Captain Harry Pidgeon

Tales of his life, adventures and legacy

Harry Pidgeon, Circumnavigator, Adventurer, Photographer
Ahoy, Sailors!

My name is Elizabeth Madrigal, and I am the grandniece of Captain Harry Pidgeon, the second man to circumnavigate the world in a motorless boat.  His first sail lasted from 1921 to 1925 and he began his second successful attempt in August of 1934, becoming the first man to complete this feat twice.   Email me anytime at:

Uncle Harry was an Iowan farm boy born of Quaker stock who eventually landed in California.  He taught himself how to sail and navigate and built his first yawl, the Islander.  It is amazing to think that he felt comfortable enough to sail this boat around the world, having cut each board and assembled it following a set of plans.  Reportedly a voracious reader, he was a very detail-oriented man and documented his travels through hundreds of photographs. The majority of these original negatives are housed in the University of California Riverside's Museum of Photography but some are with extended family.  A separate collection of many photos he took in the Sugar Pine area in the Sierras are preserved in the archives of Cal State Fresno.  Both these collections can be accessed by scholars and some members of the public with appropriate credentials and/or the curators' permission.

You can view approximately 350 of his photographs currently posted on-line through the University of California, Riverside's Museum of Photography.  UC Riverside's curator has graciously granted me permission to use some of these photographs on this website.  With their permission I have posted a few of these pictures here.  To view the greater collection find Harry Pidgeon's name and  there are a couple of different links, the major one having the majority of the photos   The site is easy to navigate but to get to Harry's collection, you have to go through several steps.  Go to "Collections", then to "Permanent Collections" and then you can search "Harry Pidgeon" and some of his photos should show up.  Seaching his name again on this page will show the major portion of his collection.  It will show '4 of 353', or whatever number the University's wonderful volunteer has scanned.  Then you can use the forward and back arrows to view the collection.  It is amazing! 

Anyone looking at those photographs or having read his book will agree that Captain Harry Pidgeon deserves to be remembered.  He is an inspiration to all of those who dare to dream, long for a great adventure or risk embarking upon one.  His life is also an example of the kind of tolerance and sensitivity it is possible to exhibit towards others, whether we are culturally similar or live continents apart.  The man's egalitarian mindset would still be on the cutting edge today.

Please email me at if you have any stories, maps, documents or other anecdotes you would like to share about his life of an adventure he inspired.  I am writing a full biography of Great Uncle Harry and hope to begin a screenplay when my research is completed.  I would like to tell his story accurately but also in as exciting a manner as the way in which he lived it.  My family would never forgive me - nor should they - if I present something that isn't true, so please let me know if I am letting out the wrong sail.:) 

There is some misinformation floating out there on the net, so don't believe everything you read about him.   One newspaper article refers to his wife, my great aunt Margaret, as his 'daughter' and another called her his 'niece'.  I bet they got a good laugh over those two.
Incidentally, a portion of any earnings developed from this project will be dedicated to funding grants for those future adventurers who dare to dream in the same spirit of Captain Harry Pidgeon.  Another portion will be dedicated to preserving his memory, any artifacts in museums and his life story.  That will be my reward and I hope yours too.

If you care about Harry's memory, or are interested in my progress, please write me or email me at  And please remember to be tolerant and kind to each other in a way that would make my Uncle Harry proud of you.  Everybody deserves at least that much.

Elizabeth Madrigal,
Grandniece of Captain Harry Pidgeon and Margaret Dexter Gardner Pidgeon


Parlez-vous français ?

Great news for those who speak French and would like to read about Uncle Harry's adventures on the Islander in their native tongue!  Author and mariner, Olivier Merbau, recently completed a French translation of Uncle Harry Pidgeon's book about his first solo trip around the world in the Islander, his 34 foot yawl.  The translation is titled, "HARRY PIDGEON Islander autour du monde en solitaire". You can order a paperbook from this publisher's link:

Olivier tells me that it is not yet available as an e-book, but he expects that will follow soon.  
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