Perilous Journey Cures Skipper's Personal Crisis

"At Sea" from our May 9, 2007, CW Reckonings

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Almost-circumnavigator Donna Lange speaks at a welcome-home party at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, Rhode Island. Her boat, Inspired Insanity, remains in Bermuda awaiting the final leg of her journey.Www.donnalange.com

The plan was for solo circumnavigator Donna Lange to sail her 28-foot Southern Cross, Inspired Insanity, into the harbor at Bristol, Rhode Island, late last month for a well-deserved welcome-home party at the Herreshoff Marine Museum. A nasty spring nor'easter, however, damaged the boat as it made its way toward the East Coast, requiring it to be towed to Bermuda for repairs. So instead, Lange arrived for her accolades, awards, invitations and gifts via airplane, and then was off again to rejoin the boat and continue her journey to the port from which she started her voyage in 2005.

The good news: She and Inspired Insanity will in all likelihood arrive back in Bristol in time for its famous Fourth of July parade, in which she's been invited to be towed through town in her boat.

During the April festivities, Lange received a Golden Circle award, an honorary life membership to the Southern Cross Owners Association, and a special certificate from the National Women's Sailing Association. And for good measure, Harken announced it would replace all of Inspired Insanity's Harken hardware for free.

Many people in attendance got up to say a few words, and Lange, herself, took the stage and spoke at length about her extraordinary journey. Lange said that because she's just 5-feet 2-inches tall, people were afraid for her, but it was a journey she needed to make.

Prior to setting off, Lange was struggling with intense personal issues. "I was desperate to change," she said. "I wasn't functioning. The sea came to me. She said 'I can change you.' And she did. She cured my conflict."

More than a few audience members asked Lange what she plans to do next. In addition to speaking engagements at schools and boat shows, Lange said she's signed on to be captain of a 50-foot Hylas. She's also very concerned about giving back, especially to the environment. In fact, she blames pollution on the intensity of the storm she ran into off Bermuda, and of other massive storms she encountered along her journey.

Lange said the Pacific area has been hit particularly hard by pollution, and while in New Zealand, she joined up with other environmentalists to create Oceanswatch (www.oceanswatch.org). This group supports individuals or organizations that wish to protect the marine environment or conduct research on it.

This reporter couldn't help but ask Lange if she ever plans to sail around the world again. "If I do it, it won't be in the same way," she said. "I didn't sail solo around the world as a challenge. It was a way to change, and I did. I don't need to do it again."