Skip to content

Webb Chiles Reflects on His 80th Birthday

The age of miracles has not passed. I am 80 years old today. Few, if any, including me, expected I would reach such an age. “Almost dying is a hard way to make a living,” I once wrote, and I have almost died more times than I can easily recall. It goes with the territory of pushing beyond the edge of human experience. Either I was very good or I was very lucky. Perhaps both.

I now mostly live in a condo on South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island overlooking Skull Creek, which is part of the Intracoastal Waterway. Gannet is docked 500 feet away. I can see her mast from our windows and deck.

We here at Latitude Nation wish Webb Chiles happy birthday.
© 2021 Webb Chiles

Hilton Head Island has a wonderful climate from October to May, but is too hot in the summer, with heat indexes routinely of 105ºF. So I am considering sailing somewhere cooler next summer. Iceland sounds cool.

Carol and I will spend the day quietly. I’ll go down and sit on Gannet for a while and consider what I’ve done with my life and what I might still do. This evening we will go out to dinner and when we return I will pour some of my favorite liquid, Laphroaig 10-year-old single-malt Scotch, and raise my glass to you and to me and to our dreams and to the passion to fulfill them.

Wishing you well from the other coast.

Read about Webb Chiles’ singlehanded circumnavigation aboard the Moore 24 Gannet. Click here for part 1, and here for part 2.

*Webb Chiles’ actual birthday is November 11, but as we won’t be publishing tomorrow, we’ve shared his letter in advance.


  1. Robert Sayles 2 years ago

    I’m confused. On Youtube his wife said Webb died of COVID-19 in South Africa & she was continuing on with the boat& another man. Did I mistake what I heard??? Or were they putting everyone on.???

    • John Arndt 2 years ago

      We think you are confused and believe you’re thinking of Patrick and Rebecca Childress of the Valiant 40 Brick House who were in South Africa on a circumnavigation. While crossing the Indian Ocean they both came down with COVID. Rebecca came through but, sadly, Patrick lost his battle with COVID. Rebecca is now continuing on her circumnavigation with a new partner.

  2. Chuck Hawley 2 years ago

    Webb called me prior to his circumnavigation when I worked at West Marine. I am sorry that I can’t remember the year, but as we had never spoken, I was taken aback. Someone (Ron Moore?) had told him that I had singlehanded to Hawaii on a Moore, and he was interested in what I had done to modify the boat for the Singlehanded Transpac (1980).

    I said “not much.” I told him about the dodger that Diane had made for me, and the storage bags for odds and ends, and a bracket for a Forespar Mini Galley that fit in the main bulkhead “circle”, but really I had sailed a boat with very few modifications to Hawaii. We spoke for perhaps 30 minutes, and that is the last time we spoke.

    He was kind and inquisitive and pleasant. I wished him bon voyage, knowing that of all the 24′ boats that one might take around the world, his Moore 24 would be among the best choices. It had certainly served me well, along with Bob Boyes, Lester Robinson, and others who have embarked on long, and safe, voyages.

    It came as no great surprise to hear of Webb’s successful voyage. He’s a tremendous, courageous sailor, and he chose a damned fine boat.

  3. Robert Sayles 2 years ago

    Thank you John for clearing that up for me. I had no idea that another Childress was sailing around & your exactly right.
    Robert Sayles

  4. Todd Fanady 2 years ago

    Just finished Webb’s 1982 book, Open Boat Across the Pacific. Was curious and googled to see what year he was finally lost at sea. Wow, he’s still kicking, great! Am soon moving from Long Beach, CA to Clearwater, Fl with my 22′ Electra. Maybe if I sail up to SC he’ll trade me a couple yarns for a bottle of single malt.

  5. Mike 1 year ago

    When I was about 12 years old I remember reading his account of his 1992 sinking and miraculous survival off the coast of Florida. It left a huge impression on me, and almost 30 years on I googled his name which I never forgot. Great to see Mr Chiles is alive and well : )

Leave a Comment

Tuning-in to Sailing Stories
In this week's Good Jibes, hear how Chip became the proud owner of Merlin, the changes he’s made since buying her, his impressions of the Rolex Big Boat Series, just how fast the boat is, and his new book Mavericks & Merlins.
HIgh-Speed Ocean Racing
As of this writing the fleet is now very spread out with the fastest trimarans rumbling south in a moderate northerly flow in the Portuguese trades, while the slower monohulls are sailing in the Bay of Biscay in relatively light air.