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Blue Water Medal

The prestigious Blue Water Medal was inaugurated by the Cruising Club of America in 1923 to:

reward meritorious seamanship and adventure upon the sea displayed by amateur sailors of all nationalities, that might otherwise go unrecognized.

Blue Water Medallists have included such luminaries of the sailing world as Rod Stephens, Eric and Susan Hiscock, Sir Francis Chichester, Eric Tabarly, Pete Goss and Bernard Moitessier.

The Medal itself was designed by Arthur Sturgis Hildebrand, a member of the Cruising Club of America, who was one of the crew of the yacht Leiv Eiriksson, lost in the Arctic with all hands in September of 1923

Webb Chiles grew up far from the ocean in a non-sailing family.  Fortunately for the sailing world, he was an avid reader and the likes of Slocum and Conrad lead him to purchase at age twenty-five his first boat, an Excaliber 26.  Less than ten years later he made his first circumnavigation in an engineless Ericson 37, with only two stops, becoming the first American to sail alone around Cape Horn and setting a then world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation in a mono-hull, breaking Sir Francis Chichester’s time by more than three weeks.  

CCA selected Michael J. Johnson (Santa Fe, N.M.) to receive the Club’s Blue Water Medal for 2016, awarded for his extensive cruising for over 40 years, covering more than 125,000 nautical miles and including an east-to-west circumnavigation below the five great southern capes. The Board of Governors established this award to recognize “a meritorious example of seamanship.” The medal will be presented at the CCA’s annual Awards Dinner in New York on March 3, 2017.

For building and skippering the Irish yacht Northabout which completed the first east to west polar circumnavigation in October 2005. The four-year voyage began in Westport, county Mayo, in June 2001 and took them through the north west Passage to Alaska and western Canada where they spent the next two years cruising. In 2004 they sailed to Russia, wintering the yacht at Khatanga, Siberia, when stopped by the ice.

In 2005 they completed the Northeast passage voyage to Ireland via the Norwegian coast and the Caledonian Canal..

For a series of three voyages in his 53' trimaran, Great American II, to equal or beat the record passages of famous 19th century clipper ships, including San Francisco to Boston (1993), New York to Melbourne (2001) and Hong Kong to New York (2003). His successful attempts were notable for the thoroughness of his preparations, the skilled but conservative way he sailed his fast vessel and the educational component he was able to generate for over 250,000 children who tracked his progress.

For thirty years of ocean adventure on two boats, both built by Noel himself. Their first boat, Masina, was a 38' cutter in which they circled the world, compiling 80,000 miles. Their second boat, Masina, is a 53' yawl, in which they completed a 57,000 mile circumnavigation including visits to Labrador and Iceland and an east to west rounding of Cape Horn in gale force winds. The crew included their daughter, Sina, who performed gallantly during a near capsize when they were hit by a rogue wave off Cape Horn.

For his circumnavigation of Europe, Africa, Australia, and Asia. He departed St. Petersburg, Nov. 1996, spent a winter laid up on the NE coast of Siberia, made it through the Bering Strait, where ice forced him to lay up again in Tiksy (Northern Siberia). In Aug. 1999, he made it through the Northeast Passage, a first in history. After 30,905 miles, he finally returned to St. Petersburg in November.

For 160,000 miles of remarkable cruising in his 57-foot ketch. Prior to 1994, two circumnavigations via Antarctica. From 1994 to 2000 circled west to east from St. Thomas, V. I. to Seattle. Highlights included a Northwest Passage attempt stopped by impassable ice and extensive cruising in Europe, India, Asia, and Australia. Swanson was dismasted in the South Pacific and sorely beset by ice floes in the Arctic, but through good seamanship, brought Cloud Nine through all danger.

For a remarkable voyage in his 42-foot sloop to Antarctica from Patchogue, Long Island, via Panama Canal, Galapagos, Chile, Port Lockroy on the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia Island, Capetown, and home by way of St. Martin and Bermuda. 21,784 miles, 10 months with crew of 1 or 2 young men. Wrote copious descriptions of his cruise, and produced special guide to the Patagonian passages.