Pipe Dreams Page 3

“Looking back on it, the second circumnavigation was the most adventurous thing that I’ve done,” says Piper. “We had really crappy weather prior to rounding Cape Horn, but 24 hours before we rounded, it got really nice. We were able to tuck into a little hole and go ashore on Cape Horn and get our logbook stamped.” While in Argentina, Gillette joined the boat and Piper ensured that there was always a fresh supply of ice–compliments of the nearby growlers–for their evening cocktails.

Perhaps the most interesting element of Piper’s offshore adventures is his propensity for “linking” major ocean races with his cruising routes. During his second circumnavigation, for instance, he raced in the Sydney-Hobart and on his third he raced in the Transpac. His greatest coup was his masterfully planned arrival in Sydney during his second circumnavigation in time for four great events: the Etchells Australian Nationals, the Etchells Worlds, the Sydney-Hobart race and the turn of the millenium.

“I ordered a brand new Etchells to be ready for the start of the racing,” said Piper, who placed second in the Australian Nationals and won the Grandmaster division of the Etchells Worlds. “Then I raced to Hobart. We got absolutely hammered in the Bass Strait. Fifty-five knots right on our nose.” The first photo you see when walking through Piper’s front door is an aerial shot of Pipe Dream IX sailing past Tasmania’s fabled Organ Pipes, appropriately clad in a storm jib and a double-reefed main.

Two more near circumnavigations followed, the third east-to-west, the fourth west-to-east. At the beginning of Piper’s fourth lap it became apparent that maintaining both his practice and his ambitious sailing agenda was unrealistic. “It’s damn-near impossible to practice medicine part-time. I had to give up one, and I knew it wasn’t going to be sailing.” Yet on his various travels Piper has set up occasional field clinics in order to provide medical help for local people, including some that he ran with his son, also a doctor, who tragically passed away at a young age.

“I’ve found that the unknown is always what gives you the greatest pleasures and experiences,” says Piper. Take Vanuatu, a place he hadn’t expected much from that now ranks high on his list of personal favorites. Here he witnessed a circumcision ceremony, learned about the local culture and customs, and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery. Yet for Piper, there will always be the burning itch to keep sailing, to peer further beyond the horizon. The giant map of the world that he keeps in his study attests to this. Each voyage is marked in different color ink, and there’s a rainbow of passages snaking across the world’s oceans, stretching as far south as Cape Horn and as far north as Alaska.

Is a fifth near-circumnavigation in the cards for Piper and Pipe Dream IX? Perhaps. This summer, Piper sailed north from Vancouver, British Columbia to Alaska for a second visit. This fall, he will sail to southern California for the start of the Baja HaHa. Then, it’s through the Panama Canal and back to Florida, before again crossing the Pond and joining the CCA for their 2010 cruise in Scotland. More colored lines on the world map, and more miles under his boots. And then there’s Pipe Dream XVI, his Etchells. “You only have one life to live, and you can’t please everybody,” says Piper with a smile. “So you might as well please yourself.”

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