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sail on

Captain Bill Pinkney sailed for his last horizon after passing away suddenly yesterday, August 31, while on a business trip to Atlanta, GA. Captain Bill was the first black man (ever) to sail single-handed around the world via the five capes, including the Cape of Good Hope (well Cape Agulhas to be more exact) at the tip of South Africa, Cape Leeuwin on Australia’s southwest corner and of course, the one and only Cape Horn. Bill was a friend and a Master Mariner and I will miss his bright white smile. 

Bill’s circumnavigation took 22 months but what was really great about it all was that he made his trip not only for himself but about the 30,000 school children that followed his voyage as part of an educational program. This, by the way, was long before the Internet and reaching, by satellite, when many school children showed his pure passion for educating and inspiring young people.

Captain Bill was the first to skipper the replica of the AMISTAD which has a fascinating history and dovetails to an extent with Bill’s journey. In 1839 the AMISTAD left from Sierra Leone with Mende captives on board. It was essentially a slave ship but the Mende managed to take command of the ship and they docked in the port of New London Harbor, Connecticut. The Mende were faced with two choices, either slavery or execution, neither of them good choices, but their cause was taken up by many residents of Connecticut and the U.S. Circuit and District courts ruled in favor of the Mende. Their case was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and in 1841 this court agreed with the lower court decisions and the Mende captives were ordered freed.

The reason why this story parallels Captain Bill’s is because since launching the replica of the AMISTAD the ship has been used as an education platform designed to inspire inner-city youth, and in fact kids from all walks of life, to strive to follow their dreams and most of all to dream big.

In 2022 Captain Bill was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame. Sail on my friend. Maybe we will meet again on some distant horizon, but for now, know that you have left an awesome legacy on planet Earth. – Brian Hancock.