Encouraging Ocean Sailing
The Cruising Club of America recognition of heroic action on the open sea
Blue Water Medal
To encourage adventurous use of the sea, the Cruising Club established the annual Blue Water Medal to recognize outstanding examples of seafaring expertise. These awards emphasize “first-class seamanship,” “excellent preparation and execution,” and “complete absence of heroics and near-disaster.”
Sometimes the medal is awarded for cumulative activity, such as Carleton Mitchell’s contributions to the sport of sailing in the 1950s, or Thomas J. Watson’s lifetime of long-distance cruising, awarded in 1986. But usually the Blue Water Medal recognizes specific voyages or long-distance passages, usually in sailboats, sometimes in powerboats.
Blue Ocean IV
“Some Interesting Parts of the World.” In 1926, Henry Pidgeon received a Blue Water Medal for his solo round-the-world voyage in Islander.
Henry Pidgeon (1869-1954)
“My Way of Seeing Some Interesting Parts of the World”
In 1926, Henry Pidgeon (1869-1954) received a Blue Water Medal for his round-the-world voyage in Islander, which made him the second person (after Joshua Slocum) to single-handedly circumnavigate the world. Born in Iowa, Pidgeon was a California cowboy at 15, a sailor and adventurer in Alaska, and a photographer in the California mountains. In 1917-18 Pigeon built his 34-foot yawl Islander based on plans of Thomas Fleming Day’s ocean cruiser Sea Bird. Beginning in 1921, Pigeon made a leisurely four-year voyage through the Pacific Islands, around the Cape of Good Hope and through the Panama Canal to return to California. Pigeon described his adventures in his 1932 book, Around the World Single-Handed: The Cruise of the Islander.
Transatlantic in Dorade
For Dorade’s notable performance during a transatlantic voyage, Rod Stephens received the Blue Water Medal in 1933.
Roderick Stephens (1909-1995)
Roderick Stephens (1909-1995) was as brilliant an ocean sailor as his brother Olin was a yacht designer. Following a transatlantic cruise in 1931, he took command of the Stephens-designed yawl Dorade in 1932. After winning the Newport Bermuda Race, he made a three-month, 8,000-mile transatlantic crossing from New York to Norway and return. During the cruise, Dorade won the prestigious Fastnet Race—the British equivalent of the Newport Bermuda Race—in very rough conditions. Stephens brought Dorade “home from England by the northern route in the remarkable time of 26 days.”
The Miracle of Dunkirk
For uncommon valor in the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 the CCA bestowed the Blue Water Medal on the “yachtsmen of Dunkirk.”
The Miracle of Dunkirk
When the Nazi invasion of France pinned almost 400,000 French and British soldiers against the coast at Dunkirk, in northeast France, the British established Operation Dynamo to evacuate the troops. The fleet of 850 rescue boats included about 700 workboats and “self-propelled pleasure craft between 30 feet and 100 feet in length.” Between May 26 and June 3, 1940, these “little ships of Dunkirk” ferried 338,000 (90 percent) of the defenders off the beach and out of Dunkirk Harbor to waiting navy vessels to be carried across the English Channel and safety. For the uncommon valor of this action the CCA bestowed the Blue Water Medal on the “yachtsmen of Dunkirk” (though almost all of the yachts were operated by navy personnel and volunteers). One of the few yachtsmen to operate his own yacht during Operation Dynamo was Charles Lightoller, formerly second officer of the Titanic.