It’s the journey of a lifetime and its mission is to save lives.

Sometime in mid-December Sailor’s Wharf owner Jopie Helsen, his girlfriend Heidi Trilsch and as many as six other crew members will set sail from St. Petersburg in a 57 foot ocean going yacht named Sky Bound for a round the world cruise to benefit cancer research through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“We decided to do this for leukemia,” Helsen said. “I’ve had cancer and I have so many friends in the last few years who died of cancer or are fighting cancer and Heidi, her stepmom is a lymphoma survivor.”

The voyage begins in St. Pete. But the starting point in the 2019 Sailing the World ARC Rally that Helsen is joining is 1800 miles away in St. Lucia starting Jan. 12.

From there, Sky will transit the Panama Canal head to the Galapagos before taking the 3000 mile journey across the Pacific Ocean to the Marquesas Islands. 

Polynesia and Australia are next as the Sky carves a circle near the equator to the Indian Ocean where Helsen expects the roughest seas.

“In the Indian Ocean we may have 30-40 foot seas and that’s about it,” Helsen said. “The boat can handle it fine I think it’s the people who have the issues.”

Cape Town is next and then another long distance leg across the South Atlantic to South America and back to St. Lucia where the rally ends before Sky heads back north across the Caribbean to St. Petersburg.

Helsen’s objective is to raise $1 million for cancer research from supporters who can follow the 15 month voyage online or join the working crew for one or more legs at $300 a day, half of which will go toward charity.

It’s not a luxury cruise. Even paying crew members will swab the decks, cook, haul lines and be responsible for three hour watches ever six hours. It’s a working cruise with all the risks you might expect circumnavigating the world in a small vessel and definitely not for the faint of heart. 

But the accommodations onboard Sky include a number of creature comforts most offshore sailors aren’t accustomed to. 

Those include two nautical heads with two standup showers, a fully equipped galley with microwave and propane stove and a reverse osmosis water maker that generates 1000 gallons a day.

The yacht even has four air conditioners and even includes a washer and dryer.

Sky has satellite communications and a full array of electronic navigational equipment backed up by 41 pounds of paper charts and if all else fails, Helsen can navigate with his cell phone.

“Believe it or not this cell phone will work in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I can look at my charts because it’s got GPS,” Helsen said. “We’ll do a lot better than Columbus did.” 

Helson has spent more than a year and 6800 man hours of labor refitting Sky for this voyage and says it meets every safety standard for ocean sailing. 

Helsen and his workers at Sailors Wharf are still working out the final outfitting and all the tweaks necessary to begin the trip, but he plans to set sail by mid December.

After a lifetime of sailing, this will be Helsen’s biggest challenge.

“I’m not scared, no I’m very confident,” Helsen said. 

For a full itinerary and information on how you can support the cause or join the crew go to