Aubrey Gail Wilson and Stefan Heiberg plan a passage. (Courtesy photo)

Traveling to Telluride isn’t easy, given the remoteness of the region, but Aubrey Gail Wilson and Stefan Heiberg have survived more than most during their maiden journey to the San Juan Mountains.

As sailors who live primarily on the waters of the world, Wilson and Heiberg experienced major mechanical malfunctions, weathered tropical storms and repelled pirates before making it to the mainland recently. That’s right, the couple, along with Wilson’s 9-year-old daughter Bianca, had a run-in with Somali pirates off the eastern African cost after their boat became stuck in one of the bandit’s fishing nets. Luckily, a couple locals saved Wilson and Heiberg from walking the plank or giving up any booty.

“We decided to get off the water and come to Telluride to see some different adventures,” Heiberg explained.

The trio spent the past week in Telluride, hitting the slopes and hanging with local host Ted Roorda, who supports their adventures through the crowdfunding website Heiberg, originally from South Africa, had never seen snow before, so the cold Colorado weather was a sight to be seen, he explained, and the skiing left him sore.

“I’ve been on the slopes for six days with not a lot of rest in between,” he said. “My legs are like jelly. I loved it. It’s fun.”

In 2018, the family visited 13 countries, including Spain, Malta and Italy, but wanted to take a break at the beginning of the new year before fixing up a recently purchased boat and sailing to the Bahamas over the next couple months. If this sounds like some type of Jules Verne wanderlust fantasy it’s because it is, but Wilson and Heiberg said anyone can do it. Through their website,, and social media platforms, the couple chronicles their time at sea and offers tips on how to live the minimalist sailboat life.

“I always tell people that if you’re thinking you should be doing it, then you should do it. There’s a reason why you have that fire in your heart telling you to move,” said Heiberg, a former stockbroker who was tired of working the 9-5 grind. “ … The most difficult thing is to take that first step. Act on that desire to do that.”

Wilson decided to sell everything she owned, take her daughter out of school for a year and learn to sail in 2015. It was supposed to be a brief breather from life, but when she met Heiberg in Puerto Rico shortly after setting off fate intervened.

During their first trip together, the main mast broke loose, sending a line into the water. The line wrapped around the propeller, rendering it useless. The wind their only ally, Wilson recalled the dread that ensued and how Heiberg managed to dodge Davey Jones’ Locker while righting the ship.

“I thought, ‘If he is not paying attention for one second, I’m never going to see him again, because there’s no way for me to turn back if he goes overboard,’” she said. “ … We worked together so well as a team that after that moment I decided I would sail with him anywhere and I wanted to be with him.”

She called it their “closest call to death.”

“It really makes you appreciate life on a different level,” she added.

Neither Wilson or Heiberg, both in their early 30s, sailed before taking the leap. The learning curve was steep, they admitted, but it’s been worth it.

“I was telling my daughter that everything’s a pain in the ass until you get good at it,” Wilson said.  

There are no plans to head inland anytime soon, Heiberg said, but after visiting the Rocky Mountain oasis that is Telluride, they’d like to come back for the Bluegrass festival in June.