Among the fleet of 20 majestic tall ships that sailed into Navy Pier Tuesday afternoon is one with a very special crew.
It's all women aboard a 118-foot tall ship dubbed The Unicorn. And among them are six Chicago-area girls from the "Sisters Under Sail" program who have spent the last 10 days on the voyage from Green Bay, Wisc.
While that's a special experience for the high school-aged girls, it's what brought them together that is so encouraging. Each of them wrote an essay for the Chicago Yacht Club Foundation about overcoming obstacles.
"We asked them to write in the metaphor of the sea; the obstacles of the wind and the waves and the current," explained Gibby Vartan.
Sailing student Angelica Eloisa used a family tragedy for her essay.
"My cousin passed away and she was a very influential person in my life, so I wrote about how she influenced my decision-making," she said.
The ship's owner had four girls of her own that she raised on the boat and realized how giving other girls an opportunity to sail on their own was a way to teach life lessons.
"We saw our own daughters growing up aboard ships crewing in their summer months, and when they were ready to go off to college I saw that they were armed with so much more confidence than I ever had when I was their age, and we knew we had something really special that we could offer just for girls," said Dawn Santamaria.
Roughly 400 girls have gone through the program, taking away more than just a knowledge of knots and sails.
"The maturity [and] the responsibility I'm taking home with me, it's just tremendous," said student Jarin Tasmin, who called the sail an "adventure of a lifetime."