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Keeping Up With West Coast Circumnavigators

We haven’t added many names to our West Coast Circumnavigators’ List over the last several years and are wondering if there truly are fewer people sailing around the world, or if something else is going on. Keeping up with West Coast circumnavigators has always been a difficult task, although with today’s modern communications, it should be far easier. Maybe that’s not the case. We were facing a similar challenge in a March 21, 2008, ‘Lectronic Latitude where we asked for help identifying photos of unnamed West Coast circumnavigators.

Who's this circumnavigator?
Who’s this circumnavigator?
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Latitude Archives

According to renowned voyager and author Jimmy Cornell, there has been a general decline in circumnavigations since around 2010. He’s been tracking statistics since 1987, with one metric being the number of boats going through the Panama Canal. His initial stats show 1177 boats going through the Panama Canal, declining to 919 in 2022. Much of global cruising was sharply curtailed by the pandemic and has yet to recover. This is likely the main reason few names have been added to the West Coast Circumnavigators’ List.

Could it also be the internet age? Are people updating their personal blogs and Facebook pages but not reaching out beyond the circle of friends following them? With electronic navigation and numerous other improvements that make circumnavigation far easier and more comfortable and convenient, you’d think more people would be doing it. Perhaps all the comfort and convenience has raised the price, making it unaffordable for many? Or is it their greater perceived danger?

April 2008 story on circumnavigators.
In our April 2008 story on circumnavigators, Andy Turpin wrote the history of West Coast circumnavigations.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Latitude 38 Archives

Andy Turpin’s April 2008 story highlighted many of the West Coast’s renowned circumnavigators, including the first West Coast solo circumnavigator, Harry Pidgeon. Pidgeon built his engineless 34-ft yawl on an L.A. mudflat and set off on a westabout solo circumnavigation in 1921. He did it again in 1932. The story also includes John Guzzwell, Karen Thorndike and many others.

A couple of our recent additions to the list are people who circumnavigated years ago. We’ve added Stephen and Margo Wolf, who circumnavigated on their 24-ft Piver trimaran No Name from 1971 to 1979, and Warren Hollybee, who sailed around the globe from 2018 to 2022. And we just added Tom and Liz Morkin, who went around from 1999 to 2012 aboard their Spencer 51 Feel Free.

If you’re from the West Coast and have “been around,” let us know so we can add you to the list. And we’d be interested in hearing in the comments section below why you think fewer people are circumnavigating. Or email us here.


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