Monday, January 23, 2017

Single handed

 I was 11 years old when I read Joshua Slocum’s “Sailing Around the World Alone”. I’ve read it at least 5 times since. I like to sail alone too. I’d like to sail around the world but it’s too late, at least I think it is.

Webb Chiles has sailed around the world 6 times, alone. One circumnavigation he didn’t finish, he quit in the Canary Islands. Chiles made that trip in an open 18 foot boat, San Diego to New Zealand to Africa to the Red Sea. Chiles was arrested in Saudi Arabia for being a “spy”. He spent two weeks in jail and his boat was confiscated. He got a new one and continued his trip only to have it end in the Canaries.

Later Chiles and his wife Jill left New Zealand, sailed around Cape Horn and up the South American coast to Montevideo, Uruguay. They continued on to Key West.  

In Key West Jill left him. Chiles continued his trip alone.

Off Fort Lauderdale, he made a decision. He opened the sea cocks on his 37 foot boat and sailed it until it sunk. At the last moment Chiles stepped off the boat and into the Gulf Stream wearing a tee shirt and shorts. He had committed himself to dying at sea. He took off his glasses. He unstrapped his watch and let it go into the water. It was 11 at night. The next morning he was still treading water. He made another decision, he started to swim, he swam all day and all night. 26 hours and 125 miles north of Fort Lauderdale he was rescued by two young fishermen.

Since then Chiles has married his 6th wife and circumnavigated once again in a Moore 24.

Webb Chiles is almost 75 years old, he listens to classical music, reads and enjoys his daily drink of scotch from a crystal high ball glass, whether ashore or at sea.

Chiles writes…

“Old men should be explorers.”  I first read that in a book by Jan de Hartog, but subsequently came across it in T. S. Eliot’s FOUR QUARTETS, which predates Hartog by several decades.”

A life well lived.


  1. Is that color photo of you or Webb Chiles?

  2. Replies
    1. I thought it looked too good to be you but I wasn't sure. The white hair fooled me, y'know.

  3. I see both resemblances.
    Bob I'm afraid I could never sail. As a boy I was often looked after by my English grandmother and older sisters Sarah, Martha and Anna. They were English to the core. They read child hood tales from their own books and their childhood on Tinkersgreen Farm. The illustrated tales were mostly of the sea and the pictures of Davy Jones and his locker scared the piss out of me. I was always admonished to behave or I'd be sent to sea where I'd end up in Davy Jones' locker. Those illustrations were obviously powerful.