Intrigued by most of the photos in my ancestor’s album, this is one that I couldn’t stop thinking about!
I knew the sailboat was unique, but without any notations on the photograph, I had almost given up hope of learning her name and history.
When I scrolled through copies of the 1930s newspapers, it was several weeks before I saw an article about Captain Pidgeon and his visiting sailboat, Islander.
Curious to learn more, I usually turn to google to look for information, but on this day, I opened up ebay.
Imagine my surprise when I saw this book with the very same vessel on the cover! I was thrilled!
Capt Pidgeon Arrives
On July 18, 1932, Captain Pidgeon arrived in St. Thomas after a long, 18 day’s sail from Bermuda.
Having circumnavigated the world single-handedly during the years 1921 to 1925, the Captain was attempting to do it again.
This was his first visit to the US Virgin Islands and in 1937, he returned once again.
Building the Islander
The 34-foot yawl was built entirely by him and cost about one thousand dollars for material.
It took a year and a half of hard work.
He learned everything he could about boat building and navigation from public libraries and was excited to put his knowledge into practice.
The question this intrepid sailor was most asked was, Why did you sail alone?”
One of his reasons he gave, was simply, the lack of means with which to buy a larger vessel and hire a crew to sail it for me.
There was also a great satisfaction in accomplishing something by one’s own effort.
Of all the beautiful yachts I’ve seen, surrounded by friends and their luxuries, none of them seemed to be getting the thrill of joy out of it that I was in my little yawl.
Visiting St. Thomas
While visiting St. Thomas, many residents the captain befriended knew of his propensity to wear khaki clothing. They often recognized him as he carried his camera and a lunch basket around town.
But his casual demeanor was deceiving for no one knew of the incredible places the Captain had been on his earlier travels.
Exotic islands like the Marquesas, Samoa, Fiji, New Hebrides and New Guinea were just some of the locations he visited and made friends.
The Loss of the Islander
In 1947, he set sail again, this time taking his new wife along.
While anchored in the New Hebrides Islands in February of 1948, his sailboat was wrecked on the rocks during a hurricane.
Fortunately, they were not on board at the time.
Recently, a family relative created a webpage to honor and share family memories.
Everywhere Captain Pidgeon traveled, he touched the hearts of many. He was a humble ambassador for peace, acceptance, tolerance, kindness and gentility. ⚓
Sail on Captain Pidgeon and thank you for visiting the US Virgin Islands!
Copyright © 2016 Valerie Sims. All Rights Reserved.
** Captain Pidgeon was an American sailor, a noted photographer, and was the second person to sail single-handedly around the world (1921-1925), 23 years after Joshua Slocum.
**Captain Pidgeon was the first person to do this via the Panama Canal, and the first person to solo circumnavigate the world twice. On both trips, he sailed his 34-foot yawl, the ISLANDER, and accounted for his adventures in his book, Around the World Single-Handed: The Cruise of the “Islander” (1932). (en.wikipedia.org)