The America and the Sea Award

The America and the Sea Award recognizes an individual or organization whose contributions to the history, arts, business or sciences of the sea best exemplify the American spirit and character. Presented annually by Mystic Seaport Museum, the award honors and celebrates those who embrace the scholarship, exploration, adventure, aesthetics, competition, and freedom that the sea inspires.


William Mystic Seaport Museum will present its 2022 America and the Sea Award to Captain William “Bill” Pinkney, former Mystic Seaport Museum trustee, U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman, sailor, educator, author, and adventurer. As a former trustee of Mystic Seaport Museum, Capt. Pinkney and his work to open the maritime world to inner-city youth and others around the United States embody the Museum’s mission to inspire an enduring connection to the American maritime experience.

Museum President Peter Armstrong said, “Captain Pinkney expertly and professionally unwraps the stories of the sea, from circumnavigation to the history of the triangle trade, for a wide and diverse audience. An ambassador to those who believe the maritime world is not their world, Captain Pinkney has proven adept in showing everyone that the sea connects us all.”  

Pinkney has been drawn to the sea from a very young age and has worked to sustain a personal connection as well as provide opportunities for others to learn the important history of people and the sea and the resulting influence on American culture. His work as the first captain of the freedom schooner Amistad, the first vessel constructed from the keel up at Mystic Seaport Museum, and his journey through the Middle Passage on The Sortilege, shared with educators and classrooms across the country, brought to life personal connections to the history of slavery and the crucial role that seafaring played in that history. His solo circumnavigation on his 47-foot cutter, aptly named The Commitment, from Boston around the five southern capes and back to Boston, spanning 27,000 miles and 22 months, grew into an educational opportunity for so many children via video diaries, phone conversations, opportunities to track his progress through satellite technology, and lesson plans that included nautical calculations and the influence of faraway cultures brought to America across the sea. All of this incredible work, born from a desire to leave a legacy for his grandchildren, speaks to the core of Mystic Seaport Museum.

Mystic Seaport Museum will recognize Pinkney’s exceptional life by awarding him the America and the Sea Award on Wednesday, October 26, 2022. The award presentation will take place at the Metropolitan Club in New York City. For invitations, please email advancement@mysticseaport.org.

Past recipients of the America and the Sea Award include outstanding yachtsman Terry Hutchinson; America’s Cup Hall of Famer Tom Whidden, one of the most acclaimed sailors of all time; American businesswoman and philanthropist Wendy Schmidt, whose ocean explorations have advanced our understanding of the ocean’s biodiversity and vulnerability; groundbreaking Whitbread and America’s Cup sailor Dawn Riley and Oakcliff Sailing; philanthropist and environmentalist David Rockefeller, Jr., and his Sailors for the Sea; boat designers Rod and Bob Johnstone and their company J/Boats; author and historian Nathaniel Philbrick; maritime industrialist and NYYC Commodore Charles A. Robertson; Hall of Famer sailor and author Gary Jobson; WoodenBoat Publications founder Jon Wilson; former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman; oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle; America’s Cup sailor William Koch; President and CEO of Crowley Maritime Corporation, Thomas Crowley; historian David McCullough; and our first honoree, legendary yacht designer Olin J. Stephens, II.