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Couple Wins Blue Water Medal for Pandemic-Challenged Circumnavigation

The ketch Irene in the Northwest Passage

The ketch Irene in the Northwest Passage

The Cruising Club of America (CCA) named Ginger and Peter Niemann of Washington state the winners of the 2021 Blue Water Medal for two sailing circumnavigations that took them to the high latitudes, a westerly trip in the southern latitudes and an easterly one in the northern latitudes. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the second trip included rigorous non-stop passages and extensive periods of isolation.

From 2006 to 2010, the Niemanns circumnavigated to the west, rounding the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn aboard Marcy, a 47-foot schooner that they’d converted to a sloop.

Starting in 2016, they left Washington State aboard Irene, a 52-foot fiberglass ketch, passing through the Northwest Passage, touching Greenland, Newfoundland and the U.S. East Coast before crossing the Atlantic to Ireland. Stranded in Turkey when the pandemic began, they opted to sail home via the Suez Canal. They weathered a rough, born-of-necessity, non-stop voyage across the Indian Ocean during the monsoon to reach Indonesia, only to find that their permission to stay there had been revoked. Instead, they found refuge at the Changi Sailing Club in Singapore, where for five months they were restricted to life aboard Irene. In all, they spent nearly 300 days unable to go ashore. On February 2, 2021, they departed for the Pacific Northwest with stops in Japan and the Aleutians, where they were finally allowed to set foot on land.

Ginger and Peter Niemann in Scotland on their second circumnavigation before the pandemic forced them to sail home to the Pacific Northwest from Turkey via the Suez Canal on long, isolated legs.

Ginger and Peter Niemann in Scotland on their second circumnavigation before the pandemic forced them to sail home to the Pacific Northwest from Turkey via the Suez Canal on long, isolated legs.

The Blue Water Medal has been awarded regularly since 1923 to “reward meritorious seamanship and adventure upon the sea displayed by amateur sailors of all nationalities, that might otherwise go unrecognized.” Past winners have included Eric Tabarly and Sir Francis Chichester.

The Cruising Club of America is a 1400-member organization of accomplished ocean sailors with no physical clubhouse. In even-numbered years, the CCA and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club jointly organize the Newport Bermuda Race.

You can read more about the Neumanns' adventures on their blog.

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