The Circumnavigators - by Don Holm

The Blue Water Medal

of the world, the Blue Water Medal of the Cruising Club of America
has been awarded annually since 1923 to individuals and man-wife
crews who through outstanding seamanship have exemplified the
goals of the club. It is awarded to a recipient selected from all ama-
teur yachtsmen of the world, whether or not they are members of
the club. Indeed, most recipients have not been members.
  The medal itself is a five-inch diameter bronze circular medallion
with a wooden base, depicting a stylized hemispherical map with
inscriptions. It was designed by member Arthur Sturgis Hildebrand,
one of the crew of the yacht Leiv Eiriksson which was lost in the
Arctic with all hands in September 1924.
  The Leiv Eiriksson was a 42-foot Colin Archer cutter purchased in
Norway by William Nutting and some fellow members of the CCA for
a daring voyage along the great Viking way to Iceland, Greenland,
and down along the North American continent. Nutting was in
command, and the crew included John O. Todahl of New York, and
B.J. Fleischer, a Norwegian yachtsman. They sailed on July 4, touched
in at the Faroes, and arrived in Iceland on July 25. The last word of
the ship was from Julianahaab in southwest Greenland. She was
never seen again, despite an extensive search order by the Presi-
dent of the United States, which included navy ships, the famous
Captain Bob Bartlett in the Arctic schooner Effie M. Morrisey, as
well as Canadian, Danish, and Norwegian rescue expeditions.
  The Hudson's Bay Company even broadcast on Christmas Eve to
all its posts a notice of a $5,000 reward for information, which indi-
cates the prestige, esteem, and influence this private cruising club
generated even in its early years.
  The club was the brain-child of William Washburn Nutting, a
midwesterner of great personal charm and energies, with no yachting
experience whatever when he arrived in New York in about 1907 to
begin a career as a writer and later editor of various yachting maga-
zines, including Motor Boat(1). He subsequently was commissioned in
the U.S. Navy and served on the famed 110-foot sub chasers of

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World War I. In fact, many of the charter members of CCA were
veterans of this service.
  In the fall of 1920, on a duck hunting trip to the Bras d'Or Lakes
aboard Gilbert Grosvenor's 54-foot Elsie, Nutting and some pals con-
ceived the idea of sailing a William Atkin gaff-ketch, Typhoon, across
the Atlantic to England in time for the Cowes races and the Harms-
worth Cup Races. During the Cowes festivities, Nutting's engaging
personality created a warm welcome from British yachtsmen, and many
friendships were begun with members of the Royal Cruising Club,
including the famed Claud Worth, Tom Ratsey, and the Earl of
Dunraven, owner of the America's Cup challenger, Valkynes.
  Members of the British cruising club, who had been awarded its
coveted Seamanship Award, were Lieutenant G. H. P. Mulhauser of
Amaryllis and Conor O'Brien of Saoirse.
  On August 31, Nutting sailed Typhoon back to the United States
with a crew that included a young Sea Scout master named Uffa Fox,
who was to become a renowned British naval architect. The return trip
was made via the Azores and the West Indies, and a boisterous one it
was. The Typhoon was a shambles of wreckage and out of food and
water by the time it reached Gravesend Bay.
  During the winter of 1921-1922, Nutting and a group of yachting
cronies, who gathered frequently at a cellar cafe known as Beefsteak
John's on Grove Street, Greenwich Village, to talk yachts and cruis-
ing, formed the nucleus of the club which was formalized at a dinner
meeting on February 9, 1922. A second meeting at the Harvard Club
on March 22 was held to establish the original rules. The new CCA
was patterned after the RCA.
  The thirty-six charter members included such well-known yachts-
men as John Alden, Frederic Fenger, Gilbert Grosvenor, Herbert L.
Stone, Thomas Fleming Day, and W. P. Stephens.
  From the first, the club concerned itself with both ocean racing
and cruising at a time when the public and most newspapers regarded
both as foolhardy antics of the wealthy sportsman. The revival of the
Bermuda Race and the establishment of rules for both racing and
cruising events are credited to the club.
  The idea of the Blue Water Medal was put forth by Henry A.
Wise Wood in a committee report of February 27, 1923, "to be
awarded annually for the year's most meritorious example of seaman-
ship, the recipient to be selected from among the amateurs of all the
nations. The medal itself was the work of Hildebrand, a freelance

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writer and early member, who was to lose his life the same year the
first award was made.
  According to the late John Parkinson, Jr., it was ironic that the first
one should go to Alain Gerbault, the French iconoclast, who bum-
bled across the Atlantic in Firecrest.
  "Today," wrote Parkinson in Nowhere Is Too Far (New York:
Cruising Club of America, 1960), "well-executed ocean crossings in
small vessels are quite frequent, and Gerbault would not even be
considered for a Blue Water Medal."

1923  Firecrest     Alain J. Gerbault    France

       Left Gibraltar on June 7, 1923, and arrived at Fort Totten,
       L.I., exactly 100 days later. Nonstop. Dixon Kemp-de-
       signed British cutter, 39 feet oa. Singlehanded.

1924  Shanghai     Axel Ingwersen     Denmark

       Departed Shanghai on February 20, 1923, and arrived in
       Denmark via Cape of Good Hope in MaY 1924. Double-
       ended ketch, 47 feet oa, built by native laborers. Crew of

1925  Islander     Harry Pidgeon     U.S.A.

       First circumnavigation. From Los Angeles to Los Angeles
       via Cape of Good Hope and Panama Canal, November
       18, 1921-October 31, 1925. Home-built 34-foot-oa yawl of
       the Sea Bird type. Singlehanded.

1926  Jolie Brise     E. G. Martin     England

       Double transatlantic crossing, including Bermuda Race.
       Le Havre pilot cutter, 56 feet oa. April 3, 1926, from Fal-
       mouth, arrived July 27 at Plymouth.

1927  Primrose IV    Frederick L. Ames   U.S.A.

       This 50-foot-oa Alden schooner had been sailed to Eng-
       land for the 1926 Fastnet. Medal was awarded for her re-
       turn passage, from Portsmouth, north-about, Iceland,
       Labrador Cape Breton Island, 58 days to Newport, R.I.

1928  Seven Bells    Thomas F. Cooke    U.S.A.

       An eastbound transatlantic passage, Branford, Conn., to
       Falmouth, July 5-July 31, 1928. Roue-designed 56-foot-oa

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1929  Postscript   F. Slade Dale      U.S.A.

      A 4,000-mile cruise in the West Indies with a crew of two,
      from and to Barnegat Bay, N.J. The 23-foot-oa cutter, de-
      signed by the owner, was subsequently lost with all hands
      under different ownership.

1930  Carlsark   Carl Weagent         U.S.A.

      A 13,000-mile cruise of this 46-foot-oa ketch from Ithaca,
      N.Y., to Ithaca, Greece, and return to New York City.
      Started June 20, 1929, completed May 30, 1930.

1931  Svaap   William A. Robinson     U.S.A.

      This 32-foot 6-inch oa Alden ketch departed New London
      on June 23, 1928, in the Bermuda Race of that year, and
      circumnavigated via Panama and Suez Canals with crew
      of two, except for a period of race. Arrived New York on
      September 24, 1931.

Without  Jolie Brise   Robert Somerset           England

      Award for remarkable feat of seamanship and courage in
      rescuing all but one of a ll-man crew of burning schooner
      Adriana in the 1932 Bermuda Race.

1933  Dorade   Roderick Stephens, Jr.      U.S.A.

      A three-month, 8,000-mile transatlantic crossing from New
      York to Norway and return, including victory in the Fast-
      net Race. The 52-foot 3-inch oa Stephens-designed yawl
      returned home from England by the northern route in the
      remarkable time of 26 days.

1934  May L    W. B. Reese             England

      A singlehanded passage in a small double-ended ketch
      from England in the fall of 1933 to Nassau in January

1935  Charles F. Tillinghast         U.S.A.

      "For his seamanship in the effort to save three members
      of the crew of the Hamrah who were overboard in the
      North Atlantic, and in bringing the disabled and short-
      handed ketch safely into Sydney, N.S."

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1936  Arielle      Marin-Marie         France

      A singlehanded transatlantic passage in a 42-foot 7-inch oa
      motorboat (July 23-August 10, 1936) with two self-steer-
      ing devices. Marie had sailed on the cutter Winnibelle II
      (without power) from Brest to New York in 1933.

1937  Duckling    Charles W. Atwater     U.S.A.

      A voyage from New York to Reykiavik, Iceland, and return
      to Newport via Trepassey, Newfoundland, June 19-August
      26, 1937. A 37.5-foot oa Mower cutter.

Without Igdrasil   Roger S.Strout              U.S.A.
      Circumnavigation in a Spray-type cutter (eventually rigged
      as a yawl) designed and built by owner. He and his wife
      circumnavigated via Panama and Cape between June
      1934 and May 1937.

1938  Caplin   Cdr. Robert D. Graham, Royal Navy   England

      Bantry Bay, Ireland, to Funchal and Bermuda between
      April 20 and June 27, 1938, and then to West Indies.
      Graham's daughter completed the crew of two in 35-foot-
      oa yawl.

1939  Iris     John Martucci       U.S.A.

      An 11,000-mile cruise from New York to Naples and re-
      turn in a 36-foot-oa MacCregor yawl. The return home
      including a nonstop, 35-day run from Tangiers to Ber-
      muda, was made after outbreak of World War II.

1940  British Yachtsmen at Dunkerque    England

      Awarded to British yachtsmen, living and dead, who had
      helped in the evacuation of the British Expeditionary
      Force in June 1940.

1941  Orion     Robert Neilson      U.S.A.

      Orion was a 30-foot auxiliary ketch of 10-foot beam and
      4Y2 foot draft designed by John G. Hanna. On June 5,
      1941, Neilson and one companion sailed from Honolulu
      and arrived San Pedro, Calif., on July 15. The medal was
      awarded for this passage, and Orion subsequently carried
      on through the Panama Canal to Tampa, Florida a total
      distance of 7,978 miles.


1947  Gaucho     Ernesto C. Uriburu    Argentina

      A cruise in a 50-foot ketch from Buenos Aires through the
      Mediterranean and to the Suez Canal and then to New
      York, following Columbus's route from Palos, Spain, to
      San Salvador.

1950  Lang Syne    William P. and Phyllis Crowe   U.S A.

      From Honolulu around the Cape to New England, from
      Easter Sunday, 1948, to the spring of 1950. After the
      award, the 39-foot-oa, home-built Block Island-type double-
      ended schooner completed her circumnavigation to Hawaii.

1952  Stornoway     Alfred Petersen     U.S.A.

      A circumnavigation from and to New York via the two
      major canals in a 33-foot double-ended cutter. Single-
      handed, June 1948 - August 18, 1952.

1953  Omoo    L. G. Van de Wiele    Belgium

      A circumnavigation by owner, wife, and one other, plus
      dog, from Nice, France, to Zeebruene, Belaium, July 7,
      1951-August 2, 1953, via Canal and CaPe of Good Hope.
      Steel 45-foot-oa gaff-rigged ketch. Said to be first steel
      yacht and first dog to circumnavigate.

1954  Viking     Sten and Brita Holmdahl    Sweden

      A circumnavigation by Canal and Cape of Good Hope by
      owner and wife from Marstrand to Gothenburg, Sweden,
      between June 17, 1952, and June 22, 1954. A double-ended
      33-foot ketch converted by owner and wife from a fishing

1955  Wanderer III    Eric and Susan Hiscock   England

      Circumnavigation by Canal and Cape of Good Hope by
      owner and wife, July 24, 1952-July 13, 1955, in a 30-foot
      Giles-designed cutter.

1956  Mischief      H. W. Tilman     England

      A 20,000-mile voyage of the 50-year-old Bristol pilot cutter
      from England through Strait of Magellan, up west coast
      of South America, through Panama Canal and return to
      England, July 6, 1955-July 10, 1956.


Without     Carleton Mitchell                    U.S.A.
       "For his meritorious ocean passages, his sterling seaman-
       ship and his advancement of the sport by counsel and

1957  Landfall II     Dr. William F. Holcomb    U.S.A.

       Circumnavigation west-about from San Francisco of
       Schock-designed 46-foot 6-inch oa schooner via the Suez
       and Panama canals, with side trips to South America, Eng-
       land, North Africa, and New York. September 18, 1953-
       September 15, 1957.

1958  Les Quatre Vents    Marcel Bardiaux    France

       Singlehanded circumnavigation west-about around Cape
       Horn and the Cape of Good Hope in home-built sloop,
       30-foot 9-inches oa. From Ouistreham, France, May 24,
       1950 to Arcachon, France, July 25, 1958.

1959  Trekka     John Guzzwell    Canada

       Singlehanded circumnavigation in home-built yawl 20-foot
       10-inches oa via the Cape of Good Hope and the Panama
       Canal. From Victoria, B.C., to Victoria, September 10,
       1955-September 10, 1959.

Without  Legh I, Legh II, Sirio   Vito Dumas     Argentina
       Global circumnavigation in Legh II, 1942-1943. Other
       phenomenal singlehanded voyages in Legh 1, 1931-1932;
       Legh II, 1945-1947; Sirio, 1955.

1960  Gipsy Moth III    Francis Chichester    England

       Winner of the first Singlehanded Race across the Atlantic
       in 1960, from east to west across the Atlantic.

Without   Seacrest   Dr. Paul B. Sheldon         U.S.A.
       Extended cruises along the coasts of Nova Scotia, New-
       foundland, and Labrador.

1962  Adios      Thomas S. Steele    U.S.A.

       Two circumnavigations in a 32-foot ketch; one in 195N
       1955, the other in 1957-1963.


1964  Pen-Duick III     Eric Tabarly    France

      Winner of the second Singlehanded Race across the At-
      lantic from Plymouth, England, to Newport, R.I., in 27
      days, I hour, 56 minutes.

1965  Delight      Wright Britton     U.S.A.

      From New York to Greenland and return with his wife,
      Patricia, as sole crew.

1966  Joshua     Bernard Moitessier     France

      From Moorea, west to east, around Cape Horn to Alicante,
      Spain. His wife, Francoise, was sole crew.

1967  Gipsy Moth IV     Sir Francis Chichester   England

      Singlehanded passage around the world via the Cape of
      Good Hope and Cape Horn. Stopping only at Sydnev,
      Australia, the distance was 29,630 miXes for the whole

1968  Lively Lady     Sir Alec Rose    England

      Singlehanded circumnavigation of the world with stops
      only at Melbourne, Australia, and Bluff, New Zealand.
      He departed Portsmouth, England, July 16, 1967, and
      returned to that port on July 4, 1968.

1969  No award was made.                       

1970  Elsie     Frank Casper     U.S.A.

      Extended singlehanded cruising, including one circum-
      navigation and numerous transatlantic passages.

1970  Carina     Richard S. Nye     U.S.A.

      For meritorious cruising and ocean racing.

1971  Whisper    Hal Roth     U.S.A.

      For an 18,538-mile voyage around the Pacific basin in the
      Spencer 35 fiberglass sloop, with his wife, Margaret, as
      crew. The 19-month cruise started at San Francisco and
      covered a route never before taken by a cruising sailboat,
      arriving back in San Francisco in October 1970.


1972  Awahnee II     Robert Lyle Griffith    U.S.A

      For his three circumnavigations witll his wife, Nancy, and
      son, Reid, the first in the Uffa Fox-designed cutter,
      Awahnee I, which was lost on a reef in the Tuamotus
      while engaged in a rescue mission for a missing American
      yacht; and the second and third in their home-built ferro-
      cement cutter, a modified version of Awahnee 1. The first
      circumnavigation was east to west around the Horn and
      Cape of Good Hope; the second was east-about via the
      Capes and Japan; and the third, a 12,800-mile voyage in
      the high southern latitudes around the Antarctic con-
      tinent from Bluff, New Zealand, with time spent in port
      at American, Russian, English, Chilean, and Argentine
      scientific stations.

1973  Tzu Hang   Miles and Beryl Smeeton   Canada

      For outstanding performance in cruising and for meri-
      torious seamanship. The Smeetons cruised to almost every
      area of the globe in the period from 1955 to 1970 in their
      45-foot ketch, Tzu Hang.

  Of the Blue Water Medals awarded to date, twelve have been for
singlehanded voyages. There have been sixteen ketches, eleven cut-
ters, six yawls, three sloops, three schooners, and one motorboat
named in the citations. Recipients have included twenty-four Ameri-
cans, nine Britons, two Canadians, six Frenchmen, one Dane, one
Swede, one Belgian and two Argentines. Two of the awards have
been for heroism: the British Yachtsmen at Dunkerque; and the
rescue of the crew of Adriana by the Jolie Brise. One man, Francis
Chichester, received the award twice. One boat, the Jolie Brise, was
cited twice. In five instances, the award was made without date.
Although the award was originally intended to be given annually, no
award was made in 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951,
1963, 1969. Two awards were made in 1970. Beginning in 1950, a
series of awards were made jointly to man-wife crews before reverting
back to the single recipient award.
  Of all the awards, fourteen have included circumnavigations via
the Cape of Good Hope, seven via Cape Horn, three via Suez Canal;
seven have been for Atlantic crossings, two westbound and four east-
bound; five for Atlantic cruises, three for a Pacific cruise, one for a
China to Copenhagen voyage.
  In two cases, the award named the recipient instead of a vessel,
Charles F. Tillinghast in 1935 for heroism; and the famed bluewater


sailor, Carleton Mitchell, between 1956 and 1957, just on general
principles, as he had been a nominee many times, but always lost out
to something more spectacular that year. Two of the awards were
made to persons and vessels, the Hiscocks on Wanderer III and Tom
Steele on  Adios, who had circumnavigated twice (although Jean Gau,
the Frenchman-American in Atom, the sister ship to Adios, also
circumnavigated twice and was never a recipient). In at least one
instance, Dr. Robert Griffith, three circumnavigations were made.
Trekka was the smallest vessel to receive the award and the first
Canadian vessel to circumnavigate.
  There have been some curious omissions in the naming of the
awards, for reasons best-known to the CCA committee and board.
Dwight Long, who completed a circumnavigation just prior to World
War II, and at the time was the youngest to do so, did not get the
coveted citation, which was given to what seem today lesser voyages
such as those of the Tahiti-ketch Orion, and the yawl Ins, or the
Caplin, or Duckling. But obviously the judges had good reasons, as
they had in passing up the sixteen-year-old solo circumnavigator
Robin Lee Graham.                              
  In one instance, the Argentinian solo sailor, Vito Dumas, probably
one of the most deserving, caught up with the awards posthumously
in 1960 (without date) for his multiple voyages in three different
vessels. He was, however, beat out of the honor of being the first
Argentinian to receive it by Uriburu on Gaucho, a later and lesser
  Miles and Beryl Smeeton of Tzu Hang fame finally were honored
by the awards committee, their voyages having covered 15 postwar
years on all oceans, and having included one circumnavigation and
three attempts at Cape Horn, two of which resulted in the incredible
capsizings which they survived through rare displays of courage and
  The competition for the prestigious award has become in the 1970s
as keen as any, including the Nobel, Pulitzer, and Oscar all rolled
into one. Bluewater voyaging has come a long way since Alain
Gerbault blundered across the Atlantic in one hundred days, and the
number of modern yachts happily voyaging to all parts of the world
has proliferated like cars on the Hollywood Freeway. It has become
increasingly difficult to find new worlds to challenge. The British
captured the solo singlehanded circumnavigation feats, including the
difficult west-about route. The route along the Roaring Forties south
of the three capes has long since been done. Dr. Robert Griffith in


Awahnee II grabbed off the circumnavigation of the Antarctic via
Captain James Cook's route. He was followed by Dr. David Lewis,
who at this writing was attempting it alone. The Pacific Rim route,
clockwise, was done by both Stornoway and Al and Marjorie Peter-
sen; and Whisper, with Hal and Margaret Roth.
  About the only spectacular challenges left to amateur voyagers are a
circumnavigation of the North American continent and the as yet
unexplored realm of private yachting in submarines.


End of Blue Water Medal chapter.

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