisco and we wanted to find it. There were surely places in this world yet to be discovered, yet to be impacted by a heavy human footprint and we couldn’t think of anything more exciting than exploring them for ourselves.

Tiwal in Philippines

So off we went. Along the California coast, up and down the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Mexico, across the ocean and through the magical islands of the South Pacific. 15,000 miles of wind-powered adventure. As our fellow cruisers will attest, sailing awards you the opportunity to explore some of the world’s most remote corners. Sailing with the TIWAL, however, has allowed us to get into every nook and cranny.

With our TIWAL onboard, waking up to a windy anchorage presents itself as a gift. The promise of excitement. The opportunity for a new adventure. Those hard to reach places suddenly become our playground. And play we do. Once the sun is up, tea is made and the galley is cleaned, we head outside to assemble our TIWAL on the deck of our 43 foot Beneteau. Out of the corner of our eyes we can see our neighbors looking on curiously as we build a boat…on our boat. “What on earth are those kids doing?” They’ll see with their own eyes 15 minutes later exactly what we’re up to.

Yes. 15 minutes. That’s the only thing between us and our next adventure. What takes longer is packing lunch, gathering our cameras and finding our shoes – it’s been awhile since we’ve worn them, after all. We never know how far we’ll go or what new places we might see and we like to be prepared for all sorts of fun!

Finally packed and ready to go, we head out to explore a shallow break in the reef at our anchorage in Fiji’s Lau Group. En route, we navigate through the labyrinth of mushroom-shaped motus that dot the bay. These volcanic remains are home to tropical birds and plants that seem to grow magically out of the rock. Occasionally, we opt to go a bit off course to follow a family of turtles or a pack of dolphins playing nearby. Even for a serious racer, it’s hard to stay focused when the course becomes interactive. We sail past vibrant coral heads and make a mental mark of all the places we’ll come back to snorkel once the wind has died. Reaching the pass, we’re grateful that our TIWAL leaves us wanting for nothing because, for now, the wind has certainly not died. Outside the lagoon, we’re welcomed by a head-on breeze, but we know our boat can take it. We’re soaking wet and full of child-like laughter as the adrenaline kicks in. We feel like adventurers. Like racers. Like path-pavers. And we are having a blast.

Later than afternoon, famished from hours on water, a sandbar has emerged at low tide that welcomes us to dry out, have lunch and laze around in the winter sun. Neighboring cruisers are finally ready to see what all the fuss is about and zip over in their dinghy to check out our adventure-mobile. We could give them the run down and tell them all about the performance sails, the carbon fiber mast, the fact that our TIWAL folds up into two duffle bags on deck – or we could let them test it out for themselves. We opt for the latter. Why should we get to have all the fun?! Kid boats soon follow and we give a few parents a little break as we take their tots out for a spin. There’s nothing quite as cool as seeing a four-year-old handling the tiller all by herself. She’s having too much fun to be nervous and I can’t help but smile knowing that this is a moment neither of us will forget.

As the sandbar starts to disappear and the sun begins to set, we make our way back home to Carthago. Even though we take the same route, our view has a new hue. The blue water now reflects the red glare of the setting sun, flying fish are jumping as their prey start to feed and we are drenched in blissful exhaustion. We’ve done it again: we set out to explore the corners of the world and that’s exactly what we’ve done. We feel accomplished. We feel alive.

On the water, no two days are the same but there is always one constant: adventure awaits around every corner, as long as you are open to it. Cruising has given us the opportunity to chase adventure with enthusiasm and to explore the world with a new point of view. There certainly is beauty beyond our backyard, and though we can say we’ve seen it, we’re delighted to know that we have only scraped the surface.

Gina Harris,, October 16th, 2017