Tania's Home in Vermont

Vermont, 2009

In May 1985, when Tania Aebi was only 18 years old, she cast off from the docks of South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan and sailed 27,000 miles around the world, alone, on her 26-foot sloop, Varuna. Concerned about her lack of ambition, her father offered her this opportunity as an alternative to a college education, and she took him up on it. For the next two and a half years, with only a cat for company, she crossed the Caribbean, the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, and the North Atlantic, stopping in 23 countries along the way.

She sailed through storms and calms, gathering stories, friendships, inspirational examples, and maturity along the way. She also learned a lot about setting a larger-than-life goal and being committed to following it through despite mechanical breakdowns, the death of her mother, loneliness, doubt, and fear. In November 1987, just barely 21, Tania Aebi stepped back onto the cement shores of New York City, a solo-circumnavigator.

She spent the year after her return reliving the trip in words, writing her bestselling book, Maiden Voyage, the personal account that synthesized her modern day odyssey and the dramatic childhood leading up to it.

Tania now lives and participates in a small town rural life, where she is mother to two boys–Nicholas and Sam–caretaker of a house and 32 acres, gardens, six chickens and the memory of the cat who sailed with her and died in 2007, at the age of 21. Their father and her ex-husband, the man she met on her circumnavigation, lives two miles up the road and they are raising the two boys together.

Over the years, between lecturing, earning her captain's license, going back to school and earning her BA and MFA, she has also been managing and renovating properties, leading learn-to-sail flotillas in different countries around the world, and writing a monthly column for Latitudes and Attitudes, a popular sailing magazine, a selection of which were compiled into another book, I've Been Around.

In 2007, with her sons aged 16 and 14, Tania realized that if she was ever going to introduce them to the sea and way of life that had provided the foundation to her adult life, career and writing, she had to do it immediately, before they went off into their own futures. So, she bought a steel sloop in St. Maarten, a Devilliers 36, and with her boys, sailed it across the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, and across the South Pacific, via the Marquesas and Tuamotus, to Tahiti. There, she handed the boat and boys over to their father, and they continued on for the second half of the voyage across the Pacific, stopping in the Cook Islands, Samoa, Wallis and Futuna, Fiji and New Caledonia—joint custody goes to sea for one school year.

You can see pictures and read all about it on The Log of Shangri La, a chronicle of the voyage Tania kept underway for BoatUS.

Nowadays, she continues to write articles and her column, organizes sailing flotillas, coordinates charters for groups who have pulled themselves together, and is working on her next book, in between keeping the paths shoveled and wood fires stoked in the winter, and the gardens planted, weeded and productive in the summers.



© 2010 Tania Aebi
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