Beth Leonard

By Chris Landers

BoatUS's new technical editor is a two-time circumnavigator.

When Beth Leonard's husband Evans suggested they quit their jobs and sail around the world, it seemed far-fetched. "I think I reacted pretty much the same way I would have if he'd said, 'Let's build a rocket and fly to the moon,'" she says. After all, they were both successful management consultants with McKinsey & Company, about to be promoted to partner, and living in Europe. It seemed like a lot to give up, but a fit of introspection brought on by a close call with a plane crash and 18 months of lobbying by Evans brought her around to the idea.

Photo of Beth LeonardOur new technical editor, Beth Leonard, has put more miles under her keel (110,000), than many people put on their cars.

Beth's boating experience had begun early in her life, with summer outings from the family cottage near Oswego, New York, on a variety of powerboats. "I grew up on Lake Ontario fishing for bass and perch, waterskiing, and canoeing," she said. "But we'd never sailed." A four-week test trip off the south coast of England with Evans convinced her they could do it, though, so they bought a sailboat, sight unseen, in America, and spent the next three years and 35,000 miles sailing their Shannon 37-foot centerboard ketch Silk around the world.

Beth had some mechanical experience in college, she rebuilt her Corolla with her grandfather's help but she and Evans set sail, she says, with the attitude that "we'll take the boat to the oil-change place when we need the oil changed." There was a steep learning curve, she laughs now, "but by the time we finished the trip, we could basically fix anything and everything aboard that boat."

They returned to land, built a 47-foot aluminum sailboat, then set off again around the world (eastbound, this time), exploring the northern high latitudes, then sailing 8,000 miles from Iceland to Cape Horn. "Spending two years in Chile, we had to be self-sufficient as there was no help available along 1,500 miles of the most remote coastline in the world." Their hard-won ability to troubleshoot and fix anything aboard themselves proved essential during a 60-day, 9,000-nautical-mile, nonstop, east about passage through the Southern Ocean from the Beagle Channel to Perth, Australia.

Over the course of their second circumnavigation, Beth and Evans passed under all five of the mariner's "Great Southern Capes," eventually logging over 75,000 miles aboard Hawk.

Considered to be among the most knowledgeable blue-water cruisers in the world, Beth has parlayed her deep technical experience into a new career as an award-winning writer, and she and Evans have written hundreds of articles and columns for top U.S. and U.K. boating magazines. She's also written three books The Voyager's Handbook; Following Seas; and Blue Horizons, which won the 2007 National Outdoor Book Award. This year, the couple returned to life on land, where Beth has just been named technical editor of BoatUS Magazine, and assistant director of Technical Services for BoatUS. She'll also write for Seaworthy, the BoatUS Marine Insurance publication dedicated to helping members avoid injury and boat damage due to accidents and storms. 

— Published: October/November 2012


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