(Photos courtesy of Sharon Sites Adams)
Sharon in her sailor’s suit
Right about this time of year, 42 years ago, Sharon Sites Adams learned to sail. She loved her newfound hobby so much, she bought a boat and christened it the day before Thanksgiving. A few weeks later while writing Christmas cards in the harbor, Sharon had a thought: I wonder if I can sail to Hawaii alone.
Six months later, Sharon embarked on the first of two journeys that would make her famous. She became the first woman to sail solo from the mainland United States to Hawaii, and in 1969 she became the first woman to sail the Pacific alone. SheÂ accomplished her feats inÂ whatÂ remained the dark ages of sailing,Â long before the Internet or GPS. Today, Sharon lives just outside of Portland, Oregon. Together, weâ€™re writing her memoirs, Pacific Lady, forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press.
Yesterday, I re-worked the part in which Sharon prepares her boat for weeks at sea. The expedition from California to Hawaii would take little over a month, but she stocked for 90 days. As her instructor told her, if she missed Hawaii she might drift out there until she hit the Solomons or New Guinea. That meant the necessity ofÂ filling a 10-gallon water tank and 26 one-gallon jugs, stowed throughout the boat. As for eats:
I would survive on canned foods stored in the bilge, which meant I had to remove each label, mark each can with grease pencil and dip the cans in lacquer to prevent rusting. I threw a lacquering party, and my friends pitched in. I packed a well-balanced mix of meats, fruits and vegetables in small containers, since I didnâ€™t want leftovers. But the lack of labels worried me. What if the pencil wore off? No pictures, no names, nothing but a mystery inside. What if I grabbed beets for breakfast? I despise vegetables in the morning. Those little cans held enormous psychological clout. I would learn out there, in the great expanse, that food had the power to make or break my mood.
Sea Sharp II, the boat Sharon sailed from Japan to California