Why do sailors stop sailing? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 88 Old 07-25-2017 Thread Starter
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Why do sailors stop sailing?

I have been sailing for 35 years as a single hander. I stopped two years ago because of a bad back, from raising the heavy mast of a 22 ft trailer yacht.
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Re: Why do sailors stop sailing?

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I have been sailing for 35 years as a single hander. I stopped two years ago because of a bad back, from raising the heavy mast of a 22 ft trailer yacht.
I started sailing at the age of 17 and continued for the next 30 years. But when I suffered a rotator cuff tear and faced a year of rehab, I sold my 30' C&C that I had single handed for years.

After I recovered from my injury, I jumped the metaphorical ship to a 33' powerboat that was (and is) easy by comparison to single hand. It also comes with creature comforts that make overnights much more pleasant on an older body than the spartan accommodations that would be found in an equivalent sized sailboat.

Sailing is a physically demanding form of boating. As people age, suffer injuries, etc sometimes ending your sailing days becomes more of a necessity for safety rather than a choice.

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Re: Why do sailors stop sailing?

My sailing is less "aggressive" and I need some help with things requiring upper body strength. So I use a Milwaukee drill with a winch bit to raise the big 440 SF main... a windlass for anchoring and a demountable Garhauer crane to lift the OB from the dink. I don't single hand as I once did except for short hops or fun day sails. I use the AP 99% of the time. My sailing has been affected by my strength, my spinal stenosis, diminished seeing and hearing. But by no means am I ready to not sail. When I need to move the OB from the car to the dink... I pay some young man $10. Most refuse the money and most people will help out when asked politely. I always did when I was a younger guy. I don't do bottom work or waxing the hull... I pay others to do it. I am maybe 85% of my former self and I adjust my activities accordingly. Decades of experience informs what I do. I wouldn't advise a newbie with 3 score to take up sailing... although I was 95% at 60... 98% at 50 and 100% at 40.
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Re: Why do sailors stop sailing?

Couple things come to mind about abandoning sailing due to physical limitations...
I'd think one would use the adage "work smarter not harder." Mast raising is a perfect example (on a 22 footer)... either use a block and tackle system and an A-frame, or frankly pay someone to do it.

Examples were given of how to keep going, and they are great ones.

I'm young(ish) at 46. My last race I had a gentleman that was 71 as a crewmate (I hope to be as fit as him) and my long time friend who is 55. Both those guys are quite fit, and are my model. But me the young one of the bunch, have been hobbling for the last 2 days, my hips are screaming from a 17 mile trail ride Saturday, and 3 hours roll-tacking a 24 foot sailboat due to light air. Between smashed shins from the traveler, and a mistake I made starting the outboard (boom was low and centered) I elbowed the boom at high speed and gave myself the goose-egg of the century (probably as big as a tennis ball). My elbow screaming still, but is just black and blue now. I'm going to state categorically its not an "age" thing that takes out sailors, but limitations that aren't thought through or overcome.

When there is a will there is a way for sure. I submit sometimes the WAY overwhelms the WILL.
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Re: Why do sailors stop sailing?

The two most common things I see that cause a sailor's retirement are loss of balance and arthritis.

There are boat mods (electric winches and other devices, added handrails and seating) that can extend one's sailing career by many more years. It's said that the market will soon be flooded with these souped up sail boats, as the first of the baby boomers start to age out of the system.
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Re: Why do sailors stop sailing?

My sailing days are ending because my lungs are shot to hell from asbestosis and my back is shot to Hell from years of abuse doing stuff I should not have done.

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Re: Why do sailors stop sailing?

I suspect a lot of physical limitations one may experience as they age could have been forecast well in advance, like a slow moving train wreck; at least in my case. I'm 47, had been an athlete through high school, always the strongest, fastest, etc...but have not been taking care of my body. I'm 50 pounds overweight, am not afraid of killing a six pack of beer and a pizza, and am not particularly active. I'm trying to turn that around now, losing weight, eating better, but could also see myself keeling over before I'm 60 if I'm unsuccessful in changing my lifestyle. I can already see how my poor lifestyle choices have started "aging" me, I ache and have back pulls way more than I probably should at my age. So when I see a 90 year old (my dock neighbor is 94 and just this year stopped sailing by himself) still sailing, I suspect a lot of it has to do with how well he took care of himself in his younger life.

I can see this in myself at any rate.
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Re: Why do sailors stop sailing?

I had a friend who's no longer with us that sailed a 42 ft yawl single handed into his early 90's. He would deliver it from a marina 30 or so miles away, as he got older I offered many times to do the delivery with him as I was worried, but he needed to do it himself. It was important to him.

Fate plays a hand in this. Now in my 60's, some friends have developed chronic conditions that are limiting and others have passed. All you can do it stay as active as you can, eat well, exercise, and take care of yourself. You maybe lucky, or fate may get you, but you can up your odds.

Enjoy every day out sailing. No one knows how many they'll get.
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post #9 of 88 Old 07-25-2017
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Re: Why do sailors stop sailing?

Back in my late 40's my back had gotten so bad that I basically sat out most of a sailing season. I was living on Naproxens just to get through my day. Frankly, I was miserable. My cardiovascular conditioning and balance was noticeably deteriorating.

Then I began to do yoga, which went a long way towards improving my back pain, muscle tone, and balance. At some point I added long walks to my routine, which helped hugely with the cardo issues. I was able to drop roughly 15 lbs which helped a lot with my back as well. As my pain issues diminished, I added strength training mostly during the winter, which went a long way towards being able to do more on the boat.

I am now turning 67. 20 years later I am in way better shape than I was in my 40's. I take no medications on a regular basis. There are parts of my body that are not as good as they were then, but I think that I am stronger in most ways and more physically capable of sailing than I was. I also understand that this is not all of my own making. I think that I have been blessed with good genes and discipline. I have luckily not been exposed to hazardous materials on a regular basis.

How long I will be able to push boats around is another story that has yet to be written, but at this point I am still able to single-hand my 38 footer without power winches under spinnaker on day with winds gusting to near 20 knots. and sail on and off the anchor without a windlass, so I guess I am doing okay for now......

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Your mileage may vary,
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Last edited by Jeff_H; 07-25-2017 at 12:09 PM.
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post #10 of 88 Old 07-25-2017
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Re: Why do sailors stop sailing?

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Originally Posted by Jeff_H View Post
I am still able to single-hand my 38 footer without power winches under spinnaker on day with winds gusting to near 20 knots. and sail on and off the anchor without a windlass
That is an impressive feat for a boat with a crew; as single-handed, amazing!

How do you douse the kite? The old fashioned way by releasing the shackle on the guy?
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