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increasing since yesterday, when they veered from
southeast to northeast: Varuna has been knocked mast-
down to the water countless times during the night and
Tania Aebi, with Bernadette Brennan I haven't been able to relax, sleep, eat or think about
anything other than staying alive. Following now are
the biggest waves I've ever seen—probably seven to
eight metres. It's almost winter and I've pushed m y
luck. The weather can only get worse.
" A metre above, avalanches of white water crash
W h e n Tania Aebi w a s 17, h e r f a t h e r offered across Varuna's back, swamping the cockpit, In the
t o buy h e r a n e i g h t - m e t r e sailboat. T h e catch? cabin, everything that hasn't been battened down has
S h e h a d t o sail it a r o u n d t h e world. Alone. been thrown off the shelves. Pots, pans, cans, and tools
After t w o a n d a half years, T a n i a ' s clatter together in the lockers. I'm wedged into m y bunk,
a d v e n t u r e a b o a r d Varuna is nearly at a n e n d . m y foot stretched across to the sink to stop me from
S h e h a s c o p e d with illness, f u r i o u s s t o r m s , being thrown around the cabin. There are still 1400 k m
being run into by a tanker, a n d a n e n g i n e t h a t
to go until home. I want to see the Statue of Liberty. I
no longer works. W h a t k e e p s h e r going is t h e
want to take a hot bath and eat something good. I want
h o p e of s o o n being reunited with h e r family
to see m y family...."
a n d with Olivier, t h e y o u n g S w i s s sailor with
w h o m s h e fell in l o v e o n a S o u t h P a c i f i c
I stuffed m y logbook onto the shelf behind m y
It m a y s o u n d like a movie plot, b u t it's all h e a d , s t r u g g l e d o u t of l i m p l o n g johns, a n d
true. Tania Aebi w a s t h e y o u n g e s t p e r s o n t o stripped down before beginning the contortions of
ever circumnavigate t h e world alone. S h e getting into foul-weather gear—first the overalls,
tells h e r s t o r y in h e r book. M a i d e n Voyage, then the jacket. It was useless wearing anything
from which t h i s e x c e r p t w a s t a k e n . b e n e a t h t h e gear because it w o u l d have b e e n
stupid to jeopardize the precious dry clothes by
wearing them outside, where they'd be soaked in
October 23,1987, another dawn—my thirty-seventh
seconds. I fastened the hood around m y salty head,
alone on the North Atlantic. Around me, the sea is a
which was matted into itchy, sticky clumps of hair
liquid mountain range of heaving swells, and I'm really
and crying out to be washed. Practically the only
scared. The w i n d s and waves have been steadily
kind of shower I had been able to provide myself

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during the last month at sea was the occasional w a t e r a r o u n d Varuna, a n d low-hanging, d a r k
unexpected wave that crashed over me, increasing masses canopied us. The last piece of land that
the sodium level on my skin. There was not a drop these black clouds had shadowed was America,
of fresh water on board to spare for the luxury of a "maybe even N e w York," I said aloud, and the
wash. Even though I sprinkled myself liberally thought made the gloom seem almost friendly.
with talcum powder, my skin pinched u p from the "We are so close, Tarzoon, and I have these
salt and my bottom was covered with sores from feelings, New York feelings." If we continued on at
sitting on damp cushions for so many weeks. The this speed, we would have about eight more days
cold, salt-encrusted lining of the foul-weather gear left; if we dropped back to our average speed until
rubbed against my naked skin like broken glass, now, it could take another fourteen.
and I had to step into it at least ten times a day. Already I could feel the pulse of New York
C r o u c h e d o n all f o u r s a n d p e e r i n g o u t and could almost smell civilization in the air. I
through the dark blue Plexiglas slats that sealed sensed the vibration of the subway a n d as the
the companionway, I choreographed m y next ocean m i m i c k e d t h e noise of r a t t l i n g tracks,
move and waited for the null moment between imagined being on the Lexington line #6 heading
waves to lurch into action. OK ... almost ready ... uptown. Soon, God willing, I'd be home. Home,
re a d y ... NOW! Quickly removing the slats, I after two and a half years of seeing the four corners
clambered out to the cockpit and added one more of the world from the deck of this little eight-metre
bruise to the scars covering my legs. sailboat. The grey horizon to the west was full of
"Come on, Tarzoon," I coaxed my cat, "if you promise....
want to come out, now's your chance." He blinked
u p at me from the safety of his corner in the bunk, I squinted into the howling winds, hypnotized,
looking for assurance. V a r u n a levelled for a watching every wall of water catch up, lift Varuna's
moment a n d Tarzoon leapt through the stern and take us surfing down its crest. With just
companionway, sniffing the air and sticking close. enough time for me to crouch and hang on, the
"It's kind of ugly out here," I confided, snapping crest of another four-thousand-litre m o u n t a i n
the umbilical cord of my safety harness onto the broke and engulfed us. Water rushed u p my pants
lifelines of the boat and looking u p the mast to the legs and leaked into m y hood and down m y neck,
sky. No change from yesterday. If anything, it was and slowly the cockpit began to drain as Varuna
worse. The w i n d velocity w a s gale force a n d lurched drunkenly onward. Making the
holding between 75 to 90 k m / h . Rain pocked the adjustments to the windvane, I took a 360-degree
N O T H I N G V KIN T V R K D , I N O T H I I N C ( ; A I IN K 8 ) Ma i d e n Voyage

scan of the barren seascape. As far as the eye could Varuna w i t h Tarzoon, after n e a r l y c i r c u m ­
see, t h e r e w a s n o t h i n g — n o t h i n g b u t a n g r y navigating the planet, it was disintegrating.
greybeards marching toward an eternal horizon. "I w o n d e r w h a t he is doing now," I said
Tarzoon meowed by the companionway, wet aloud. "If he was able to come to the United States,
and matted, desperate to get inside to safety before perhaps he s at the American consulate, applying
the next drenching. Following him below, I peeled for a visa. If h e w a s n ' t able to come..." My
off the wet rain gear and turned on the radio.... emotions and energy were already stretched to
their limits a n d I k n e w better t h a n to risk t h e
I wrapped the gear over one line as it dripped torture of negative thoughts. But it was no use.
down on the floor, threw a dirty mop-up rag over Although I tucked the fan away in the toilet closet,
the new puddles in the cabin and rearranged the safe f r o m h a r m , e v e r y w h e r e I l o o k e d w e r e
kerosene heater and bottled water. The heater fell r e m i n d e r s of Olivier, the quiet m a n w h o h a d
over again with the bucking motion, dribbling become a part of my life in Vanuatu in the South
some fuel, stinking u p the small confines a n d Pacific. Without him, I knew, I would not be here
making me dizzy. "More than enough kerosene," I today.
thought. "Wish it were water. I have only five We were both crying when we kissed each
bottles left. I hope it'll last." other goodbye and I finally broke away from the
Putting my thermal underwear back on, I saw little island of Malta, not knowing when or if we'd
Tarzoon chewing away at the coral fan Olivier had ever see each other again. Ahead of Varuna was the
given m e to b r i n g h o m e . "Stop it, y o u little Mediterranean and then the North Atlantic. Olivier
monster!" I reprimanded, taking it away from him was headed back to his home in Switzerland. Our
for the fiftieth time. It refused to stay in its lashings lives, which h a d been so closely aligned for so
on the wall and kept tumbling down to my bunk many months as we voyaged together around half
and Tarzoon's teeth. Picking it up, once again I the world—he aboard Akka and I aboard Varuna—
admired the intricacy of its lacy white fronds, now seemed filled with uncertainty. Only time
thinking about Olivier a n d remembering h o w would tell....
m u c h he loved to dive i n search of shells a n d
underwater life. The fan had come from the San October 30. It s 9:00 P JVL and I just saw m y first ship
Bias Islands between Colombia and Panama and I in two weeks. I m d y i n g to talk to them b u t m y
remembered that it was one of the first things that I electricity is very low. The engine is inoperable, so there
had remarked on in Akka, Olivier's boat. Here on is no way to get a charge from the alternator; the new

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solar panel is too small and the sun is far south and not rehearsing in my mind where the anchor would be
very strong. I need to conserve power to call when we dropped when I arrived.
approach New York. The A R G O S will let everybody It took me a week to get through Dr. Zhivago
know vohere we are in case 1 can't use the radio. I hope and it was only at the very end that I found out
it's working. I keep catching myself holding lengthy t h a t m y namesake w a s a l a u n d r y girl. N e x t I
conversations and arguments with no one. We're 725 started trying to concentrate on Dune. The wind
km away and I hope I won't go completely nuts before was irregular in strength and direction, b u t m y
getting home. I forced myself to start Dr. Zhivago spirits were high by November 2 because we had
today, the book where Daddy said he found m y name made good mileage, using a Gulf Stream eddy to
just before I was born, and am curiously waiting for a advantage.
heroine named Tania to pop up from the pages" .... As we crossed the westernmost perimeters of
the underwater current, the water changed colour
When we were 500 km away and only 160 km from
from a nutrient- and phosphorescence-rich blue to
switching to the chart indicating the approaches to
the murky greenish-brown of the eastern coastal
New York, I was able to pick u p a radio station in
waters of the United States. Also, the warm current
New London, Connecticut, and could hear the call
that flowed u p from the Gulf of Mexico gave way
toll-free commercials for a set of three LPs with the
to the icy northern November waters, and for the
greatest hits of whomever....
first time, I pulled out of the Ziploc bags the heavy-
November 1 was my mother's birthday and, as if knit sweaters that Olivier had given me and the
she were watching over me, we had wind all day sleeping b a g I h a d n ' t u s e d since t h e t r i p t o
that helped guide us in the right direction, across Bermuda.
the Gulf Stream co-ordinates that were broadcast Making u p for lost time, I started navigating
on the weather station. All sorts of eddies, rips, with a passion, using the moon, sun, Venus, and
weird waves, birds, and jumping fish surrounded Polaris, cherishing the taking of each sight, and
us, as sometimes, out of sheer nerves, I even hand- promising myself never to forget any of the sailing
steered, not wanting to let the river set us back one skills I had learned, especially the navigation. I had
kilometre. Sandy Hook, the little cove where I had always loved joking and complaining about having
spent my first night out of New York twenty-seven no SatNav, but toward the end, I realized that
months before, was as far into my future as I could taking a sight, plotting it with another sight, and
see, and I dreamed about how to sail into it on finding a cross in the middle of the watery void on
e v e r y tack, w i t h e v e r y k i n d of w i n d , e v e n a chart created an addictive feeling of mastery and

N O T H I N G V K N T V SI K D . N O T H I N G C A I N K O
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connection with the Earth and the stars. crew of people frantically waving and screaming
White night after white night of anticipation, congratulations. I eagerly looked for a familiar face,
I probably slept a total of four hours in the final but I recognized no one, and went below to turn on
week, a n d on the evening of November 4, the the VHP. The man who answered said he was from
weather station reported a gale warning and small- a national news station covering my arrival for the
craft advisories in effect. The southwesterly winds afternoon broadcast and that they had been out
that had helped us make the last 160 km at a good searching for Varuna since dawn. Other people on
clip began gusting, and I fearfully Waited for them board were taking pictures a n d filming, a n d I
to veer west and strengthen into something that waved for them and talked with the man until they
would oblige us to heave to and wait it out. revved u p and headed back to the city to make
their deadline.
"We're 120 km away and I'm getting so excited that I "November 5th, 1:00 P.M. Oh, God. I'm so close. I've
can't even listen to the radio. It makes me all jumpy. Can got a horrible case of jitters, m y heart is drumming and
you imagine how I feel? It's been 48 days. I'm so close, m y stomach is one gigantic knot. I haven't slept in a
and I get these feelings, New York feelings. I can almost week, and now I'm a new kind of scared. The people who
feel the subway, the East Village, the house. Most of all, I just came were talking about fireboats and helicopters
feel Sandy Hook. Ninety-five percent of the time, m y and press boats and T V cameras and press conferences.
mind is locked into that muddy curved sandspit. The Oh my, how should J act, what should I say, how will it
chart is full of holes. I spot a few ships. I'm beginning to be? I feel like laughing, crying, and turning around and
see planes. I see fishing boats and I can smell land! — heading out to sea again. The camera crew were all
seasick over the windward side of their boat and they still
managed to yell questions. I never expected this. Varuna
The next morning, I put on my last pair of clean
and I continue to plug on through the 55 kmjh winds
long johns, washed my face with the last drops of
toward the hullabaloo. I can't believe it, but I'm just
the fresh water, bundled up, and hoisted the jib. I
beginning to see the outline of the World Trade Center."
couldn't stay out there forever. We were going
home. The wind veered to the west and, reefed down to
Around 11:00 A.M., still about 50 km away the smallest sails w e h a d , I sat b e l o w w i t h a
from the A m b r o s e Light t h a t indicates t h e bewildered Tarzoon, crying over what w e were
approaches to New York, a powerboat roared in leaving behind and savouring our last minutes
from the clear horizon toward Varuna, filled with a alone together, as Varuna pounded through the
IN O : ,IN G V K IN T u l i K D , l\ O T I I I IN G G A U M K D

chop. Several hours after the first boat, a roaring

noise had me running out into the cockpit to see T H E S N A K E KING
another powerboat muscling through the
steepening waves. Automatically waving, I peered Retold by Kathleen Arnott
at the group hoping, praying to see a familiar face.
First, I saw another group of microphones on
extension poles and TV cameras. There was a great
commotion aboard, people jumping around,
screaming and waving frantically, and then ... yes,
Most folk t a l e s a r e a d v e n t u r e stories—stories
there was my father separating himself from the
of discovery. In t h i s tale from Africa, t h e b o y
Temba finds himself trapped in an
"Hello," I screamed, jumping u p and down in
u n d e r g r o u n d pit, f r o m w h i c h h e c a n o n l y
the cockpit. "Hi, Daddy! It's over! I made it!" escape by using all his courage and
"Hey, Ding-a-ling, you did it!" he screamed intelligence. But getting o u t o f t h e pit is only
back over the roar of the engines, a n d jumped t h e beginning of his p r o b l e m s •
around the deck of the boat. "You really did it! I a m
so proud of you!"
Babbling back at the top of my voice how the T e.emba
, had some friends who used to go into
trip h a d been, I suddenly saw on the foredeck the forest every day to cut wood and bring it to sell
Olivier's blond head, popping above a yellow foul- in the market. Sometimes he went with them, for
weather jacket. he was a splendid tree climber, and knew where
"Oh my God, Olivier!" I screamed. "You're the best firewood was to be found. He would hack
here!" the branches off with his cutlass and throw them to
Laughing, he held on to a grabrail as the boat the ground and, in the way of all lads, he would
manoeuvred closer and shouted back, "I blong sometimes boast, "See h o w m u c h wood I have
you, Tania!" collected! I work much faster than you, my friends.
I blong you.* Why don't you hurry more?"
'"Tania a n d Olivier h a d picked u p t h i s e x p r e s s i o n o n
Temba's friends often became angry with
Vanuatu, t h e island w h e r e they met. Roughly him, although they had to admit to themselves that
t r a n s l a t e d , it m e a n s , "1 a m w i t h y o u . "
he was a much stronger and faster worker than
they were.

116 'SIS'.

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