Legendary Minnesota Cruising Sailor Roger Swanson Passes Away

Bill Rohde - January 1, 2013


Minnesota sailor Roger Swanson, pictured here with his wife and sailing partner Gaynelle Templin, passed away on Christmas Day in Minneapolis. Swanson was among the World’s most accomplished and celebrated contemporary exploration sailors. Aboard his 57-foot Bowman ketch, Cloud Nine, he amassed over 215,000 miles under the keel while completing three world circumnavigations, three roundings of Cape Horn, two Antarctic trips, and three Northwest Passage attempts, the last making history in 2007 as the first American sailing vessel to transit the famed Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the Canadian Arctic. In 2010, GLCC Commodore J.E. Fordyce presented Roger and Gaynelle with a plaque in recogniation of their exceptional cruising achievements, citing their "significant contributions to spark the dreams and advance the horizons of cruising boaters on the Great Lakes and the world". 

In addition to this GLCC recognition, Swanson has also received the Blue Water Medal from the Cruising Club of America, the Tilman Medal from the Royal Cruising Club of England, the Barton Cup from the Ocean Cruising Club and the Seven Seas Award from the Seven Seas Cruising Association. Various present and past GLCC members have sailed with Swanson on portions of his voyages. For more information on Swanson's many sailing and other accomplishments click story for a feature article and photos for breathtaking images from some of his sailing exploits, as published in the 1/1/2013 Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Also click here to read the complete obituary.

Mel's picture

I only met Mr. Swanson once when he did his presentation for the GLCC Lake Superior Mid-Winter Dinner in 2010 with his wife Gaynelle. As Niels wrote it was indeed riveting. The video he showed us of his journey thru the Northwest Passage and down the west coast was simply outstanding. He was a very articulate gentleman who impressed us all with his enthusiasm. After he spoke a group of us chatted with him afterward. One person asked what he did for a living that allowed him to own a 57' boat and sail around the world three times. He made it plain he was a pig farmer and nothing more! I had no idea he was so diverse as revealed by the links to places describing his lifetime achievements. In fact it seemed like pig farming was the key. Several other questions generated by the audience produced amazing answers from this frontiersman. He had done what most yachtsman never take the time to dream of. I left St. Paul telling everyone his incredible tales!

JensenNR's picture

It's sad to hear Roger Swanson has passed away. He was an exceptional sailor, and his presentation about his voyage through the Northwest Passage at the GLCC's Lake Superior Mid-Winter Dinner in 2010 was riveting. We were very fortunate to have him as a speaker.