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Old 07-10-2010, 09:13   #1
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'Maiden Voyage' by Tania Aebi - What Does it Mean to Circumnavigate 'Alone?'

Just finished Tania Aebi's Maiden Voyage, which as many here likely know, is (according to the book) about "the first American woman - and the youngest person ever - to circumnavigate the globe alone."

Not to do violence to Aebi's accomplishments (I think her story is amazing), my question, after reading the book, is what does it mean to circumnavigate "alone," or "solo?"

She writes, recounting when her engine went out on the way to Cocos...

Quote:
"Luc launched a line into my arms. The waves reverberated in between the boats as I wound the line around a cleat, completing the incongruous scene of two sailboats tied together in the middle of the ocean. Luc took one look of distaste at the frigid water, screamed a warning to the sharks and jumped in. My guardian angel quickly pulled himself along the line and then heaved his soaking self over the gunwale, landing in a heap on the deck... I handed him instruments while he fiddled around with the engine, tinkered, shook and rescrewed things..."
Or, while describing her passage into / through the Arafura Sea:

Quote:
"Oliver, up ahead, was already prepared, standing at the lifelines with one hand keeping balance against a shroud. Varuna's bow pulled up to Akka and the waves gently rocked her nearer the other boat... Oliver gave me directions... Just as Oliver leapt [onto Varuna]... Until sunset, we talked, gave each other bucket baths and played with Varuna's sails to stay close to Akka. As the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, we welcomed the cool night air and I brought Oliver back home."
Or

Quote:
"For two days, Oliver and I made canned-tuna-and-tomato-paste pizzas and played every form of gin rummy we knew... During the day, we fished the jellyfish out of the water with my bucket and took pictures with the macro lens. We spent the night sitting in Varuna's cockpit while Oliver pointed out all the constellations overhead..."
The same continues for much of the passage across the Indian Ocean and up the Red Sea, with the two taking turns keeping watch, drifting while tied together for days at a time, eating ice-cream, cooking and conversing.

I think of this experience, and then I think of Moitessier, with only a slingshot and a few chance encounters with other humans... what does it mean to "solo" circumnavigate?

For me, I think that being "solo" or "alone" implies solitude. It implies a psychological solitude that at times challenges the individual to his or her limits. When I think of a solo circumnavigation, I don't think of sharing bucket baths and kisses when the wind disappears for days on end. I think of moments where strength to endure must come from within, when it cannot be found in the voices, faces or physical company of others.

With radios and sat phones, does anyone really "solo" circumnavigate anymore? If I can call my daughters and wife twice daily, and talk about what I'm eating and how they're doing in school, am I really "alone?"

It's certainly subjective, but to me, solo / alone means physically alone while on the water, with no significant human co-presence. The occassional ham radio conversation, perhaps, but when it comes to the point that lovers are coming aboard and playing cards and giving back rubs, it's hard for me to consider one "alone."

The fact that Aebi's passage was disqualified as a solo circumnavigation because she gave her friend a lift for an 80-mile trip in the South Pacific is, to me, odd. It seems that the psychological benefit of having a physically co-present travelling companion for much of the trip's remainder would be a more apropos reason.

What do you guys think? What differentiates a "solo" passage from a social one?

Just curious...
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Old 07-10-2010, 09:25   #2
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There is another interesting bit in Tanyas book towards the end when she is doing the trans Atlantic really by herself... she says how much she enjoyed it!
I think then she realised she didn't need all the help she recieved around the world: Engine break down, call Dad and he flys in from 15,000 miles away...
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Old 07-10-2010, 10:31   #3
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As much as I liked Tania's book and her writing, I think Jessica Watson's voyage was a better definition of "solo".

IMO, two boats chatting while in radio range is acceptable, boats swapping weather info is acceptable, boats passing along traffic from loved ones is acceptable, and boats sailing within visual range is OK. So is one vessel assisting another with a problem.

Tying up in the middle of the ocean to play card games isn't. Tying up and drifting for days together isn't either.
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Old 07-10-2010, 10:44   #4
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Hell! Not having a shot at you, Douglas, but, LOL Watch this turn into a JW V's Tanya debate.

I'm checkin out.
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Old 07-10-2010, 11:06   #5
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I'm perhaps more right wing than Douglas in my definition of a 'solo circumnavigator'.
For me it means alone, without outside assistance, and ideally non stop.
I'll go join Mark.
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Old 07-10-2010, 11:37   #6
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Having your father fly in and fix something would seem against the spirit of the thing but getting help wouldn't to me. Slocum received a lot of help on his journey though clearly he sailed solo. Didn't Chichester make repairs somewhere with the help of a naval architect? He had a lot of contact with family and media. Neither of them rafted up to a lover though which really defies any definition of solo.
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Old 07-10-2010, 13:21   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
I think then she realised she didn't need all the help she recieved around the world: Engine break down, call Dad and he flys in from 15,000 miles away...
Quote:
Originally Posted by hummingway View Post
Having your father fly in and fix something would seem against the spirit of the thing but getting help wouldn't to me. Slocum received a lot of help on his journey though clearly he sailed solo. Didn't Chichester make repairs somewhere with the help...
The "daddy connection" really struck me during my reading, but on second thought I wondered if it's really so much different from getting help from other sources. What is the difference, really?

While some might not call their daddies, they might still pay a shipyard or hire a mechanic to fix a problem. Are these simply proxy daddies? Or does the fact that the transaction is commercial, rather than familial, make it somehow more legitimate or more within the spirit of solo sailing (perhaps because we might assume one worked on their own to earn the money to pay the shipyard)?

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I'm perhaps more right wing than Douglas in my definition of a 'solo circumnavigator.' For me it means alone, without outside assistance, and ideally non stop.
Ultimately, "alone and without assistance" is the crux, but what does each of these terms mean?

There are different types of assistance. Assistance in a harbor from a paid wrench is different from assistance at sea where its absence might result in a sinking. Is it really a requirement to be "self-sufficient" to the degree that all issues must be solved with what's on the boat or with what can be scrounged from the sea, or is it enough to make it without assistance from each harbor to the next, where repairs can be affected with or without assistance, paid or otherwise?

Quote:
Originally Posted by capt_douglas View Post
IMO, two boats chatting while in radio range is acceptable, boats swapping weather info is acceptable, boats passing along traffic from loved ones is acceptable, and boats sailing within visual range is OK. So is one vessel assisting another with a problem.
I think I feel similar to this, but the "chatting" part throws me off. How far removed is an intimate conversation at a time of emotional need, over a sat phone or radio, from a hand exchanged over cards?

The more I think of it, the more I think that solo sailing - for me - should mean 1) no dialogue with another human, via any means, while at sea (rendering the sailor effectively mute, though not deaf, while at sea) and b) no physical assistance from any other human while out at sea.

If a person talks to another person while sailing, if he has his existence recognized and re-affirmed in a meaningful way by someone other than himself, he's not sailing alone. if a person couldn't have made it to the next harbor without assistance, he didn't sail alone.

Does this seem reasonable? If it does, who would want to sail alone? Is there something inherently masochistic about the desire to sail alone around the world?
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Old 07-10-2010, 14:37   #8
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Gloating about an accomplishment, trying to set a record, or make a list of achievers inherently requires that experience to be defined by some kind of objective criteria.

However, we are all free to experience cruising in what ever manner suits our individual preferences and not put it out there to be defined and judged by others.
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Old 07-10-2010, 15:17   #9
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I'm not quite sure what you are trying to flush out here.

If someone is chasing after some record, like not stop sailing, or sailing alone...there are usually rules attached to such things. In that event, at the end of the day, someone is seeking the recognition of others regarding their accomplishments. If they fail in their goal of achieving some fleeting record, they miss recognizing their own accomplishments or fail to enjoy both the inward and outward journey.

I think Aebi's sail at the beginning and in the end, was more about her journey as a person rather than the setting a record. I read her book twice. Once early in my sailing career...and then once again 20 some odd years later. I found myself very impressed with her accomplishments. Everyone has to face their own demons, and who's to say how that best gets accomplished.

For Aebi, I think crossing the atlantic alone was her defining moment and passage into confidence and self reliance.
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Old 07-10-2010, 15:37   #10
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I'm not quite sure what you are trying to flush out here
I guess I'm not sure either. It just struck me as odd that the book was branded as the story of the first american woman to sail around the world alone, when it didn't seem to me that she was indeed alone.

I was further confused by the fact that she was refused a record due to the 80-mile trip she took with her friend. To me, this seemed like an insignificant instance of "not alone" when compared to how "not alone" she seemed to be for the rest of her trip, aside from her Atlantic crossing.

So I geuss what I'm trying to flush out is an aswer to the first question in the OP - a working sense of what constitutes "sailing alone" from "not sailing alone." While entertaining other stores of "solo circumnavigations," Aebi's book seemed to stretch my understanding of what that designation could permit.

I don't mean to offend and regret any offense I may have caused, especially if I am coming across as a proselytizer with an agenda of any sort. To the contrary, I'm just a guy who read the book and was curious what others thought.
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Old 07-10-2010, 15:42   #11
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It seems to me, that we’re conflating “alone” with “unassisted”.
A dictionary might help.
Although she had a plentitude of assistance, she was alone at sea, excepting the noted 80m section.
Accordingly, Tania sailed almost round alone, but not unassisted.
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Old 07-10-2010, 15:46   #12
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I'm not quite sure what you are trying to flush out here.

If someone is chasing after some record, like not stop sailing, or sailing alone...there are usually rules attached to such things. In that event, at the end of the day, someone is seeking the recognition of others regarding their accomplishments. If they fail in their goal of achieving some fleeting record, they miss recognizing their own accomplishments or fail to enjoy both the inward and outward journey.

I think Aebi's sail at the beginning and in the end, was more about her journey as a person rather than the setting a record. I read her book twice. Once early in my sailing career...and then once again 20 some odd years later. I found myself very impressed with her accomplishments. Everyone has to face their own demons, and who's to say how that best gets accomplished.

For Aebi, I think crossing the atlantic alone was her defining moment and passage into confidence and self reliance.
Tempest,

Couldn't agree with you more. Don't really know the point of the OP post. Robert G, if you want to go out there and sail and talk to no one or refuse all assistance, by all means do so. There's no point in knocking how or what Ms. Aebi did. I read her book when it was first published and thought it was an amazing adventure for a teenager or, for that matter, for anyone.

As for solo sailing, to each his own. But for me, not having someone to share the experience, great moments and also the not so great moments, would make any voyage less meaningful.
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Old 07-10-2010, 15:58   #13
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Robert G, if you want to go out there and sail and talk to no one or refuse all assistance, by all means do so. There's no point in knocking how or what Ms. Aebi did. I read her book when it was first published and thought it was an amazing adventure for a teenager or, for that matter, for anyone.
Where did I say I wanted to do this, and how am I knocking Aebi?

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for me, not having someone to share the experience, great moments and also the not so great moments, would make any voyage less meaningful.
I agree, hence my question: "If it does, who would want to sail alone? Is there something inherently masochistic about the desire to sail alone around the world?"

To my mind, there's nothing so sad as perceiving inexpressible beauty and having no one to experience it with.

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It seems to me, that we’re conflating “alone” with “unassisted”.
A dictionary might help.
Although she had a plentitude of assistance, she was alone at sea, excepting the noted 80m section.
Accordingly, Tania sailed almost round alone, but not unassisted.
That's what I was thinking:

•alone(p): lacking companions or companionship
•alone(p): isolated from others
•entirely: without any others being included or involved
•alone(p): exclusive of anyone or anything else

I would say I had a contrary reading. I feel that she sailed (that is, moved her boat through the water) largely unassisted (no one was helping her with the mechanics of sailing itself), but that she was far from sailing alone (in the sense of lacking companionship, being isolated from others, without any others being included, etc). Indeed, it's hard to be both alone and eating ice-cream, taking bucket baths, or contemplating constellations with another person simultaneously.

I fear that people are taking a simple question and turning it into an attack on cruising styles and preferences, or as an attack on the author's achievements. It's not meant that way.
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Old 07-10-2010, 17:20   #14
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It means...........

What "you" want it to mean. if "you" are sailing RTW.

For Tania I would say she made the journey alone. even if sometimes in the company of others. it was her journey. Something that other youngest / smallest / cutest RTW sailors seem to have not understood. nor have yet completed - even if they and boat reached their shore destination.

But FWIW for my tastes the thought of being in contact with anyone 24/7 fills me with horror. afloat or ashore. but I've not spent time in the Southern Ocean wondering about weather........
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Old 07-10-2010, 18:04   #15
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There is another interesting bit in Tanyas book towards the end when she is doing the trans Atlantic really by herself... she says how much she enjoyed it!
I think then she realised she didn't need all the help she recieved around the world: Engine break down, call Dad and he flys in from 15,000 miles away...

Well there ya go. What can you say about someone who flys 15,000 miles to get to their kid when they could have flown the opposite direction and gotten there faster.
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