Thursday, August 30, 2012

Awesome Sailing People: Q & A with Solor Sailor Emily Richmond

The other day I got an email in my inbox from a girl in Papua New Guinea. "...found your blog just now googling "sailing/cruising tanzania". writing from papua new guinea, where i'm at currently with my little yacht BOBBIE. thinking about doing a crossing of the indian ocean as far north as tanzania, and just noodling around to see if there was anyone out there who'd done it..." The email went on a bit more, but from that point I was hooked.  Who was this person?  She listed a website underneath her signature, and I clicked on it.  I have never been so excited to see another sailing blog.  The fact is, I don't really read too many sailing blogs.  But this one? This one is different.   She is a self-proclaimed "slack blogger", so you won't be getting a daily dose of her stuff, but she's all about quality and not quantity.   This girl blows my mind!

Meet Emily Richmond.  A 27 year old solo sailor with plans to circumnavigate.  She is smart, introspective, interesting and - oh yeah - she's currently living in a hut in the mountains of Papua New Guinea while filming an elusive tribe.  I was so excited reading about her and emailing back and forth with her, that I asked for an interview to which she obliged.  Please check her out.  This girl is going places people!  If you think we're inspiring, you haven't seen anything yet!

First of all, I think you are SO rad! Tell us a little about Emily Richmond. Who ARE you?? Where did you come from? What makes you tick?

Oh wow, that's nice of you to say! Y'all are amazing! - I'm 27, born in Florida, but lived in LA on and off since 2003. Went to film school  there and then worked as an interviewer/videographer for a fashion magazine for a bit.

You are a solo female sailing around the world. When did you first know this was something you wanted to do? What inspired you?

I didn't get into sailing till I was 20 (late bloomer!) but have pretty much just dived in headlong since then. I started just living on a houseboat during uni but then a dude on the sailboat next to me gave me Tania Aebi's MAIDEN VOYAGE, aka the gateway drug. It was intoxicating: I finished school and was southbound a few months later.

I see that you were "well schooled" in sailing, tell us about your sailing experience and how you got into it.

Yeah so that first sailboat was a little Coronado 25, the only thing I could really afford at the time (in that, they practically are giving those things away in So Cal - I think I paid like 900 bucks for mine). I had no clue how to sail and for some reason was really timid about asking people to show me. So I just read a bunch of books, rang a pal of mine from Florida and talked him into flying out. We packed up the boat with like literally the most basic stuff ever (maybe 1 handheld GPS, an old VHF, and a few charts) and took off. The first couple days were hellish as I had obviously waaaay oversold my experience level to this guy. I mean, we were literally just figuring everything out on our own. Anyways, we got through it, got it sorted and had a ball sailing down Baja. He had to head back to the states after about a month and I just sort of kept going. I ended up in southern Costa Rica some months later and knew that this was the life for me. Sold that boat there (for $3,500 amazingly) and headed home with a new plan hatching…

You're a lover of video and post a lot of great footage of you on your site. Did you study film? Do you have a background in editing?

I post a lot of terrible video on my site actually - but that's nice of you to say anyway. - Yeah, studied film producing at the University of Southern California. If you wanna make big time Hollywood movies that's pretty much the best school out there. But Hollywood's not really my thing….although a semester working (aka getting coffee) for Ben Affleck was oh so tempting. I'm more a Jacques Cousteau/Napoleon Chagnon fan these days…

I also see you're making a documentary about an elusive tribe in Papua New Guinea - how did you get that gig?
I was having some conversations with an anthropologist/expert on the tribe at the time when, weirdly, James Cameron (TITANTIC, AVATAR, etc) came to the island to film one of their fire-dancing rituals. Aside from that there's literally nothing published/recorded on these people (they're famously very secretive)…anyway, it's become a bit of a pet project for me as of late. I live about half my time up on a mountain ridge with them. I have a grass hut there - I eat, sleep, hunt, and wash with them. It's mind-stretching to say the least…

Tell us about your boat, Bobbie, and how you came to own her. 

BOBBIE is a Magellan 36. Built in '76, fiberglass hull, wooden spars. I got her in San Diego and for heaps less than she's worth. She's been good to me, and I love her so.

You inspire ME now. Who inspires YOU? Who is your sailing hero/heroine?

The fictional/non-fictional Tristan Jones is my personal fave. Tania Aebi's a legend obviously. But to be perfectly honest I think I more highly identify with the Margaret Mead, Beryl Markham, Amelia Earhart sort of vibes. I guess I'm a bit more into the adventuring rather than cruising lifestyle. Not much of a gearhead or much into sundowners with the gang. Much prefer to kind of keep to myself and off the major routes, living as closely with the people as possible, pushing myself to explore places that can be less than comfortable at times.

How do people - locals and cruisers - react to meeting a solo female sailor? Positively? Negatively? Have you been surprised?

Everyone's just mind-blowingly nice everywhere you go. Why is being nice not more popular in America? I don't get it - kindness is like the best high ever!

Is there a reason you sail solo as opposed to cruising with a friend and/or significant other?

It's just the way I dreamed it I guess. Sailing with someone else always seemed to just strike me as vacation, whereas solo sailing seemed like a bit of bravado to me….and I guess I'm into that. Then when I started putting this trip together there was also financial incentive to do it solo. It's still a relatively rare thing and when it comes to rounding up greenbacks it definitely helps to be solo if you want to attract funding. That said, I did have a dude I was falling madly deeply scarily in love with as I was about to depart. There was a brief discussion about him coming with but ultimately he stayed home. It can be a scary thing for some people, the reality of leaving everything behind….

What do you think sets solo sailors apart from regular sailors? Are they wired a little differently?

Hmm, yeah I do think they are a different breed. Not really sure what's different specifically, maybe a bit more headstrong? Who knows - the few solo sailors I do know are all coming at it from different angles, not really sure there's one unifying theme...

Give us the birds eye view of where you have been, and where you plan to go.

I like to go to the weird places. Spent some time down at Easter Island (hands down the most magical place on Earth!) then stopped in with the folks on Pitcairn Island for a bit. In Papua New Guinea at the moment, looking forward to stops in East Timor and Bali then likely over to East Africa for a good while...

Besides sails and super obvious stuff, what is the one piece of gear you have on your boat that you could not do without?

Sat phone/email. I can't imagine doing those long stretches without being able to phone home…

You were dismasted and without an engine at one point while at sea? What happened and what did  you do to get to safe harbor?

Yeah 600 miles from Easter Island. My forestay parted and ended up wrecking the top couple feet of mast. I ended up hoisting little handkerchief sails to the inner stays and inched my way through it. It was fine, actually bizarrely enjoyable…

What have you learned from traveling and sailing solo that you don't think you could have learned if you were traveling with someone else?

That most empowering of notions: Everything you need is within you.

What is your "mantra" - the saying/phrase/thing that keeps you going?

I always liked in NO DIRECTION HOME where that dude tells Dylan, "Remember, Bobby - no fear, no envy, no meanness." It's the best barometer I've found so far.

For more info about my new pal Emily and her rockin' boat, Bobbie, check out her blog.  She also Tweets.  Follow her.  Love her.  Be inspired by her!


Ben said...

That's cool - I think I recall she had a Kickstarter campaign going a while back -- seemed pretty interesting back then too, glad to be reminded of her.

Anonymous said...

WOW! Nice thanks for sharing I'm going to check out her blog now!

Rhett Hatfield said...

Thanks for this interview!! Been following Emily for awhile now. Very inspiring for a fellow single hander. Great blog BTW, I've added it to my blog roll at

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