Client Profile: Sailors on a mission

May 28, 2018

For many, retirement means kicking up your feet, sleeping in, puttering around the house or in the garden, golfing, fishing, hanging with the grandkids, and maybe even booking a cruise.

Jeff and Anne Posner, however, took a radically different approach. After serving 30 years in the Air Force and 14 years as a contractor supporting the defense industry, Jeff retired, and the couple moved aboard their Wauquiez 40, which they named Joyful. Their lofty missions: to circumnavigate the globe and make a difference in the world.

“Our goals were to spread the Gospel, do good works for others, contribute to scientific endeavors, and support the education of the youth at home and abroad as we cruised,” Jeff reports. So, when the couple heard that Blue Planet Odyssey was organizing a world sailing rally with most of these goals, they were all in.

“What sealed our decision was that Jimmy Cornell was organizing the rally,” says Anne. “I had met him in 1994 when I sailed across the North Atlantic in one of his rallies, and his reputation was stellar.” Indeed, as author of numerous “go-to” reference books for sailors, Cornell had circumnavigated the globe five times and logged 200 thousand-plus miles on the ocean with his family. “So, we knew this would be a very well-run rally, and we could do our missionary work at the same time.” Anne adds.

 

Sparkling Resumes

The Posners first learned to sail in the Netherlands during Jeff’s Air Force career. “Being a California girl, I’d always wanted to learn,” admits Anne, who was a quick study. In Germany, more lessons came from the Adventurous Training Center run by the British Army, but soon Anne acquired her Skipper’s license, and the British Army became her students!

Sailing experiences followed, including a transatlantic crossing; passages across the North Sea to England, Denmark, and Norway; weeks on the Mediterranean Sea; months on the Baltic Sea from Norway to Finland; and down the entire West Indies to Trinidad. When the Posners landed back in the U.S., Anne volunteered to teach the blind how to sail and race in Boston.

 

A Yacht of Their Own

In 2005, the Posners purchased Joyful in preparation of a life of sailing once Jeff retired. Docked 50 miles from their home in Huntsville, Alabama, they took her out for brief stints along the Tennessee River. Nine years later, after Jeff retired, they set their sights on circumnavigation. “It took us a year to prepare Joyful for round-the-world travel,” Anne reports. “We fitted her out to be totally self-sufficient, including installing solar panels, and throughout our entire expedition, we never had to plug into shore power—not once!”

Their memorable journey began March 15, 2015 in Key West, Florida, and the Posners “closed the circle” three years and three months later on May 11, 2018. Their blog (still a work in progress) is packed with photographs and journal entries to inspire any sailor. Here are some highlights…

 

Distance Learning at Its Best

Before casting off, the Posners partnered with Round Hill Elementary School in Loudoun County, Virginia, inviting fifth-grade students there to join them as they circumnavigated the globe and to serve as Joyfuls “land-based crew.” Eager to learn more about our oceans and how to protect them—as well as about world cultures—students took this assignment seriously. “They created a scientific instrument we could use to collect data for a university,” says Anne. “And they had a bon voyage assembly during which they showed videos on climate change and rising sea levels.”

Even the school’s principal, Andrew Davis, got on board by gifting the Posners with a mini-cardboard replica of himself—fondly nicknamed “Flat Mr. Davis”—to accompany them on their expedition. “Everywhere we traveled, we’d take photographs of the environment, landmarks, animals, people and events with ‘Flat Mr. Davis’ and email them back to the school to serve as teachable moments,” Anne laughs.

Throughout their journey, the Posners also arranged Skype sessions between Round Hill students and other fifth-grade classes around the world. “Once while in Tonga, because of the time difference, the American students stayed after school to participate in a Skype session we set up with Tongan students,” Anne recalls. “It was so successful that both the American and Tongan students vowed to continue communicating with one another through future Skype sessions and by mail.”

Another educational highlight occurred when Joyful sailed into Sydney, Australia, and Anne helped teach an art/science class organized by the indigenous people of Australia at the Sydney Opera House. The subject was plastic pollution in the oceans, and during the class, Anne constructed a sea turtle out of plastic and metal debris found floating in the ocean, then explained the dangers of these materials to ocean life. Next, she invited participants to make their own sea creatures out of the plastic debris. “The goal was to teach how these materials harm the ocean and subsequently all life on the planet,” she explains.

 

Citizen Scientists at Sea

One of the scientific projects Joyful was involved in was recording radiation levels experienced along its sailing route. “Radiation is a form of energy that comes from various sources (X-rays, radon gas, nuclear power plants, etc.), which, if the levels are too high, could cause a health hazard,” Jeff explains. “On Joyful, the data we recorded was sent to the Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center (NETC), a world-wide volunteer radiation reporting site. NETC posts radiation readings from numerous sources, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and volunteer reporting sites, into a data base.”

Whenever the current cooperated, the Posners would also measure the turbidity of the water using a Secchi disk. “With this disk, we collected data about phytoplankton—which are essential for life on earth to flourish—and submitted our findings to the Secchi App,” says Jeff. “This app is monitored by oceanographers at the University of Plymouth in England. Adds Anne, “Joyfuls Secchi disk was a very special one that was made by the fifth-grade students at Round Hill Elementary.”

 

A Joyful Mission

In a pre-expedition ceremony held at a Methodist church in Huntsville, Alabama, the Posners were proclaimed missionaries, and Joyful was consecrated as the vessel to take them around the world as they spread the Gospel. Thus, whenever Jeff and Anne visited a new continent or island, they arrived bearing gifts and ministered to the homeless, the poor, the elderly, orphans, and people with special needs.

In Bali, for example, the Posners delivered two months’ worth of food to a starving family of 16 living in a couple of dilapidated huts up in the mountains. “These were not lazy people,” Anne reveals. “They had to walk two hours to the nearest village to find work, but were too tired and malnourished to do so. After we hauled heavy bags of rice and canned goods up the hill to their huts, they were so grateful and said, ‘Thank you. This food will give us the energy to go look for jobs.’”

Another mission of the Posners was conducting art and music ministries. In a tiny, poor island group just east of Australia that was often hit by cyclones, 140 children sat on coconut leaf mats creating works of art under Anne’s direction. All—plus 40 more youngsters—were left with school supplies and art supply kits. Bibles were donated to the village as well. Ditto for abused young girls in Tasmania. And in Sri Lanka, ancients severely affected by the tsunami, received soaps and laundry detergent—plus enjoyed a singalong and dancing session with local musicians and Anne on their guitars.

 

Protected by Pantaenius

From their first nautical mile to their last, the Posners were insured by Pantaenius. “We had confidence in our coverage as we proceeded around the world and needed changes made to our policy due to country requirements,” says Anne. “Janet Bianco was extremely helpful, trustworthy, and always quick to respond to our questions and needs. All it took was an email or phone call—and we always got the answer we were hoping for.”

The Posners say they chose Pantaenius not only for the broad navigations offered to its clients but for the company’s excellent reputation worldwide. “Just yesterday, we recommended Pantaenius to a couple preparing to circumnavigate just like we did,” Anne adds.

 

Up Next

Since completing their circumnavigation last month, the Posners have lingered in Key West with plans to move on to phase two of “Mission Joyful.” Artist Anne plans to write several books about the couple’s adventures and create paintings of every landfall and navigation. Jeff also plans to put pen to paper, writing a motivational book that encourages readers to chase their dreams.

“Above all, we’re hoping to inspire others to do good works when sailing,” Anne says. “It’s fine to have fun, but it’s equally important to give back to the places you visit. Always do whatever you can. Even just a little bit can make a huge difference.”

 

 To read more about the Posners adventures, check out their blog at https://missionjoyful.com/page/1/