Aurora Canessa is attempting to become the first Argentinean women to sail solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Canessa is planning to sail from St. Maarten to Isla de Faial in the Azores, with a quick stop in Bermuda along the way. After a rest in the Azores she will continue on to Cascais, Portugal.
Although Canessa's historic journey is avidly followed by fellow sailors and the newspapers in Buenos Aires, more importantly it serves as an inspiration to many women in Argentina. As the 66 year-old explained: "At my age, at least in Argentina, not many women are inclined to start fulfilling their life dreams; many just wait for death. As the first woman from my country to cross the Atlantic solo, this journey is well-known and well-loved in Buenos Aires, and if my trip inspires even one other woman to achieve her dream, then that makes me happy."
Her journey started in Olivas, Buenos Aires, on April 17 2010 and, if all goes to plan, will end when she reaches Cascais in June.
Canessa started her trip with one challenge in mind: to cross the Atlantic solo. However, things changed along the way. "I was planning to continue on to England and sail together with a very good friend of mine to Antarctica," she laughs, "but my voyage of encounters blew me off-course and onto a path of love. I am having a very spiritual journey and I met both love and friendship along the way."
Sitting in the cockpit of her sailboat Shipping, a Pandora 32, she described the more emotional side of her voyage. "The sea opens the heart, I think. I experienced a very great aperture of emotions that I don't think I could have had in the city. That is how I fell in love with Horacio. I was not looking for love at all, but I fell for him completely when I met him sailing around Rio de Janeiro." She laughs, adding: "One of my best friends that came along for the journey met the man of her dreams in Martinique, so it's been a voyage of love for both of us."
As a business woman, and the sole owner of a private postal service that catered to the entire country, it meant a rigorous cutting of ties when she left on her journey.
"I started out delivering express post with just one motorcycle and look at me now, 18 years later, I employ over 80 people and cater to the whole of Argentina. But in order to realize this journey, I had to concentrate fully on my goal for the past ten years, so there were no boyfriends in my life," she laughs. Then, on a serious note, she said: "You generate what you have and I believe we are responsible for what we generate, good or bad. I make mistakes just like everyone else, but I don't blame others for those mistakes. And when I meet beautiful people and they want to be with me, like Horacio; then it is me who generates this good fortune."
In 1992 Canessa undertook another historical voyage. Together with six men she cruised to the Malvinas (Falklands Islands) to spread flowers at sea for the many men who lost their lives during the war between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982.
"It was a message from Argentinean women saying that we don't want to lose our fathers, brothers, husbands and sons to war anymore. It got a lot of press coverage in Argentina, and it was the fulfillment of another one of my dreams."
As she prepared to leave St. Maarten, she said: "If you are not at peace with yourself, I don't think you can do a solo sail like this. As a believer of reiki (alternative healing), I have harmonized my energy and chakras and I feel at ease with myself. I am a little scared, just enough to stay alert. I think I will enjoy this journey alone immensely. It is a profound internal journey to me, as much as it is about successful navigation. This time, instead of forcing onward to Antarctica, I've decided to be grateful for what this voyage of encounters has brought me. Something that is more precious than any dream. This time I am sailing down the path of love."
"Piola!" she laughs. Awesome!
Sanny Ensing lives and works in St. Maarten as a full-time journalist for The WEEKender, a supplement of the St. Maarten Daily Herald. A cultural heritage expert and anthropology aficionado, she enjoys writing about places and people that have an inspiring story to tell.