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Solo sisters are doing it for themselves on the ocean


Sailing is a team sport for a good reason. Long distance sailors in particular know this. Unless you are operating a small sail boat relatively close to shore, you need a tightly knit group of people to take turns manning the sheets and sails, at the helm, watching for other vessels.

Someone also needs to set course and navigate, not to mention more down-to-earth tasks like cooking, making tea or… going to the bathroom. A group of sailors usually takes turns, or watches, that rotate these tasks so others can catch up on sleep and rest.

Sailing alone – from long distance cruises to smaller races and competitions takes a lot of coordination, impeccable time management, skill and strength. Not only physical strength – but more so, extreme mental resilience and coping skills.

While short races need a laundry list of quick thinking and fast acting abilities, long cruises and world crossings demand the kind of trust in oneself most people in the world do not possess. It takes a special kind of character and a lot of training to build these skills.

While traveling alone is a popular topic lately – we thought we’d kick it up a notch and describe some of the sailing world’s leading solo ladies.

Laura Dekker

Although it took her a whole year of battling courts to let her sail solo, Laura Dekker (pictured) still had enough time to be the world’s youngest person to navigate around the world solo.

That’s right — person. This young woman blew all competition out of the water, because there was simply no one as young as her with the motivation and skill to attempt sailing alone around the world at such a young age.

Before sailing alone around the world, her father tried in vain to discourage her from the idea – he let her sail alone across the English Channel, in hopes that she would change her mind. After arriving in England, she emailed him from a library.

This is all while girls her age were enjoying their break from school and being chaperoned and driven to the mall or to a friend’s house. No wonder the English authorities had a panic attack and put her in a children’s’ home until her father came and got her. In those times there was no boat route planner, or GPS like we know it today, and this precocious teenager was all on her own.

Fortunately for Laura, her father recognized her strength and trusted her completely – he returned only to put her back on her sailboat, headed home. He returned by plane, leaving her to power through it alone.

Sometimes, it takes a close person’s trust and a strong belief that you can do it to help you through the hardest moments.

Dame Ellen MacArthur

Dame Ellen MacArthur, or Ellen MacArthur at first – was born in England in 1976. She is now a retired sailor with many miles under her keel and a lot of records and “firsts”. She came in second in the Vendee solo around the world race, an incredible feat for any sailor. She was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2005, upon setting a world solo circumnavigation record.

She has been an inspiration to many, and she has made a point of helping others succeed. For some people, being successful is only a start. Ellen MacArthur has used her personal success to help others by starting the Ellen MacArthur foundation – a charity and an ambitious project that deals with circular economy, solving plastic pollution and reaching across many different charities to change the world for the better.

Ellen also started a trust that helps young people recover after cancer – by teaching them how to sail. By learning how to navigate a sailboat and make the wind work for them instead of against them, they get empowered to stay strong and directed in their personal lives. This was all inspired by Ellen’s sailing experiences – she recently did a TED talk about what sailing has taught her.

Dame Ellen MacArthur is a great example of what difficult circumstances can teach us if we let them – and how we can use our experience in adverse situation to help others.

Jeanne Socrates

We talked about the youngest, the middle and now we should mention the oldest woman to circumnavigate the world by herself. Jeanne learned how to sail in the 1990s with her husband, but has since done solo voyages.

Jeanne Socrates was born in 1942, and sailed around the world, unassisted non stop from North America in 2013. She had quite a few attempts before this successful voyage. She succeeded because of her steady persistence and  determination.

This amazing lady didn’t stop – she continues to press on and is currently attempting another record. Her blog can be followed at Her lesson to us – we are constant learners, students and adventurers in life. Jeanne Socrates doesn’t look like she plans to “retire from sailing” any time soon. Or ever.

The youngest female sailor and the oldest have a lot in common, despite their differences. We CAN do whatever we want, and our age, weather young or old, can’t hold us back even though it may be an obstacle.


Of course, there’s a difference between going on vacation alone to facing the ocean alone. But sometimes in life, we feel like we are alone amongst a sea of people. Like these women, we must each man our own boat and find the inner strength to remember why we fight, what our goals are and how to successfully navigate through the storms. Ahoy!

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