Emy Thomas: A Journalist At Sea
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Emy Thomas: A Journalist At Sea

The amazing story of Emy Thomas.

Emy Thomas: A Journalist At Sea
Bailey Speer

At age 86, Emy Thomas looks more like your average grandmother than an intrepid journalist turned sailor. However, her enthusiasm for telling of her high seas adventures while sailing down the coastal island highway paints a different picture. It's the picture of a woman who has lived more lives than most people combined.

Emy Thomas was born in 1931 to an English teacher and a school principal in Connecticut. After receiving her degree in writing, Thomas went on to write for the New York World-Telegram and the Herald-Tribune. When both papers folded in the 1960s, Thomas moved to Puerto Rico to write for The San Juan Daily Star alongside Hunter S. Thompson.

I was a journalist in the '50s and '60s. Things were different then. It was a golden age for newspaper. It was only the beginning of televised news; now I think it's different -- a journalist has to be a master of all trades.

Back then, she explained, women usually stuck to "women's pages," such as fashion and housekeeping advice. However, Thomas wasn't content to write about sewing patterns and gelatin recipes. She had the nerve of a hard-hitting journalist.

I had to fight really hard to get real stories. I wasn't given stories at first, but I forced them to let me write.

Although times have changed, Emy Thomas still holds to the same tried and true journalistic advice.

Find the facts, find the value in them and write. Write every day. Develop your voice and your radar for a good story. Don't be afraid to take chances, and follow the story...*chuckle*....that's how I ended up living on a boat.

During her time in Puerto Rico, Emy Thomas's life took an adventurous turn when she met one Peter Jennings, a British vagabond who was circumnavigating the world on his homemade catamaran named the Solendari. Thomas made the daring decision to leave her career behind and join Jennings as he meandered from island to island.

I was on an open-end vacation, a burned-out journalist wondering what to do next. Going to sea in a small sailboat with a penniless man was not one of the possibilities that crossed my mind.

Despite it being an unexpected turn in life, Emy Thomas joined the now two-man crew of the Solendari. For 13 years, Thomas and Jennings floated where the tide took them from the Caribbean to the Samoan Pacific across the open ocean to the South China Sea. It wasn't until the threat of pirates became real somewhere near southern Asia – she is unsure where – that Emy Thomas disembarked the Solendari. Ending her career as a sailor, Thomas made her way back to the Caribbean where she settled on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Returning to her journalistic roots, Thomas later wrote two books, "Life in the Left Lane," about the pleasantly strange way of life in St. Croix, and "Home Is Where the Boat Is," about her life aboard the Solendari. Both books are staple purchases for tourists and mainland transplants alike.

To be honest, I took life as it came; most people thought I was crazy…well, maybe I am a little bit. I just couldn't let go of the 'what if?' I think that is the journalist in me.
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