Why we need inspiration heroes: Team Sail Like A Girl.

We have a bit of a catch-22 in our modern society as our access to stories from around the world continues to expand its interconnected nature through digital means, like this blog. In this wonderful way, we can watch everyone do amazing things and we can share in each other’s adventures, stories, trials, tribulations, failures and successes, and feel connected to each other from wherever we might be around the world.

But the thing is, there’s just nothing like being there in person.

There’s nothing like feeling your own heart beat hard while you watch people you love and care about follow their passions and do difficult things.

There’s nothing like getting inspired by modern-day heroes and feeling the excitement course through your veins, making you want to do something amazing, too.

It’s the stuff of Olympian gods and goddesses. It’s why we root for our favorite teams. It’s why we go bonkers when our town football team wins the Super Bowl or our kids cross the finish line or we fall in love with an Olympic athlete because we just can’t believe their story and we are rooting for them with all the fibers of our being. It’s why we get goosebumps and cry when we watch people set off on exciting adventures to test their will and build their castles in the sky.

It’s why we love Superman and Wonder Woman and thrive on stories of the little guy who finished big after training his or her tail off.

We need heroes. We need real people who do really hard things. We need them because they inspire us and give us hope. We need them so that our kids have someone to look up to and say, “I want to be like that someday.” We need heroes that bring us outside of ourselves and make us look around and gain new perspectives.

Meet First Federal’s Team Sail Like A Girl. You might not know them yet. But when you hear about them, you’ll want to follow their journey–and it started today.

A few months ago, this group of 8 amazing women decided they’d like to sail 750 miles from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska. Without a motor.  Just out at sea in some of the most rugged waters you can imagine. Hanging tough in the middle of the night on a small boat in swells. Taking shifts. Keeping seasickness at bay with stomachs of steel. Adjusting sails in gales. Pedaling on recumbent bikes at all hours of the day to help them get there faster. They’re doing it to raise awareness about girls and their abilities: Hey, world. Girls can sail. And oh (wo)man, can they sail. They’re putting all their extra money toward breast cancer research, because they have hearts as big as their ambitions.

These badass Pacific Northwest ladies live on our awesome island and over in Seattle. They are: Jeanne Assael Goussev, Allison Dvaladze, Kelly Adamson Danielson, Kate Hearsey McKay, Aimee Fullwell, Haley King Lhamon, Morgana Buell, and Anna Stevens.

Recently, they were written up in our local newspaper the Bainbridge Island Review, and our local magazine Bainbridge Island Magazine. The local community here is all aflutter about them. We love them. We can’t get enough of them. We’re obsessed.

They have a series of inspiring videos you can watch, too, one of which won them the First Federal Bank sponsorship.

They are an awesome group of women, many of them mamas and professionals in all walks of life. They laugh and tie and haul and row and bike and adjust to the wind and are ready for anything because they support each other. They’ve managed to rack up quite a circle of sponsors and donors who believe in them. (Also: They are still for sure open to more sponsors and donations and seriously every tiny amount helps and they have an awesome way of thanking you! It feels so good to support breast cancer research AND these amazing women.)

Last weekend, they had a boat blessing in the harbor here on Bainbridge Island where their boat Maks to the Moon was getting all geared up for the race. I was thrilled to learn that friends could come to the boat blessing and add our bit of hope and luck and cheer to the journey. If you look to the left, I’m the one standing outside the boat in a hat and boots, all dressed in blue.


What this picture doesn’t show is that I’d been up all morning in a tizzy of what is easiest to call minutiae spin, or the grumbly fussy world of a household trying to rework a house in a day. We’d invited 18 boys to our house to celebrate our son’s 8th birthday, and we’d been planning for 75-degree weather (um, that’s what the weather predicted). These boys were going to frolic on our 5 acres and we were going to keep our doors generally shut. But no, that was not to be. The weather took a sudden turn for the worse and we were going to host 18 boys in our house during a thunder and lightning storm. Thus the grumbles. Thus the fuss. I was a tizzy of frustration trying to get cupcakes ready and clean the house and arrange our unfinished basement to house all the happy birthday energy that would soon be descending on our house in the form of 18 spirited 8-year-old boys.

And then I dashed out the door to go to my friends’ boat blessing because you don’t miss a boat blessing for your friends who are heading out to sail 750 miles just because you have a dirty house and a birthday party to host.

I dashed through the open gate and ran down the dock where I was delighted to see a huge crowd gathering around the boat. We circled Team Sail Like A Girl by standing on docks and nearby boats, and held hands and waited while our beautiful friends stepped into Maks to the Moon and prepared their hearts and minds for their journey. And then Grace MacLeod, a graceful living coach, orchestrated the most glorious boat blessing I could have imagined. The sky was miraculously blue and rain-free. The sun was out. My friends faces were peaceful. They held hands. And we all cried. Seriously. I just don’t think any of us were prepared for how beautiful this experience was going to be. We circled these women in strength and love and awe. We watched Grace clear fears and energies with sage smudges and feathers and words of wisdom, and bring in luck and light and speed and success with talismans and candles and good energy. We listened to inspiring songs, including one from our friend Benjamin Doerr of the St. Paul de Vence band. We all took turns rubbing the boat with cedar boughs for good luck. As if on cue a majestic bald eagle circled above us all at the end of the ceremony, adding its blessing to the endeavor.

You’ll see many of the children of the sailor mamas all standing here in awe.


At the conclusion of the ceremony, I hugged my friends, dashed off to the store for last-minute birthday party accouterments and headed back home to get our house ready. But I left with a wet face, red eyes, a full heart, and buckets of inspiration filling my soul. That’s what heroes are for. They remind us to focus on bigger things. Sometimes that means pausing the minutiae spin to focus on something that might seem too big or unwieldy or impossible to tackle, but that’s because you just have to start somewhere. One day. Today. 🙂

The day before these ladies headed on their journey, I went to our local Eagle Harbor Book Co., and gathered up some goodies to support their endeavor. I got each woman a series of talismans, each of which has a different word on it: Strength, Courage, Hope, Carpe Diem, Dream, Wish, and the like–together, my little blessing is that all eight talismans will represent a wheelhouse of complimentary qualities to carry these strong women and their boat to the win. Each woman also carries with her an angel talisman of protection. Today, they posted this shiny photo to their Facebook page of one of the sailors wearing a set of them. Imagine how that made my heart swell!


As of this writing, Team Sail Like A Girl left this morning from Port Townsend among much cheering and fanfare, and they made it FIRST to Victoria among monohull boats and second after a catamaran. What a great start on their first leg of the Race to Alaska!

If, like me, you feel like you need more heroic inspiration in your daily lives, I offer you these incredible women. You can follow them on Facebook by liking their page.

You can also feed your hero addiction by following their race on the R2AK Race Tracker. It is a delightful obsession because all you have to do is open the race tracker and refresh the screen periodically to see these women pulling ahead. Combined with their frequent updates and videos to their Facebook page, it’s almost like you’re in the boat with them. Except you have a warm shower, toilet, bed, hot food, and sleep…..

Photo Credit: Emily Gilbert from Bainbridge Island Review: http://www.bainbridgereview.com/sports/all-female-crew-prepares-for-race-to-alaska-to-challenge-themselves-and-encourage-more-women-to-pursue-sailing/

Go Team Sail Like A Girl! Thank you for inspiring all of us! Thank you for being our heroes! We can’t wait to see you off on your next big leg of the 750-mile no-motor wide open water journey from Victoria, BC, to Ketchikan, Alaska!

UPDATE: These women just pulled into FIRST place in the early morning hours of Tuesday June 19th. They are going strong and will keep at it till the end. Just imagine pedaling a boat in the middle of the night in pitch black when there’s no wind, and gearing up to handle the weather when the wind sets in. Follow them on the R2AK Race Tracker.

AND….At a bit after 1 a.m. on Sunday June 24th (6 days, 13 hours, 17 minutes from their start), these amazing women were the FIRST monohull AND FIRST all-women team to WIN the R2AK, coming in to ring the bell as a team in the dark surrounded by cheering fans and flashing cameras. They are donating the proceeds of their $10,000 win to breast cancer research. THEY DID IT! And all of your support along the way was instrumental in their success and in helping share the storyline of strong women and athletes who start with a dream and get out there to get it done. Go TEAM SAIL LIKE A GIRL! We couldn’t be more thrilled and proud of you!

12 Comments Add yours

  1. thank you Melinda for this wonderful post. I too feel like a Super Fan of our amazing Sail Like A Girl team. Inspiring women every one!!!! I am so touched to know that the Blessing Ceremony reached your heart. It was such an honor to officiate and watch the sun and the eagles give us proof that prayers really are powerful. What a beautiful sight to see so many loved ones offering their blessings and support for our hero GIRLS. Thanks for sharing about them here and I will be linking your post to my blogsite and FB pages. <3 Grace

    1. Melinda says:

      Grace!!! How lovely to see your comment here! ❤ You were SUCH a powerful force of grace and strength that day and left an indelible mark on us all. It truly felt like the sun and weather and eagles came out to circle your work. 🙂 Thank you for your comments, and for sharing me with your community, too! With love, Melinda.

      1. Thank you Melinda, what a joy to get to share the power of GRACE with everyone. Would love to connect with you more and will keep following your blog.

  2. Melinda says:

    P.S. Grace, I intended to hyperlink your name so others could find you easily. Updated! 🙂

  3. That is so kind and very appreciated. I am grateful to be connecting with our amazing community.
    thanks Melinda.

  4. Kerri Martina says:

    Beautiful, Melinda!!! I’m still teary-eyed over these strong women!

    1. Melinda says:

      Kerri, I am SO GLAD we got to stand next to each other and cry around our friends! I get all welled up and full of emotion every time I see an update, and it is just so healing and inspiring and…GOOD. Go Girls!

  5. Kelly says:

    Thank you Melinda, you are an inspiration to us just by being you! Love you and your kind words! ❤️

    1. Melinda says:

      Kelly!!!! I love you!!!! XOXOXOXO

  6. Ali says:

    Oh my dear Melinda, just re-read this and it brought tears to my eyes again. ❤️You!

    1. Melinda says:

      Aww, thanks Ali. I wanted to support you guys and figured if I couldn’t sail to Alaska alongside and shout Go! from a bullhorn, at least I could write something! 🙂

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