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Can a Middle-Aged Woman Learn to Sail?

How do you go from landlubber to sailor? A love of the water, plenty of enthusiasm, and a little help from a couple of instructors can take you a long way.

By Liz Powell

The nest is finally empty and I’m wondering what’s next? We’re in between our own kids and grandkidsthat happy time of life when the aches and pains are still few, the disposable cash is a little more than ever before, and time just for each other has finally reappeared in our schedules. The question looming large and on the horizon now is: Whatever shall we do with ourselves?  The late night scene and raucous parties just don’t hold the same appealthe ‘been there, done that’ column includes community work, flying lessons, golf, photography, and on and on and on.  But, true to the nature of the male species, my darling husband has yet another idea: “Let’s go sailing!”

Sounds like fun to me. Afterall, I love the water and the idea of seeing the world from the serenity of the sea appeals to me. So, in blissful ignorance of the perils this new adventure may hold, I happily accompany my hubby on a quest for our floating vacation home.  

"Wouldn’t it be less confusing to simply go right or left rather than starboard or port?"
Blissful indeed are our moments afloat. I lazily read and nap underway as my hubby revels as captain of the ship. My rest begins and ends with our time underway since my role in this new partnership is to provision, cook, help with general maintenance, and so on. The captain would love for me to share some of the actual sailing responsibility, but I am far too intimidated by the size of our ‘new toy’ and the foreign language one must know to participate. (Why is rope not just rope, but lines or sheets or halyards?  Wouldn’t it be less confusing to simply go right or left rather than starboard or port, and who turned a bathroom into a head and a kitchen into a galley?  Could it be that I am just too old to master this new language?)

The ‘joy in my journey’ begins to be overshadowed by my frustration at being a ‘girlie-girl’ incapable of mastering this pastime without the help of the man in my life. Worse still is my fear of losing this precious man overboard and being unable to rescue him.  I know I can throw him a life ring, but I realize that just isn’t sufficient.  My husband tries to allay my fears with lessons afloat, but when things get tense and he begins giving orders in that strange language, I find myself tempted to be the one throwing him overboard without even worrying about the life ring!

It is often easier to learn from strangers than from our loved ones. For Liz an all-girl sailing school was the ideal solution.
This is quite the dilemma I find myself in, wanting to enjoy these golden years with this man I adore, but at times ready to bring this life season to a premature end if I don’t soon master the genteel sport of sailing. Not one to be defeated easily, I begin my new quest, this time for a sailing school that caters to women.

Sea Sense to the rescue!  They are exactly what I am looking for: an all-girl school taught for women by women. Carol and Patti and their staff will give lessons on my boat or theirs just about anywhere I want to go and learn. I am excited about the possibility and sign on for three days in Newport, RI.  

With only an occasional fleeting thought of “What have I gotten myself into?” I excitedly packed for fair or foul weather and headed north on a rainy Sunday afternoon in June.  

I was part of a six-woman women crew who would live and learn aboard the 42-foot Beneteau Endless Summer.   For three glorious fair sky and smooth sea days Carol and Susan put us through our sailing paces. We covered knots to navigation and many things in between, but the trip’s highlight was our time at the helm, developing confidence and the ability to ‘captain the ship’ when we return home to our own boats.  

Prior to her stint with SeaSense, the author refers to herself as an extremely anxious first-mate; now she can be a confident captain and best of all she didn't become one more "sailing widow."
Carol is patient and skillful as she easily transcends the ‘right brain/left brain’ learning issue we all seem to have back home with our ‘better halves’.  As our three-day adventure comes to a close, we all hug and excitedly encourage one another to go home and practice our new skills.

Will it be easier and more fun now? I sure hope so, and if not, I can always join Carol and her crew on a Sea Sense special adventure tripa few days in Tahiti might be just the extra confidence builder I need! I'll keep you girls posted.


About the author:  Liz and  her husband took up sailing 15 years ago when she gave him sailing lessons for his 40th birthday.  Until three years ago they sailed on other people’s boats, finally taking the plunge on their own with a 20-year old Irwin 30.  After fivemonths on a 20-year-old mattress, they went to the Annapolis Boat Show in search of the perfect bed, but opted instead for a brand new Catalina 350.  From May to October Hurry Sundown can be found chasing the perfect sunset in one of the idyllic anchorages around the Chesapeake Bay.

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