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A legendary sailor visits Vashon, where she’ll find the boat that carried her across the Pacific
A remarkable reunion is about to take place on Vashon.
At 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29, Portland-based author Sharon Sites Adams will come to Books by the Way to read from her new memoir, “Pacific Lady: The First Woman to Sail Solo Across the World’s Largest Ocean.”
She’ll share the story of her remarkable 1965 accomplishment and tell audiences how she was able to make maritime history as a 34-year-old novice sailor, in a time without GPS, sophisticated tracking tools or the Internet.
But Adams is also coming to the Island for another reason. Dry-docked in a field on Maury Island is the very boat that carried Adams thousands of watery miles on her 1965 historic voyage from the shores of California to the islands of Hawaii.
Adams hasn’t seen the boat, Sea Sharp, in more than 40 years.
How Sea Sharp landed here on the Island, and how this reunion came to be, is a tale in and of itself.
Back in the late 1970s, Islander John Jannetty lived in Southern California. When he wasn’t styling the hair of movie stars, he was sailing his 25-foot Danish folkboat, Sea Sharp. One day, as Jannetty motored out of Marina Del Rey, someone from a passing vessel yelled, “Hey! I sailed that boat to Hawaii — only it didn’t have a motor back then.”
Jannetty recalled his surprise, delight and a certain trepidation at meeting this rather gutsy woman.
“I circled back, and she passed me her phone number. But by the time I found my courage to call her, the number was out of service.”
Fast-forward to the invention of Google. Jannetty searched the Web for Adams, but when he found contact information and tried to reach her, he received no response. Finally, last year, he checked once more, found the site updated and sent another e-mail.
This time, he heard back from Adams.
“Sharon was thrilled,” said Jannetty, a shy grin spreading across his face. “She didn’t know what had happened to Sea Sharp and was so happy that someone loved it and sailed it. Frankly, she was surprised it sailed, as Sea Sharp was never watertight after her trip!”
As Jan-netty and Adams became cyber pen-pals, the manuscript of “Pacific Lady” went into publication. With the book now in print, Adams is eager to meet Jannetty and be reunited with Sea Sharp.
As for Jannetty, he sees himself as the boat’s custodian.
“It’s an impressive folkboat because of its history. I haven’t sailed it since ’96, but I could never part with it. I guess I’m the boat’s steward. Maybe I kept it all these years just for this reunion.”