Meet Kiana & Lærke of Women & the Wind, a "project of adventurous women, one catamaran and the Atlantic Ocean". We were introduced to Kiana and Lærke through photographer, Elise Wilcox, of @elise_outside (who took all of these wonderful snapshots). We immediately became curious & excited by their mission, their passion for ocean preservation, and their representation of women in the sailing world (including some Danish sailing heritage, too!) We reached out to learn more and share a little bit of their story with you.
Their mission: to inspire others to seek adventure beyond the norm, see the beauty in simplicity, and reconnect with nature while taking action to preserve it.
“a journey powered by women and wind”
The heart of Women & the Wind lies with Mara Noka, a 50-year-old wooden catamaran. Their goal is for this vessel to act as "a platform for bringing awareness to tough environmental and social issues which affect us all today."
Captain, Sailor, Writer, Water-Woman.
"Kiana did not grow up with a strong connection to the ocean, and did not know people lived on sailboats until she was an adult. However, after leaving her real estate career in Miami and meeting her mentor, the eternal-wanderer and ship-builder Hans Klaar, her life shifted in a powerful way. In 2017 Kiana ran across an old black catamaran covered in tarp, floating in a Panamanian bay. It was her dream boat, and she knew it would be hers." - The women
“Kiana raised the Mara Noka’s sails and anchor for the first time and set off on a harrowing trip across the Caribbean. This first two-month trip was the journey Kiana needed to let go of her girl-like insecurities, and to begin to find herself as a woman and as a captain.”
What were some of the struggles you overcame during this time, and what was that growth like out at sea?
When I first found Mara Noka, I had been living on a different boat for some time, but had no knowledge of sailing, or any idea where to start if I were to do it on my own. My first trip aboard Mara Noka was one that lasted over two months (with stops). I pulled up the mainsail on my own for the first time on our way out of the harbor, committed to a 1,000nm solo trip, and scraped a reef as I left. Needless to say, I had virtually NO idea what I was doing. Life began to feel more raw from that point, and the "passive adrenaline" was captivating. I could be laying in bed, calmly aware that I was in the middle of the ocean with nothing to rely on except myself and my boat.
Those two months were testing. Constant wind on the nose, tacking all day, every day, trying to feed myself and stay hydrated while learning how the boat liked to sail, raw calluses on my hands, and a nagging sea-sickness— all made me a pretty tough novice sailor by the end of it. And of that toughness I am proud. I have gone from a high-heel, make-up wearing real estate professional to a salty sea dog in a very short time. And now, as I sit back and observe these dualities, I feel gratitude for all of those parts of me, and a constant excitement for all of the versions to come.
What advice would you give to women who are interested in starting a new journey/endeavor?
Fear is usually the biggest hurdle to overcome when the fire of a new adventure burns in your belly. The fear of change, of discomfort, and of failure. It can be debilitating at times (I wrote about this when I first bought Mara Noka), but I can assure you, it will pass as long as you keep going... In a short amount of time, it won't be so new anymore. The sweaty palms will dry, the butterflies will fly away, and you will have some semblance of "knowing what you're doing." Every master begins a novice. I would have NEVER guessed, at 18 years old, that I would be where I am today, at 25. NEVER! Even when I bought the boat, I doubted my ability to captain it, and then to take it across an ocean, and most recently to rebuild it. But each time I disproved my doubts, conquered the challenges I faced, and became a better, more confident version of myself.
What environmental and social issues are you hoping to bring awareness to?
During my first trip across the North Atlantic, I was astounded by how much trash I was surrounded by. Plastic bags, bottles, Crocs (so many Crocs), a chair, buckets, and so much more. I had always heard these horror stories, mostly concerning the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but having spent so much time in Panama and the Caribbean, and seeing the catchment beaches, I knew there was an enormous problem facing the Atlantic as well. Eventually I came to learn about the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, one that is rarely talked about which most of us happen to affect greatly. Change begins with awareness, and I've felt called since that first crossing to bring awareness to people about how the choices they make are affecting the health of our oceans and the future of humanity, really. THERE IS SO MUCH TRASH OUT THERE. It must come to an end.
However, naturally, plastic is not the only problem humanity faces—those are countless. Above all else, I am committed to the empowerment of women. We go through a lot, and there is not as strong of a female bond in society as there should be. That is something I would like to open wider in the sailing community, hopefully through a variety of future projects focused on women under sail. We deserve to know that we can accomplish ANYTHING we set our minds to, no matter how wild, or different, or even [seemingly] masculine it may be.
Clean Wave Activist, Artist, Surfer, Environmentalist.
“Brought up in a Danish hippie commune by a family of sailors, Lærke spent most summer holidays sailing around Denmark, and soon developed a great passion for the conservation of the ocean... Lærke works as Project Coordinator for the Clean Ocean Project, a NGO fighting against plastic pollution and for the protection of the ocean.”
What is the sailing culture like in Denmark? What is a favorite memory from that time?
As Denmark is quite a small country consisting of more than 400 islands, passing time by the sea and sailing is a big part of our culture. I grew up spending most holidays sailing around Denmark on an old wooden boat with my family and have countless memories from those years. A great one is my parents' wedding that was held on three wooden sailboats and started with a day of sailing all the guests to a small island called Æbleø. The three boats then anchored up together in the bay, celebrated all night, and went swimming the next morning.
What is one spot in Denmark that is a "must-see" by boat?
I like the tiny harbours on most of the Danish islands and recommend Ærøskøbing, the main city of Ærø. It has a historic old charm and many great local things to try, like beers from the island brewery or smoked herring from the harbor smokery.
What is an important message you have around ocean conservation? How can we and others contribute/get involved?
I would say the best way to start to take action is to be aware of the products you buy and the waste they produce. Living far away from the ocean or nature makes it easy to disconnect and simply throw stuff in the bin without ever giving it a second thought. Working with Clean Ocean Project for a few years and my daily visits to the beaches in the Canary Islands, has really opened my eyes to the massive problem of plastic pollution. Cleaning beaches is simply not enough and the only solution is to stop the demand for single-use plastic. Think about how much plastic has gone trough your hands in just the past week. Then multiply that with a year, a life time. All that plastic is most likely still around, sitting in landfills or ending up in the ocean– and will be for generations to come. Reducing our own waste is a start, and the next step is to support or get involved with local organizations that fight for plastic regulations and ocean conservation.
And lastly, what does the journey ahead look like for Women & the Wind? Any destinations you two are looking forward to?
A dream of mine, and goal of Women & the Wind, is to eventually make the nearly 3,000nm trip from the Cabo Verde Islands, through the doldrums, all the way to the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. In the meantime, I'll work tirelessly to get Mara Noka back in the water (as it's undergoing a refit at the moment), and then go where the wind blows.
I am excited for remote islands, getting involved with organizations and locals, living out my long-time pirate dream, surfing, spear fishing, simplifying and enjoying the raw beauty of nature.
See more of Women & the Wind, get involved, and follow their journey: