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U.S. woman makes history by sailing globe solo

Aboard Amelia, 56-year-old Thorndike sails around the world  
In this story: August 19, 1998
Web posted at: 1:03 p.m. EDT (1703 GMT)

SAN DIEGO (CNN) -- Karen Thorndike, the first American woman to sail solo around the world, credits a computer with saving her life during her 33,000-mile voyage.

The 56-year-old Washington state woman guided her 36-foot yacht Amelia into San Diego on Tuesday -- two years and two weeks after setting out on an adventure she thought she might not survive.

Mike Castellucci of CNN affiliate KUSI reports on the record-setting journey
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»Rounding the capes
Read excerpts from Thorndike's diary as she passes each cape.

The sailor didn't take a lot with her on her journey, but says she is glad she took a computer

In January of last year, when Thorndike became ill near the Falkland Islands, off the tip of South America, she was able to e-mail a distress call to colleagues back home.

The British Royal Navy came to her aid, but Thorndike was hospitalized for three months with angina pectoris, a disease that causes periodic attacks of chest pain.

'The storm was enormous'

Earlier in the journey, bad weather nearly did her in. "The time that I was most afraid was rounding New Zealand," Thorndike said. "The storm was enormous and, for the first time, I really didn't know what to do, how to handle it."

But she did handle it, accomplishing what only seven other women have done alone.

In which of the following would you attempt to sail by yourself around the globe?

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"She was doing her dream," said Thorndike's mother, Eva Scholl. "She's wanted to do this for several years."

Thorndike's journey, documented on her Web site, took her eastward past the world's five great capes: Cape Horn (tip of South America); Cape of Good Hope (South Africa); Cape Leeuwin (south of Perth, Australia); South East Cape (Tasmania); and Southwest Cape (New Zealand).

arriving in San Diego
Two years and two weeks after she left, Thorndike completed her circumnavigation Wednesday in San Diego  

Rowing across the Atlantic

Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, meanwhile, is another woman on a boat who is trying to set a different record.

Tori Murden, 35, hopes to become the first woman to cross the North Atlantic -- a trip of more than 3,000 miles -- in a rowboat.

The Louisville, Kentucky, resident left two months ago from the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the boat, which is 23 feet long and 6 feet wide. She's averaging 32 miles a day and is about 2,000 miles into her crossing to France.

CNN affiliate KUSI contributed to this report.

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