For many generations, when people mentioned sailors braving the seas, sailing around the world, or pirates living the life of plunder and adventure, the most common thing was to visualize men with a grown and unkempt beard behind the wheel of a ship, braving the storms. Traditionally women have been pictured in a home, in the kitchen, or surrounded by their children while sitting in the living room. However, throughout history women have been breaking that stereotype, fighting for recognition and equality. Below are just some examples of what women have accomplished at sea throughout history.

Isabelle Autissier


This French sailor, navigator, writer and broadcaster was the first woman to have completed the solo world navigation in the competition of the BOC challenge (currently known as the Velux 5 Ocean Race), a round-the-world single-handed yacht race. Although suffering damages that required her to be rescued several times throughout her sailing career, Autssier continues to sail the seas and writing books about her adventures.

Ellen MacArthur


MacArthur came to general prominence in 2001 when she came in second in the Vendee Globe solo around the world sailing race. In 2004 she began her attempt to break the solo record for sailing non-stop around the world. During her circumnavigation, she set records for the fastest solo voyage to the equator, past the Cape of Good Hope, past Cape Horn and back to the equator again. She crossed the finishing line near the French coast at Ushant on February 7th, 2005 beating the previous record by 1 day, 8 hours, 35 minutes and 49 seconds. In recognition of her achievement she was awarded the French Légion d’Honneur by President Nicolas Sarkozy in March 2008. After retiring from racing, in 2010 she launched the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a charity focusing on accelerating the transition to a regenerative circular economy.

Jacquotte Delahaye


Delahaye was born from a French father and a Haitian mother in the XVII century. After her father’s death she took to the seas and became a pirate. As a pirate she gained many enemies, to escape her pursuers Delahaye faked her own death and took on a male alias, living as a man for many years. Upon revealing that she is alive and well, she became known as “back from the dead red” due to her striking red hair. She managed to become the captain of a crew of several hundred pirates and lead them to take over a small Caribbean island in 1656, naming the island “Feeboter Republic” after conquering it. She died defending her island several years later.

Ching Shih

Ching Shih

The most powerful and badass pirate of all times was not Black Beard, as many would have thought, but this Chinese pirate queen of humble origins. In the early XIX century Shih was a Chinese prostitute who married a pirate. After his death she rose to prominence. At the height of her power she commanded a fleet of more than 1,500 ships and over 80,000 pirates. She controlled most of the South China Sea. She was so powerful, that after years of piracy and battle with the British, Chinese and Portuguese navies, unable to defeat her, China offered her peace in 1810. She accepted and then retired after marrying her second in command.

As we have seen, women are just as capable as men and should be treated with the same respect and judged by their individual accomplishments, without any prejudice. Here at aBoatTime we believe in gender equality and in making sailing dreams come true. If you share the passion for the sea with the women described in this article, browse through our large variety of destinations and contact us so that together we can make your sailing dreams a reality.