Tania Aebi: First American Woman Circumnavigator

Tania Aebi was an aimless teenager working as a bike messenger in New York City when her father offered to loan her the money to buy a 26-foot sloop. His catch? She'd have to sail it around the world. Alone. She took him up on the deal, neither of them imagining that the 27,000 miles would contain some of the most terrifying, spectacular, lonely, and challenging experiences of her young life. With only her cat for companionship, Tania taught herself to navigate Varuna by the stars, using a sextant; deal with severe weather and breakdowns; confront her fears; and learn trust from the many kindhearted people she met in the dozens of countries she visited. She also fell in love.

When Tania sailed into New York Harbor in November 1987, at 21, she became the first American woman — and, at the time, the youngest person ever — to circumnavigate the globe solo. Her internationally bestselling book about the two-and-a-half-year adventure, Maiden Voyage, went on to inspire thousands of sailors: If such a young girl could set out to see the world, with so little experience, maybe they, too, could push themselves beyond their limits.

Tania Aebia finishes circumnavigation

Tania's story remains a profound inspiration for anyone who feels too intimidated or unprepared to follow a dream. Now 49 and living in Vermont, Tania has a master's degree in creative writing, leads charter-sailing expeditions, and is the mother of two sons. "Varuna showed me a world of physical challenge and jaw-dropping beauty," she says, "of ancient cultures, of generosity in the face of unspeakable poverty, a world where a smile is the greatest gift you can give or receive." It took a few years, but she also paid her dad back for that little boat. 

— Published: April/May 2016

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