Oct 14 2015

Anyone watching the MLB playoffs? Keep an eye out for Michael Conforto, outfielder for the Mets and a former OSU student - his mom is Bothell's own Tracie Ruiz, who along with Candy Costie won the gold medal in synchronized swimming at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Today ‘s North Shore Lagoon pool at the Anderson School is where the two women underwent grueling daily workouts, back in the early '80s.

Now let's have a look at yet another amazing female athlete from Bothell.

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"The whole point of going was that I would be stretching out, entering the place of no guarantees. The thought of not trying the trip was not acceptable to me. This was very thrilling, I loved the challenge." -- Karen Scholl Thorndike

The first American woman to sail solo around the world was a Bothell native. And she was 56 years old at the time. Even more unbelievable is that she didn't even take up sailing until she was in in her late thirties.

Karen Scholl graduated from Bothell High School, Class of 1960. She loved hiking and did a lot of treks in the Cascades and along the coast. Then she discovered sailing and it became her life's passion; she pushed herself to learn and hone her skills on the water.

In 1995, after years of practicing on other people's boats, Karen purchased a previously owned 36-foot fiberglass sloop, which she rechristened Amelia, in honor of Amelia Earhart. And in July 1996, Karen and the Amelia headed westward from San Diego on a mission that would take her two years to complete.

A solo trip means that a sailor cannot have any assistance whatsoever. Karen was entirely by herself as she navigated three oceans, sailed around the world's five major capes and made it through deadening, windless calms and massive, violent storms. "There were times when I was terrified, scared to death. Huge powerful waves can be terrifying, and they're always worse at night. ... And then there were the absolutely beautiful sailing times when I felt so in tune with the sea and the stars. Music didn't even seem to fit, I preferred to stay with the music of the sea."

Then, a debilitating illness nearly ended her voyage. Suffering from chest pains and flu, she was forced to go inland for two months of medication and rest, back home in Snohomish, Wa. Once she recovered, Karen resumed her trip from the same spot at which she had been forced to pause.

Despite being physically alone, Karen had a top-notch satellite communications system onboard, from which she could send and receive emails, chart her course and pick up the occasional radio station. She even made contact with school children across the world as a learning experience: "They loved it and so did I. I would tell them where I was and the excitement of going to a place no one owns, and what I would see on the water and on the land. They would send messages, and I would inspire them. In truth, they inspired me."

After nearly two years at sea, Karen and the Amelia made it safely back to San Diego to great fanfare and celebration on August 21, 1998, a date that was proclaimed "Karen Thorndike Day." She was honored by the cities of Coronado, Ca.; Port Angeles, Wa.; and Snohomish, Wa. And in Bothell, she was named to the Northshore School District Wall of Honor. She even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Karen continued her work with school children, traveling to their classrooms to talk about her experience and maybe inspire kids to aim for an enormous adventure of their own one day. At last report, she was dreaming of another journey around the world.

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