On April 29, veteran circumnavigator Webb Chiles closed the loop on his sixth solo circumnavigation.
Chiles and his Moore 24, Gannet, sailed into San Diego to complete the 29,989-mile epic five years after setting out. It was a leisurely circumnavigation by Chiles’s standards, with lengthy stopovers along the way.
In 2014, his route took him across the Pacific to Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand, where he stayed for a year to recuperate from a shoulder injury and “because I like New Zealand” before continuing on across the top of Australia and down the Indian Ocean to South Africa.
In 2017 Chiles sailed from Cape Town to the Florida Keys via St. Helena. Repairs to Gannet after Hurricane Irma saw him spend most of 2018 in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Early this year Chiles sailed to Panama, transited the Canal and then embarked on a torturous voyage up the Central American coast to San Diego.
Chiles said the final passage, from Balboa, Panama to San Diego, was slow and difficult, plagued by “a thousand-mile windless hole.”
The Moore 24’s diminutive size does not diminish its speed nor its bluewater capabilities; Chiles said his best 24-hour run was 188 miles, his worst run was 14 miles, and his best one-week run 1,002 miles.
The longest passage was 5,814 miles in 55 days from Darwin, Australia to Durban, South Africa. He sailed through numerous gales, the worst of which featured 55-knot wind speeds, and “put the masthead in the water at least three times” without significant damage.
Now 76 years old, Chiles says this was his last circumnavigation. His first was in 1974-75, when he became the first American to sail solo around Cape Horn. A few years later, he circumnavigated in an 18ft Drascombe Lugger.