The Sailing Podcast








June 2018
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Bill Butler tall but true tales

Episode 62 of The Sailing Podcast is a continuation of my conversation with Bill Butler. You may remember Bill from Episode 55 where he tells us of his attack by pilot whales that sunk his yacht - leaving him to spend 66 Days Adrift in a life raft with his wife.

Following this Bill returned to Puerto Rico, bought another yacht and took off sailing again. This second stage of his sailing career included circumnavigating both South America and Western Europe and led to another catastrophe off Nova Scotia - losing his yacht after the crew fell asleep while on watch.

I think Bill has over 90,000 miles of sailing under his 'keels' and it was great to hear about how much one can accomplish sailing. It takes a real passion to cover the miles that Bill has done.

You can read about his adventures in his book - Tall but True Tales - available on Amazon. During the interview we hear about:

  • Circumnavigating South America
  • Circumnavigating Western Europe
  • Sinking off Nova Scotia


Bill Butler's tall but true tales of sailing

The Sailing Podcast

During the interview we hear how Bill sailed with his son, Joe, to Huelva, Spain to participate in the Jimmy Cornell Americas 500 regatta. The regatta followed Columbus exact route to the new world.

This reminded me of a great audio book I downloaded from called “Columbus: The Four voyages”. If you enjoy listening to sailing podcasts I am sure you would also enjoy listening to this book which is an account of Christopher Columbus’s journey in 1492 across the Atlantic.

Audible offers a free 30 day trial, which includes being able to download one audiobook for free so if you haven’t tried out their service you can get access to a trial of Audible by using my link – just go to and this will take you to the Audible Trial sign-up page, where, if you sign up for a monthly gold plan, you get the first month free.

The sailing podcast continues with Bill telling us about his other sailing journeys. In 1994-1995 Bill circumnavigated South America. Heading across the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, then down the coast of Peru and Argentina to Magellan. He tried to round Cape Horn but gale force winds prevented it. Bill and his crew got to within 6 miles of Cape Horn but had to retreat into the Straits of Magellan.Once through here they then sailed up the coast of Argentina to Brazil and returned to San Juan.

In 1996 - 1997 Bill circumnavigated Western Europe. First they sailed to Amsterdam and took the mast down before heading up the Isomer, then continued heading up the Rhine to Mainz. From there they headed across the Mein to the Mein-Donau set of locks that raised the yacht 400 meters into the Danube. This allowed them to then cruise down through Austria, Romania, Bulgaria and the Kosovo region just 2 years after the war. Bill's yacht was one of the first pleasure boats to make the trip. They arrived in Istanbul then headed back down the Mediterranean, then crossed the Atlantic back to San Juan.

In 2000 Bill took off to sail to Scandinavia to visit an old college buddy. They made a half dozen stops up to Maine then did Nova Scotia into Hallifax. Bill left with two old buddies. He took the first watch at 5 am and told the crew to stay in the sack as the way out of Hallifax is long. About 15 miles later the crew got up (about 9am), had breakfast and by 11am a weary Bill tired gave the helm to the crew, telling him to stay in 5o feet of water. Bill stayed with him for a while and chewed him out when he moved into shallow water. Finally they were out of the harbor and heading out to sea when Bill hit the sack. A while later he was awakened with a hard thump. Bill ran up and his buddy was in a daze. The engine was still full ahead and he had fallen asleep and the boat turned into the shore. They tried every trick in the book to get off the rocks but the tide was dropping. Three hours later the keel cracked the hull open and the boat filled with water. A day later the boat was high and dry. They tried to salvage a few items from the wreck with the assistance of the locals.

Bill got back to San Juan and a week later he received an email from a buddy in Caracas, Venezuela. "Bill, I heard you lost your boat. I'm leaving Venesuela. I want you to accept my yacht as a gift". Bill was thinking how this was his third shipwreck. Surely, like baseball, three strikes and you are out!Bill had wanted to toss the hat in - But then, how could he say say no...

In 2001 he went to Venezuela, picked up the boat and sailed it back. The boat was a true WWII relic. Made of German black iron Uboat steel by Hein Garbers. Gargers had worked as a spy for the Doenitz by taking German spies to Argentina from South Africa in his 35 foot sailboat. After the war he got hold of German U-boat steel and built 9 boat in 1948/49 - and this was one.

After this he spend his time taking his many grandchildren out for sails to the islands. Eventually Bill hit 80 and decided it was time to get rid of the boat. He managed to find a buyer and sold him the yacht. Unfortunately Bill has had to watch on as the yacht was neglected and still sits close to home waiting for another sailor to come along and return it to it's former glory.

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Thanks for listening and have a great day!

Direct download: 62_-_Bill_Butler_Sailing_Podcast.mp3
Category:Sailing -- posted at: 10:27pm EDT