Top to top family explores world

By land and sea, world explorers often visit Homer on their way north for further adventures or an end-of-the-road finish from points further south.

Last Thursday, a 50-foot silver sailboat slipped into the Homer Harbor on an expedition that outshines anything else by comparison.

The S/V Pachamama — Inca for “Earth Mother” — is the Starship Enterprise of expeditions. Her 12-year mission is to seek out and explore the seven summits and the seven seas, to boldly go where some have gone before, but not on one single keel. 

Crewed  by Dario Schwoerer, 44, and Sabine Schwoerer, 37, of Switzerland, and their family, if the Pachamama succeeds on the final leg of its journey, it will be the first ship to circumnavigate North and South America, including the Northwest Passage. 

The family also will climb the highest mountains on each continent, though the children won’t attempt every summit.

For any working family thinking they have it rough, consider this: the Schwoerers have been sailing with their four small children, ages 10 to 2, none of whom were born when they started their journey in 2000. All the children had their umbilical cords cut with a Swiss Army knife, which is how Top to Top won backing from knife company Victorinox.

Last Thursday the family celebrated Swiss Independence Day at Seaside Farm with Mossy Kilcher and some of the Kilcher clan, first-generation Swiss Americans.

The Schwoerers plan to stay in Homer or elsewhere in Alaska this winter as they prepare for the next phase in their expedition: a cycling trip in the spring to Wonder Lake in Denali National Park and then climbing Mount McKinley — Denali — up the Muldrow Glacier route. All their summits have been done starting at sea level, and by human power alone.

Central to the mission is engaging school children in their travels. Dario Schwoerer said they’ve talked to more than 50,000 students around the world. Presentations can include beach cleanups with students, he said. In Homer and Alaska he’s looking to talk to any school that will invite them.

“That’s actually fun for us — ‘filling up the batteries’ when you see the sparkle in their eyes,” Schwoerer said of the effect talks have on them.

Top to Top seeks to raise awareness of the dangers of climate change and connect children with sports and the environment. Top to Top holds drawing contests for younger students challenging them to come up with solutions to environmental problems.

“Their brains are not blocked like us with all our experience. Their brains are 100 percent creativity,” Schwoerer said. “When we ask for solutions for the planet, we have to ask the children.”

For high school and college students, Top to Top holds contests where they’re asked to describe a solution or do an activity with their friends — a clean up or a cycling, sailing or climbing trip like Top to Top. 

Starting in Switzerland on a trek through the Swiss Alps and climbing the first summit, Mt. Blanc, Top to Top has sailed to South America, to Australia and Southeast Asia, cycled to Mt. Everest base camp and then through China, to Africa, and back to the Americas for the current leg of its journey. 

The journey has had its challenges, such as a bent mast and a broken rudder when the Pachamama hit a shipping container in the Pacific Ocean. Sabine Schwoerer was pregnant then, and with Pachamama’s rudder broken they had to steer by trimming sails.

Schwoerer said they have a rule on Pachamama: “Try twenty times before giving up. Otherwise, when you have a pregnant wife and a broken boat …,” he said of how sometimes you can’t give up.

It’s a lesson he wants children to learn.

“Many times they try once or twice and give up. That’s a good message for kids,” Schwoerer said of the Pachamama rule.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at


Top to Top Global Climate Expedition

Dario and Sabine Schwoerer and their four children, Salina, age 10; Andri, 8; Noe, 4, and Alegra, 2



To climb the seven summits of the world’s seven continents, sail the seven seas and circumnavigate North and South America, including the Northwest Passage, all by human power or the forces of nature


To connect children with sports and the environment, to raise awareness about the dangers of climate change and to clean up the world

Expedition so far: 

Sailed more than 40,000 nautical miles, cycled more than 11,200 miles and climbed more than 1.3 million feet.

Visited more than 50,000 school students and cleaned up more than 25,000 tons of waste

Mountains remaining to climb: 

Mount Vinson, Antarctica, and Mount McKinley (Denali), Alaska/North America.

Speaking opportunities:

20- to 40-minute slide shows and talks for students from 8 years old and up; workshops; clean ups

Contact: Dario Schwoerer, or 907-512-7711


Ship: S/V Pachamama

Model: Saranaia 50 from CN Locmeral in France, built in 2000

Material: Aluminum

Length of hull: 50 feet

Breadth: 15 feet

Draft: 8 feet

Displacement: 28,600 pounds

Sails: main 14 square yard), Genoa 17 square yards, gib 8 square yards

Mast: 64.50 feet

Good accommodation for eight people in four double cabins with three toilets and showers

Speed record: 12 knots


Sponsored by Victorinox and SGS, under the patronage of the United Nations Environment Program