Ginger and Peter Niemann were recently awarded the 2021 Blue Water Medal by the Cruising Club of America for their inspirational efforts and achievements during two sailing circumnavigations. Their circumnavigations took them to the Arctic’s northern latitudes and Patagonia’s southern latitudes; their second trip around the world included several rigorous, non-stop passages due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
The Niemanns’ first voyaging boat was Marcy, a 47-foot sloop they converted from a schooner. From 2006 to 2010, Marcy took them west-about from Seattle almost 50,000 miles around the world, including rounding the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn.
In 2017, they departed Washington State on Irene, a 52-foot fiberglass ketch. Taking the opposite direction, east-about, through the Northwest Passage and staying in the northern hemisphere, they never crossed their first circumnavigation’s track. They sailed to Greenland, Newfoundland, and the US East Coast before crossing the Atlantic to Ireland.
After touring the U.K., Atlantic Europe and the Mediterranean, they found themselves suddenly stranded in Turkey when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Like many other international cruisers, they were stopped in their tracks. Unwilling to leave Irene, they considered staying in Turkey; sailing back home across the Atlantic; or heading home to the Pacific Northwest through the Suez Canal. They chose the third option and sailed for two months and 6,000 miles non-stop across the Indian Ocean during the monsoon to Batam, Indonesia.
When they arrived in Batam they found their previously negotiated permission to stay in Indonesia revoked. Nearby Singapore let them stay, but they were required to stay onboard their boat. They lived onboard at the Changi Sailing Club for five months; in all, they spent nearly 300 days unable to go ashore. On February 2, 2021, they departed on the long cruise home to Washington State via Japan and the Aleutians. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Peter and Ginger persevered, cheerfully adapting to a seemingly endless onboard quarantine and undertaking lengthy sea passages under difficult conditions. CCA found their persistence and ingenuity truly inspiring. CCA recognized their teamwork, courage, good humor, flexibility and innovative spirit as evidence of their exceptional personal and sailing mettle and awarded them the 2021 Blue Water Medal.
The Blue Water Medal has been awarded regularly since 1923 to reward seamanship and adventure upon the sea displayed by amateur sailors of all nationalities that might otherwise go unrecognized. Past winners include Eric Tabarly, Sir Francis Chichester, Rod Stephens, Webb Chiles and Eric and Susan Hiscock.