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Couple Dodges Disease With 10-Year Sailing Trip Around the World

They’re more worried about being rammed by a killer whale than catching the coronavirus.

PORTO, Portugal—A French husband and wife quit their successful careers to embark on the journey of a lifetime — and not even the onset of a global pandemic has interfered with that plan.

Jean-Benoit, 54, and Isabelle Lagarde, 53, have been making plans to explore the world by sea and taking boating courses for years, so they were undeterred when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. So much so, that they’re more afraid of being rammed by a killer whale than of contracting the coronavirus.

Isabelle and Jean-Benoit Lagarde have set off on a 10-year trip around the world and are not afraid of COVID-19. This map shows the couple’s progress so far. They are currently just over one month into their epic voyage. (VoilierMalouinMaverickII/Real Press)

The couple, who met 10 years ago and married four years ago, chose to retire from the jobs working for the country’s Senate, sell their home in Paris and take to the seas for a 10-year expedition earlier this year on Maverick II, a second-hand Patago 40 built in 2006 that is about 40 feet long. The vessel is equipped with a 350-watt wind turbine and 200 watts of solar panels and can carry 450 liters of water. The boat has already been around the world once before with its previous owners.

They had been planning the trip since 2017 with dreams of traveling the world. Isabelle has been working hard to learn the ropes of sailing through seminars, while Jean-Benoit has been sailing since he was six, mostly taking short trips between France and England.

“It is possible that this trip could last longer than 10 years because there will be plenty of places that we haven’t seen that we might want to go and see. We don’t really have a long-term plan that is set in stone regarding where we are going,” Jean-Benoit told Zenger News while docked in Porto, Portugal, this month. “We have no real constraints.”

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the couple has found it uncomfortable to wear masks when they go ashore, and they feel safer on the boat than on land.

“The facemask, for me, is an abomination. Without going into whether it is useful or not, the result remains that it is an abomination that destroys social links and makes it difficult to interact with other people,” Jean-Benoit said.

He added that they had been forced to make changes to their plans because of the health crisis. They originally planned to go to Morocco but will have to skip that stop due to coronavirus restrictions. They also want to go to Cape Verde, an island nation off the coast of Africa commonly referred to as Cabo Verde, but they don’t know if it will be possible yet.

The couple was additionally looking forward to spending time in Seville, Spain, to explore the city’s museums, but they are closed at the moment. Instead, they are spending more time at sea than expected and enjoying activities such as practicing sailing, canoeing, fishing and diving.

Isabelle and Jean-Benoit Lagarde have set off on a 10-year trip around the world and are not afraid of COVID-19. This photograph was taken in Cape Finisterre, a peninsula on the west coast of Galicia, in Spain. (VoilierMalouinMaverickII/Real Press)

“We are becoming a really good crew!” Jean-Benoit said.

After they reach the southern tip of Spain, their next destination is Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal, before they head to the Canary Islands and on to Cape Verde in June or July 2021. From there, they want to next cross the Atlantic Ocean and reach Brazil.

(Edited by Carlin Becker and Matthew Hall)