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2023 marks the 100th anniversary of notable early circumnavigations

by Daria Blackwell 15 Jan 22:44 PST
Conor O'Brien's s/v Saoirse © Photo supplied

In 1923, Irishman Conor O'Brien and American Harry Pidgeon were both girdling the globe in boats they built themselves.

Irishman Conor O'Brien designed his own 42' yacht, Saoirse,* in 1922 and built it in a boatyard in Baltimore, Ireland. On 20th June 1923, he set out on a voyage around the world. He chose the most difficult route west to east and south of Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin (SW Australia), and Cape Horn, the first small craft to sail the clipper route. He returned to DĂșn Laoghaire, Ireland precisely two years later, on 20th June 1925. 10,000 people turned out to welcome him home from an eventful and groundbreaking voyage. O'Brien was the first to circumnavigate the earth in a small yacht since Joshua Slocum sailed solo aboard Spray from 1895-1898. O'Brien did not sail solo but rather took on different crew in various stopovers. The written account of his journeys, Across Three Oceans, became a popular book.**

Harry Pidgeon, an American sailor, was a noted photographer and the second person to complete a single-handed passage around the world (1921-1925), 27 years after Joshua Slocum, for which he was awarded the CCA's Blue Water Medal. Pidgeon was the first person to sail a yacht around the world via the Panama Canal and the Cape of Good Hope as well as the first person to solo-circumnavigate by way of the Panama Canal. He was also the first person to solo circumnavigate the world twice (the second time was 1932-1937). On both voyages, he sailed Islander, a 34-foot yawl that Pidgeon built himself on a beach in Los Angeles. Prior to his first trip, Pidgeon had no sailing experience and was referred to as the "Library Navigator". He documented his adventure in Around the World Single-Handed: The Cruise of the "Islander" (1932).

1923 was also the first year in which the Cruising Club of America awarded its first Blue Water Medal.

*Saoirse is pronounced 'seer-sha'.
**Although out of print, the Irish Cruising Club is planning to publish a new edition which will be available on amazon in 2023.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

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