Briefly in the Third Person


If you arrived here by chance and don’t already know, Webb Chiles is

a writer and a sailor, an artist of words and wind.  Married six times, he

lived with passion on land as well as water and at one time liked to

believe himself an artist of women, too, but this may have been a

delusion.  As a writer:  seven books and hundreds of articles published.  As a sailor:  five circumnavigations and several world records; and long ago he became the first American to sail alone around Cape Horn.  He wanted to live an epic life.  Perhaps he did.  Spend some time and decide for yourself.



At Greater Length in the First


I am 64 years old as I establish this website in August 2006.  It is my intention to use it as a repository for my writing, published and unpublished, past and future, and to share some images.


Twice in my life I have lost everything.  Once the loss occurred over a period of years while I was sailing CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, an 18’ open boat, west around the world.  When I was falsely imprisoned as a spy in Saudi Arabia in 1982, I did not own a single object, not a teaspoon or a tee-shirt, that I had owned when I sailed from San Diego, California, in 1978.  The second loss was as complete but took place during a single night in 1992 when I sank the 36’ sloop, RESURGAM, off the coast of Florida, following which I floated and swam for 26 hours and was carried more than 125 miles by the Gulf Stream before reaching an anchored fishing vessel.


I mention this only partly in pride that I lived on the edge and risked everything for so long--as I once wrote:  almost dying is a hard way to make a living--but also because it explains omissions.  Possessions can usually be replaced, but some of my writing and many photographs were lost and can’t be.


You will find here my first three books, STORM PASSAGE; THE OPEN BOAT; and THE OCEAN WAITS; the text of many published articles; SHADOWS, a novel; poems; short stories; THE FIFTH CIRCLE, the passage log of my fifth circumnavigation (made after this introduction was first written); excerpts from the ongoing diary I have been keeping for several years and which loans this website its name; a chart of my voyages; and photographs.



“Old men should be explorers.”  I first read that in a book by Jan de Hartog, but subsequently came across it in T. S. Eliot’s FOUR QUARTETS, which predates Hartog by several decades.  I don’t know if there is an even earlier source.


I divide my time at present between being with Carol, an architect and my wife of twelve years, in a condominium in Evanston, Illinois, and my 37’ sloop, THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands.  While I have kept some passion as well as my waistline, I don’t deceive myself that I am not old.  But I am still exploring and looking forward to the next words, the next image, and the next voyage, if not the next woman.


People who know of me at all probably do so as a sailor; but I have always thought of myself as an artist, and I believe that the artist’s defining responsibility is to go to the edge of human experience and send back reports.  Here are my reports.


August 25, 2006



Ten years and five months later


I chanced to reread this today and think it needs an update.


I am now 75, not 64. 


Carol is now my wife of twenty-two years, not twelve, and I am continually grateful that we came together at the only time in our lives when that was possible.  Three or four years earlier we were within a few hundred yards of one another.  We might even have passed on the street, but did not meet. 


THE HAWKE OF TUONELA was sold.  Her new owner broke her up and sold her parts.


Tomorrow I fly to Durban, South Africa, to resume what, time and chance permitting, will become my sixth circumnavigation, this one in an ultralight Moore 24 named GANNET.


I am now blind in my right eye and have a nearly severed supraspinatus in my left shoulder.


The journal which began here and has been continued elsewhere, and may be my masterpiece, now approaches a million words.


Between San Diego and Hawaii on GANNET’s first ocean passage, I wrote:


        Old man stands in companionway of small sloop.  One very weathered hand holds lightly onto a halyard stopper.  The other a jib winch.  A big grin is on the old man’s face as he watches a small sloop rush though the ocean, little more than an arm’s length away.  And because he is precisely where he is.

        Use yourself up, old man.  Use yourself up.


Just last week I was asked why, after compiling so great a body of work, I continue.  My answer was simple:  I’m not yet used up.


To paraphrase the last words of STORM PASSAGE:  At seventy-five I smile and sail on.


January 9, 2017