By Susan Shinn, Catawba College News Service
You might remember the movie, "Around the World in 80 Days." Tina Costino Jones '80 and husband Braun are taking a dozen or so years to circumnavigate the globe.
A decade ago, the couple bought a Nordhavn motor yacht. The 62-foot craft is designed and built for worldwide cruising.
That's exactly what the couple has used it for.
But let's back up a bit, shall we?
"This wasn't something we picked up overnight," says Tina of the couple's acquisition.
Married for 15 years, the couple has owned small power boats and sailboats. Braun owned a charter boat business.
This spring, two other couples — also Nordhavn owners — joined the Joneses in a convoy from Seattle to Japan, which they called the Great Siberian Sushi Run.
In the Grey Pearl, the Joneses trekked through British Columbia, Alaska, the Aleutians and Russia alongside the other boats, Sans Souci and the Seabird. They ended their journey in Osaka, Japan, in August. That's 5,900 nautical miles.
They called themselves the "wrong way gang" because they traveled from east to west, opposite the route most travelers take.
Braun, whose father was in the Navy and who graduated from the Naval Academy, plans all their routes.
They crossed the Pacific at its narrowest point, or "forehead" as Tina calls it. It was the longest stretch they'd been at sea, with no land in sight.
"It's tedious," Tina says of long passages.
That's why Tina and Braun carefully select their crews from among family and friends. The couple are both Coast Guard captains — they don't hire their own crews.
"Everybody's gotta help and pitch in," Tina says. Everyone who travels with them has sailing experience. "Everybody brought something to the table."
Everyone takes turns at 3-hour watches and helps prepare meals.
"It's a production," Tina admits. "If you pick your crew right, it can be a good experience."
She likes to refer to herself as the "co-captain, galley wench and bottle washer."
"If it's your gig," she says, "It's a great thing. We're proud that we do everything."
Tina took seamanship courses through the U.S. Power Squadron, an auxiliary unit of the Coast Guard.
She recently upgraded her license to a 100-ton boat.
"We can run that boat together, just the two of us," Tina says with pride. "It's empowered me to be his equal. We enjoy this passion together. It's really made our marriage a partnership."
Tina left her job as a real estate broker several years ago, and now volunteers full-time. Braun is semi-retired, working with his small, private equity group. He can do much of his work online, Tina says, so that allows them to take off from their condo in Alexandria, Va., whenever they like.
"It's a balance between home time and boat time," Tina says.
While they're home, they try to follow a saying by Winston Churchill: "We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."
Both the Joneses serve on boards. Tina volunteers at one of the largest homeless shelters in Northern Virginia.
And they get family time in while they're "in port" as well.
Tina is a "grandmother by default" to four grandchildren, ages 6-12. Grandson Will, who's 12, is "totally intrigued with helping Pop-Pop" on the boat.
Tina says they like to follow the sun, wintering in the Bahamas and sailing the Northeast coast in the summertime. They've also explored Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, as well as the Panama Canal and Central America.
The longer trips have allowed the couple to raise the nautical bar. The next leg on their around-the-world trip is through Southeast Asia the next couple of years.
Tina says that Braun has always loved Japan and lived there while his father was stationed there.
"I never thought I'd go there in my own boat," she notes.
The couple will explore Southeast Asia, then winter their boat in Hong Kong in late 2010.
The Grey Pearl is wintering in Japan, the couple having flown home when they reached their destination. They'll check on the boat in January before departing in June.
The same two boats will accompany them.
"There's safety in numbers," Tina says. "We're better in a group."
The nautical trio will "scoot down" to South Korea, hopefully sliding out of the typhoon belt.
Ultimately, if the boats can navigate the Suez Canal, they'll come out into the Red Sea and Eastern Mediterranean — completing their round-the-world goal.
The only problem is negotiating the "gauntlet of piracy" off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia.
The couple is taking a wait-and-see approach. They could go around the coast of Africa. Or they could ship their vessel.
With any option, the Joneses will have attained their goal of sailing 'round the world.
For more information about the Joneses' travels, visit http://greypearl.talkspot.com.
PHOTOS: Alumna Sails Around the World