What does "too old to sail mean"? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 75 Old 12-02-2018 Thread Starter
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What does "too old to sail mean"?

Most sailors begin their sailing in early or mid life... some even late in life. Sailing and the life associated with sailing become normal for committed sailors. Some even live aboard and give up land on dirt.

Boats can be maintained and repaired and kept in sea worthy and even bristol condition. But sailors can't. Sailors age and with age their "systems" decline... they lose muscle strength, lose range of motion on their joints, their eye sight and hearing decline... they may even experience balance problems. Agility declines. The mind usually remains sharp and even wiser, though age means loss of short term and even long term memory. These are all things sailors need to sail. Wearing glasses is hardly a barrier to sailing.

But what are the barriers to sailing that we inevitably face? How to sailors adjust to the deficits associated with aging of their bodies? Perhaps no more single handing? Sail only in fair weather? Use more power assisted mechanical devices... windlass, winches, roller furling, furling mains....

What will cause a sailor to end his sailing? Or owning a boat? How does one make this decision? Is there a ramp down? Or does one simply take a tally and simply stop? How does one prepare for being a sailor who can no longer sail or feels comfortable and safe sailing?

How many even think about the final act?
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post #2 of 75 Old 12-02-2018
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Re: What does "too old to sail mean"?

A bit melancholy
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post #3 of 75 Old 12-02-2018
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Re: What does "too old to sail mean"?

Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB) strives to make sailing accessible to people with disabilities of all types. I had an elderly friend who came to his boat in a wheelchair and raced it, often winning. He sailed it in and out of it's slip, without a motor. If you have a disability, you find a "workaround" that enables you to do whatever you enjoy doing.

Some skippers don't want old folks for crew. The first time I crew on an unfamiliar boat, I know that I'll have to demonstrate that I can contribute meaningfully to the sailing of the boat in order to be invited back. That isn't really difficult to do, because younger crew often neglect some of the "fine points", such as skirting the jib after each tack. If you show that you're thinking about such things, you'll likely be invited back.

As long as you're reasonably ambulatory, and sentient, and have friends who are willing to contend with your disabilities, I see no reason why one can't continue sailing until the last day of one's life. Many have done it.
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Re: What does "too old to sail mean"?

We live aboard 6 months. And sail our small boat in the summer in Newfoundland.

This is a question in my mind a lot. So far so good. Just turned 68, I’ll let you know when I grow up.

More seriously I thought I knew the answer pretty clearly last week. I took a bad fall, got my feet tangled on the staysail boom on the hook. I rolled and went down flat on my back, across the hand rails, my head just missing the toe rail.

On my way down I could mentally see my head splitting like a Gallagher mellon. I just KNEW my life was done, then I heard my back cracking as it bent over the hand rails.

When I came to I went through a mental reboot and to my amazement everything came back online with only some stiffness in my back for a few days.

So maybe that’s the answer, we go on as long as we want until something stops us. What? When? Ah, now there are some questions.
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post #5 of 75 Old 12-02-2018
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Re: What does "too old to sail mean"?

I've posted this before, a friend, one of my hero's passed in his 90's. He had a 42' traditional yawl. In mast hood furl main and roller furling jib. He kept his boat about 20 miles sailing distance away from his home dock for the winter. Every year I offered to go with him to deliver the boat for winter storage and to bring it back. He always refused, because he wanted to single hand it even in his 90's. I was always worried about him. I know some will say it was irresponsible.

As I get older, I understand.

He said, rig your boat for geriatric sailing and keep going as long as you can. Not everyone hits the geriatric health lottery like my friend did, but staying active doesn't hurt. The day you can't will be the day you ask yourself why you didn't do it when you could.
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Re: What does "too old to sail mean"?

There are so many ways to come at your query Sander. I’ve typed four responses so far, and erased all b/c they sound silly or trite.

The only answer which makes any sense to me is: we all do the best we can with what we have. It’s simply the reality of living. After all, none of us are getting out of here alive.

We all have physical, and mental, limits, no matter what the age. Living means change. So we adapt until we can’t. At that point we make a big change, or we make a big mistake. Either way, problem solved .

Why go fast, when you can go slow.
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post #7 of 75 Old 12-02-2018
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Re: What does "too old to sail mean"?

Loss of balance is the only real deal killer I can see - the other failings can be overcome.

Hell, blind people have singlehanded across oceans.
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I, myself, personally intend to continue being outspoken and opinionated, intolerant of all fanatics, fools and ignoramuses, deeply suspicious of all those who have "found the answer" and on my bad days, downright rude.
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post #8 of 75 Old 12-02-2018
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Re: What does "too old to sail mean"?

Completely up to each of us.

I'd rather die at sea even unpleasantly, than on land.
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post #9 of 75 Old 12-02-2018
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Re: What does "too old to sail mean"?

Great question.

Being my mid sixties now, before now really never thought of an end game. Till this year

Haleakala has been mine for 25 years or so. sailing has been in my blood and psyche since I’ve been 10.
Raced Hobies competitively nation a lot in my early 20s .
Crewed on two trips across the pond before I hit 30.
Bought my first keel boat at 28.
Helped with east coast deliveries in the Carribean
Sailed extensively since I've owned Haleakula in the Chesapeake and Long Island Sound areas.
No end of sailing till this year when I was forced to have surgery on my back.
It definitely mde me think...suppose I cant physically sail anymore.

My passion and love for sailing has not waned. My love of the water is no less. My boat fits like a glove and is an old familiar friend. My wife and I have and continue to make memories and friends on the water. We love our experiences.

Retirement not may happen as soon s this summer or it certainly will be soon. We are looking for an end house to purchase somewhere less crowded. I will not give up sailing unless I am physically not able to anymore.

HOWEVER, I still feel there is more to do than sail for me/ us. I can see us buying a land yacht ( travel trainer of 35 ft) and expkiing the US and Canada. Already I've been in all 50 states but even though married 14 years, as he has no. She has willingly embraced sailing and loves our time on the water and the upkeep of Haleakula.

There is more to life than the water. Much beauty in our country to see. Many rich cultures, great cuisine and spectacular vistas to see RVing Has some similarities as sailing and has lot to do in nature which we both enjoy. With Haleakula long paid for,I see no need to give it up to do the RV land thing.

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Re: What does "too old to sail mean"?

This is something I've been thinking about lately. I'm noticing my eyesight is just not as good as it used to be particularly the night vision. I start reminiscing about solo sailing at night and the spring and fall as the temperature drops and things begin to get cold and uncomfortable. I'm not sure I want to relive those days as I get older. Needing glasses every time I want To look at the chart or chartplotter is a constant reminder things have changed too. With the boat now in the boatyard for the winter I find myself being more careful as I move around the deck. It's a long way down to the ground should I stumble over the life lines as I work on the boat over the winter. I'm still fairly healthy but as far as getting up and moving around I know I am not as agile as I used to be.

I'm also finding less reason to be uncomfortable when sailing. Since I have done a lot of cruising in the Northeast U.S. I am having less and less desire to revisit places I've already been like Block Island , Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard etc... Though a solo circumnavigation around Long Island still is in my plans at some point. Part of me would would also like to recreate the trip up the Hudson River, Erie and Oswego Canals to Toronto Canada I made back in the 90’s now that I have a quiet electric propulsion system for motoring those waters instead of the noisy diesel I originally used. These days I find that a 2 hour sail to a nearby harbor or anchorage followed by a few days of hanging out on the hook provides the same satisfaction as the longer passages I used to make in my younger days. I don't see an end to my sailing days anytime soon but my needs and desires have certainly changed as I have gotten older.
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Currently: Heading to warm waters over the winter on a variety of boats.

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