In honor of this past Sunday’s International Women’s Day, we wanted to make mention — albeit in an abbreviated, Wikipedia form — of a few sailors who stand on the mantel of history with their accomplishments.
Mary Ann Brown Patten
Mary Ann Brown Patten was the first female commander of an American merchant vessel. Patten was the wife of Joshua, captain of the merchant clipper ship Neptune’s Car, which was bound for San Francisco from New York, via (of course) Cape Horn, in approximately 1856. “Joshua Patten collapsed from fatigue in 1856,” Wikipedia said. Mary Ann took command for 56 days, faced down a mutiny, and successfully managed to navigate Neptune’s Car into San Francisco Bay.
She was 19 years old, and pregnant with her first child.
Grace, or Gráinne, O’Malley was lord of the Ó Máille dynasty in the west of Ireland in the 16th century. O’Malley was known as “The Sea Queen of Connacht” and “The Pirate Queen.” She was “a fearless leader, by land and by sea, a political pragmatist and politician, a ruthless plunderer, a mercenary, a rebel, a shrewd and able negotiator, the protective matriarch of her family and tribe, a genuine inheritor of the mother goddess and warrior queen attributes of her remote ancestors,” according to Wikipedia.
“When Lisa Blair signed up for the Solo Trans-Tasman Yacht Race, there was one teeny, tiny problem: she didn’t have a boat,” according to the website Gutsy Girls. “Neither that, nor the fact that it was her first solo sailing trip, could stop her. She found a yacht, made her way through the treacherous water, and went on to become the first woman to sail solo around Antarctica in 2017, and Australia [in 2018].”
Sharon Sites Adams
In 1965, Sharon Sites Adams became the first woman to singlehanded from California to Hawaii. It took her 39 days. In 1969, Adams sailed from Yokohama to San Diego aboard the Mariner 31 named Sea Sharp II. She was also the first woman to accomplish this feat. The voyage took 75 days.
“[Adams] took her first sailing lesson at Marina del Rey in 1964 at the age of 34,” according to Wikipedia. “She was the only civilian besides the captain’s wife on the bridge of the Queen Mary when it rounded Cape Horn on its final voyage to Long Beach.”
This is just a small sampling of some luminaries in women’s sailing. For a deeper dive, we recommend the blog Aleria’s Adventures by Daria and Alex Blackwell, both of whom are certified captains.
Whom did we miss, or whom should we know about? Please comment below, or write us here.