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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.
 

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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.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G925A using Tapatalk
 

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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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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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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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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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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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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......

<a data-flickr-embed="true" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/35774305221/in/album-72157683780070881/" title="Synergy under Spinnaker Approaching Bridge 2"><img src="https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4262/35774305221_1c9ee5d50f.jpg" width="500" height="333" alt="Synergy under Spinnaker Approaching Bridge 2"></a><script async src="//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Your mileage may vary,
Jeff
 

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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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Regarding aches and pains of arthritis and exercise-induced muscle and joint pain: The key is to reduce inflammation. A lot of inflammation is caused by food - so eliminate the foods that are known to cause inflammation. Some foods reduce inflammation - eat as many of those as you can. Everybody is a little different, so you have to discover what works for you. One strategy is to do as I described above, then change one thing (add a food that you've eliminated from your diet or eliminate a anti-inflammatory food that you don't like) at a time and see how you react. Reactions are not instant, so allow changes to occur over weeks/months.

I've eliminated all my aches and pains by eliminating sugar and grains, cut way back on beer wine, and booze. I don't miss them at all because whenever I eat or drink then, I feel like crap for a few days. Additionally, I've been drinking tart cherry juice for it's anti-inflammatory effect. I felt worn out through my late 50s. Now that I'm 60, my joints feel like I'm in my 40s.
 

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Eat what you what, drink what you want, all in moderation, been a stone mason for the last 31 years, exercise regularly. I feel great. Sail, ride mountain and road bicycles, downhill ski, ride both street and dirtbikes, rock and ice climb.....
Special diets just suck the joy out of life and do nothing unless you have a specific dietary issue that a REAL doctor has diagnosed.
 

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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?
The answer to your question depends on whether I am racing single-hand (and expect to need the chute again) or cruising. When racing, I make sure that the guys is carefully coiled (figure 8 style) so it is free to run. I do the same with the halyard. Then I pull the guy off the winch and manually feed it out until I am sure that the chute is flagging and there is plenty of slack in the guy. Then I do the drop. That allows me to attach the halyard, and sheets and set up for the next hoist, or run the luff and raise out of the companionway.

If I am cruising, or its really heavy winds, then ease the pole to the forestay, blow the shackle on the guy and drop the chute a leisure.

Here is a write-up that I wrote on solo sailing which is on CHESSS (Chesapeake Short-handed Society webpage)

https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/1795e0_14b5d85f65a84143ae42a572d3e3da25.pdf

Jeff
 

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Then I began to do yoga, which went a long way towards improving my back pain, muscle tone, and balance.
I am a big fan of yoga. I used to go every Wednesday night, but I fell out of the habit. I need to get back in.

Yoga combats so much of what goes wrong when you age. Balance, strength, flexibility. The yoga class I used to go to have a range of people from young, buff body builders to octogenarians.

I was at a raft-up of four small boats last weekend and some of the younger more fit people were doing "acroyoga" where one person would hold a pose that involved holding the other person up, who would also be doing a pose. On the deck of a small sailboat with people walking around! That's some balance. Serves a sailor well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
NaptownLarry, thank you for sharing your sailing history. I am 73 years old; but I am still looking for ways to get fit enough to return to sailing. All the replies here are very helpful. Thank you all.
 

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I had my 72nd birthday cruising to the Florida Keys from the upper reaches of Chesapeake Bay. I fully intended to make that trip again this fall, but mother nature has a way of taking her toll when it comes to aging, which is not usually a graceful process. Now, at 77, my aging mind continues to make my body can no longer keep. Tomorrow, I'm sailing about 30 miles to North East, Maryland to have a skinny, marine mechanic dive into my engine compartment and adjust my stuffing box, which I can no longer accomplish.

Ironically, when I went on a day sail 10 years ago, the essentials were: a small Italian Hogi, a 12 pack of Coors Light, a bag of potato chips, and a bag of ice. Now, I carry an oxygen generator, a rescue inhaler, and a supply of pills, just in case I stay out later than anticipated. And, when I pass a topless honey skinny dipping off her boat, I just cast a passing glance, wave, smile, then turn up the oxygen generator a notch.

So, my advice to all you youngsters out there, those that are still in good health and physical condition, sail ever chance you get. Enjoy every minute of every day to the fullest, do a little fishing, girl watching, drink the best booze and don't worry about the red meat and fat consumption - they don't make a damned bit of difference anyway. You never know when all this will suddenly come to an abrupt end. I know this stuff first hand - I'm an old fart! ;)

Gary :cool:
 

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I'm glad this thread is up, there's been some good reading, reality checks, and some hope here too. I always joke with my friends that I'm glad I didn't discover sailing until I was in my 30's because had I found it in my 20's I would have bought an old wreck and would be bumming around the Carrib instead of working a career today. Not that there's anything wrong with that... lol

That being said, I'm 35 now and have already started worrying "how much time left" I have. Heck on my last trip my outboard went U\S and I had to sail back into the marina. While leaning over the backrail and lifting a 10hp 1984 Honda outboard with ONE HAND up into the cockpit from the transom I remember thinking "enjoy this now, you won't be able to do this in 10 years!".

My wife and I want to save up for a 38-40ft boat for retirement and sail the world (most likely Carrib life, and maybe a Trans-At with some time in the Med to be honest). But I've got some injuries that progress a bit each day. I've survived 2 major vehicle wrecks, 1 helicopter crash, and several broken bones and ligament tears through a scattering of other "oops's". My knees and shoulders are the worst of the bunch with soft tissue and bones torn\shattered in some of those instances. I do wonder how I will be mobility-wise in my 50's-60's. I think it's best I enjoy the time I have today, hope medical tech keeps moving forward, and try to preserve what's left to keep headed towards our dream. It's good to hear some of you are making it by "work smart not hard", it helps me keep the dream alive! :captain:
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Most trailer yachts are less than 25 feet long. They are small and the mast is not too heavy for one man to handle. Many older yachties stop sailing because they can no longer handle the heavy mast. Those with money, can easily move on to a larger keeler, 28 to 50 foot. They can continue sailing until the money runs out.

The plus points are many: Drive to the marina, park the Mercedes, walk aboard, start engine and cast off all within 15 minutes. The mast and sometimes even the sails are permanently installed, using furlers! However the cost of yachting increases exponentially when the boat size goes over 25 feet. For many sailors, it is not possible to keep up financially.
 
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