Sailor Adventurer Author Inspirational Speaker
At the age of 50, Pinkney left his job as a marketing executive to sail 27,000 miles around the world alone aboard a 47 foot sailboat in a 22-month-long voyage that began in 1990. An established yacht racer, he was motivated to make the trip as a benchmark for his then young grandchildren. He made it an object lesson for all those who were told as he was, as a young black boy; because of their background they would never achieve anything. Captain Bill wanted them to understand the importance of education, and to learn the value of personal responsibility, perseverance, and commitment. The project grew to over 30,000 students in Chicago and Boston. In 1992, this Chicago native sailed into Boston Harbor under the shadow of the U.S.S. Constitution "Old Ironsides" to became the first black man of any nation to sail solo around the world, taking the southern route around the five great capes including Cape Horn, waters considered the most dangerous on the globe.
A WCVB/TV Boston special "The Incredible Voyage of Bill Pinkney," narrated by Bill Cosby documented the voyage and earned a George Foster Peabody Award. Since his return, he has delivered his message of confronting adversity, dealing with change, commitment and learning that it is the voyage not the destination, where the lessons are learned. First graders and high level executives have learned from his relaxed, charismatic delivery of elementary truths. A naturally gifted speaker and storyteller, Pinkney is now inspiring audiences nationwide with the story of his remarkable voyage and the application of the lessons learned to business and day to day living. Pinkney comes by the title "Captain" honestly and has been a U.S. Coast Guard Licensed Master since 1986 with over 50,000 miles of sea time to his credit.
In 1999 he concieved and lead a project called: "The Middle Passage Voyage" that took teachers to some of the historical sites of Atlantic Slavery; Barbados, Brazil, Ghana and finally the "Door of No Return" on Goree Island off the coast of Dakar, Senegal. The teachers developed lesson plans and projects for the schools that followed the expedition via the internet. A five part video series on slavery was produced for the University of Nebraska's educational materials company in the process. The PBS special about the trip won an Emmy Award for the writer.
His book used for 1st grade reading is published by SRA/McGraw-Hill and is still used in classrooms across the nation. School children continue to write to him about his adventures, he answers all their letters and he occasionally appears in classrooms and on Skype to have direct contact to his fans.
The Freedom Schooner AMISTAD was launched at Mystic Seaport America's Museum of the Sea in 2000 with Captain Pinkney at the helm. During his tenure as Master the vessel journeyed on the East and Gulf coasts and the Great Lakes. As Master Emeritus after his retirement from the deck, he traveled as spokesperson for the Atlantic Freedom Tour of schooner AMISTAD. His travels have taken him to London, Bristol and Liverpool in England, Cascais and Lisbon in Portugal, Dakar, Senegal, Freetown, Sierra Leone, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Matanzas and Havana, Cuba as well as over 50 U.S. and Canadian cities delivering the message of resistance, freedom and hope that the story of Amistad evokes.
After several years of writing and reflection, Pinkney released his autobiography, As Long As It Takes: Meeting the Challenge. The book details his life from growing up in Chicago’s “Bronzeville”, to his careers with the Navy and Corporate America, and his decision to leave it all behind and become one of only the handful of Americans to sail around the world solo via the Southern Ocean. Bill Cosby provides the introduction, and notes: “Bill Pinkney is one the most important Americans.” Writer and poet Maya Angelou says: “It is an inspirational book to compare with any on the market today”. The book, a winner of the John Southam Award is an inspiring work about following your dreams with commitment, perseverance and a willingness to meet the challenges in life no matter how difficult or how long it takes.