Webb Chiles Sets Off Again

Continuing a circumnavigation that began in Southern California, a singlehanded sailor and his sloop cast off lines to cross the Atlantic on the long way home.

March 7, 2017
Webb Chiles
Gannet sits in port after some repairs and refits. Webb Chiles

I am now 75 years old, a number that seems something from science fiction, and about to leave Durban, South Africa, on Gannet, my ultra-lightweight Moore 24, to continue what, time and chance permitting, will become my sixth circumnavigation.

Gannet has new mainsail and tiller covers, a fourth mainsail reef — as small as her mainsail is, last year while using sheet to tiller self-steering I found even the third reef left up more sail than I sometimes wanted — and a hoodie.

Any spray hood is a compromise, particularly on Gannet. This minimalist hood was suggested to me by Joost, a Dutch sailor who has something similar on his small boat. So far it has proven useful blocking the morning sun from shining into the Great Cabin and permitting me to leave the companionway open for ventilation in rain. If it also reduces some of the water coming below through the closed companionway at sea, I’ll be satisfied.


Unseen are a bracket to prevent the Tides Marine mainsail luff track from pulling away from the mast and cleats on the mast for a mainsail tack reef line, as well as new masthead wind units to replace those torn off when a wave rolled the masthead into the Indian Ocean last year.

Gone are two more failed Aurinco solar panels. With the larger Solbian panels near the stern, Gannet still has 150 watts of solar charging.

The little sloop will sail with a record five tiller pilots on board. She left San Diego in 2014 with four and reached New Zealand with none working. She left New Zealand in 2016 with four and reached Durban with one working, but only because I sailed 7,000 of the 9,000 miles using sheet-to-tiller steering. I am again prepared to use sheet-to-tiller and it will be interesting to see how many tiller pilots are operational when Gannet reaches the Caribbean.
To put this in perspective, five Gannet -size tiller pilots cost less than one autopilot on most ocean crossing boats.


As I write, Gannet is fully provisioned for more than two months and we both have been ready to go. However the weather is not cooperating.

On two previous passages west from Durban, I have been able to sail with the wind behind me for three or four days and reach Port Elizabeth, South Africa easily. There is no prospect of even two days without headwinds against the Agulhas Current in the foreseeable future, so we are day to day.

When we do leave, I may stop at East London and or Port Elizabeth, or I may keep sailing on to the Caribbean with only a brief stop at St. Helena. Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but I will bypass it this time. Gannet’s tracking page is:, and it is set to update positions every six hours.


Web Chiles is a frequent contributor to Cruising World. You can read more of his adventures at and follow his blog at

Editor’s note: Last month, Webb Chiles forwarded along this report while reading his Moore 24, Gannet, for the passage from South Africa to St. Helena, which he is now approaching.


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