Enjoying calm winds and peaceful Pacific waters, Seung Jin Kim dove off his 43-foot sailboat, the Arapani, to swim with some dolphins nearby. The serenity that day near the equator was a stark contrast to the 60 mph winds and 23-foot waves he had to fight around Cape Horn, the southern tip of South America. But Kim, a veteran sailor and member of the Rotary Club of Seokmun, in Chungcheongnam, Korea, expected such challenges when he set out in mid-October on a 25,600-mile journey around the world. In addition to fulfilling a lifelong dream, Kim is using the trip to raise awareness and funds -- his goal is $200,000 or more -- for Rotary's End Polio Now campaign.
He's now more than halfway through the voyage, which is expected to take eight months. As of 23 March, he'd passed South Atlantic and is now in the middle of the Indian Ocean en route to Western Australia.
"I want to give people the belief and aspiration to create a better and more prosperous future," says Kim, who chose Sailing With Hope as the theme of his voyage. "Rotary is doing that with polio eradication, so I'm sailing around the world in support of the effort to wipe this disease from the face of the earth. I want people to know how close we are."
To spread the word, the Arapani carries a 68-foot mast whose sail is emblazoned with the End Polio Now logo. He hopes people who see the logo will be curious enough to look into his cause.
"The success of our fundraiser depends on how much publicity we get," says Kim. "The bigger the crowd of people we can attract [when he completes the trip], the more money we can raise for polio eradication."
While he is in daily contact via satellite phone with his support team, which includes Korean Rotary members, he acknowledges that the solitary aspect of the journey is difficult. "The toughest part of this trip was the moment I realized I was all by myself in the middle of the ocean. A sullen feeling of loneliness suddenly invaded me," says Kim.
Kim, who expects to return to Korea in late May, will have crossed the Pacific, Antarctic, Atlantic, and Indian oceans.
He says the things he's most looking forward to are a home-cooked meal and being able to sleep under the same roof as his family. But he's already anticipating setting sail again. "I want to do this again, he says, "but with young sailors who have the same dream of sailing around the world."
Kim's journey is sponsored by 18 districts in Korea. The day he set off, Korean Rotary members posted poems, inspirational words, and photos around the marina. "I am so grateful for [the members'] support and encouragement. They are a wonderful inspiration for me," says Kim.
Sun-Hyung Cho, governor of District 3620 and part of the support team, says the district's Rotary members are closely following Kim's progress.
"We are so proud of his voyage around the world," Cho says. "This is important for Rotary because Kim's message can help convince other Rotarians to get more involved in the End Polio Now fight. I believe positive attitudes attract positive reactions from others. Kim's positive thinking has helped gain attraction to our cause."