On her way to dinner in San Francisco six years ago, Shana Bagley J.D. ’93 came within a hair’s breadth of being flattened by a city bus. Thank the kindness of a stranger for her life: He pulled her out of the street at the last second.
For Bagley, it was a wake-up moment. The deputy attorney general in Oakland’s Department of Justice was largely focused on career; she didn’t take vacations or make much time for friends and family. That would have to change. Two weeks later, she signed aboard her first bare-boating trip to the British Virgin Islands.
“I don’t exactly know what this is, but I want it!”
She’d done a little sailing before, but this was about getting back to something both awe-inspiring and primal: At sea, she and crewmates, like millennia of sailors before them, faced exhilarating challenges as well as the basic must-dos of boating every day. Bagley was hooked.
And she was ambitious enough that, a few years later, when she saw a magazine ad for the 35,000-mile Clipper Round the World Yacht Race ’09–’10, she told herself: “I don’t exactly know what this is, but I want it!”
Broken into seven legs, the race was open to people with all levels of sailing experience. She joined the crew of the California to sail a five-week, 5,300-mile leg from England to Brazil. Until then, the longest she had been at sea was three and a half days.
Nor had she ever had to change a front sail amid a force 11 gale—winds just shy of hurricane strength—but that she got during training in North Sea. The water was choppy, swells coming from every direction, and the rain “felt like it was ripping off your face.”
Along with the turmoil, there were moments of true wonder, such as stargazing in the Atlantic, with the sea beneath and the brilliant canopy above. She served as crew marine biologist; she watched sea turtles float by in the current with seagulls hitching a ride on their shells. Dolphins played in the wake of their boat.
They made port in Rio de Janeiro, then Bagley returned to California before setting out on the last two legs: from San Francisco through the Panama Canal, up the East Coast, through Nova Scotia to the Netherlands, with a finish in England.
Photo courtesy of Shana Bagley
Tall and athletic, Bagley learned how to cope with the mental hardships as well as the physical: how to survive on two hours’ sleep or no sleep at all, with fellow crew members whose emotions are on edge; what to do when your boat is dismasted or when the steering wheel breaks off; and that a shower every nine days is par for the course.
As for the race, the California came in last—though Bagley doesn’t exactly regret that. What she does wish was different: that she’d signed up for the whole trip. That, and she could have done with a little less tinned corned beef.