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Why It's Never Too Late to Become a Sailor

by Go Sail Virgin Islands 6 Jul 21:54 PDT
The sights you see at sea © Go Sail Virgin Islands

There is a common misconception that the only people sailing yachts on the open seas have been doing it their whole lives. This is not necessarily the case at all, with many people only discovering their passion for boating later in life. So, why are people hesitant to embrace a love of yachting as they get older? Certainly, sailing is physically demanding work, but age doesn’t need to be a barrier. Perhaps it’s the fact that learning anything new can feel a little daunting.

If you’ve ever considered what life might be like sailing yachts around the world, this article is for you. We caught up with Captain Genevieve Evans, CEO and founder of Go Sail Virgin Islands, who has instructed countless late-blooming sailors to realize their dreams. With her help, we’re going to explore why it’s never too late to become a sailor.

The benefits of becoming a sailor

There are so many different reasons that people love sailing. Whether it’s something they’ve done since they were kids or they discover the fresh sea air later in life, everybody’s motivations are different. It might be the sense of freedom sailing a vast ocean provides. It could be a sense of adventure, traveling to parts unknown. For some, it’s simply a passion and a lifestyle.

Regardless of why you take up sailing, it can offer countless benefits, which we’re going to explore in more detail below. From improving your health and well-being to joining an enthusiastic, adventurous community, boating offers something for everyone.

A life less ordinary

There is no doubt that sailing opens up the door to a world of possibilities. If you love to challenge yourself to do new things, visit far-away places or completely transform your lifestyle, sailing is a great way to do it. For many, like Oscar Cabalo, the course to earn his American Sailing certification was thrilling in itself. For him, the combination of learning from a skilled Captain, the food, and snorkelling in Caribbean waters was an amazing adventure. But for many course participants just like Oscar, the sailing adventure is only just beginning.

But regardless of where your passions lie, sailing can take you places that you never thought possible. You don’t need to be a thrill-seeker to enjoy sailing, either. If you’re an avid traveller who likes to visit beautiful coastal cities, sailing provides a unique, and rewarding way to see the world. So, whether you get excited by the prospect of snorkelling in crisp, blue waters or exploring the world’s most stunning coastlines, your life as a sailor will be anything but ordinary.

Personal growth and mindset

Sailing doesn’t have to be all about adventure. Many people take a more relaxed approach to boating, making it their lifestyle rather than a constant source of adventure. For a lot of people who take up sailing later in life, it’s a great source of personal growth. Sailing offers the opportunity to learn new skills and see how far you can extend your capabilities. Regardless of age, everybody can challenge themselves and feel a sense of accomplishment.

Learning to sail can also be a huge source of self-confidence. Captain Genevieve recalls teaching a couple, Rocky and Dana, who had been sailing on smaller boats together for years. Dana wanted to take a more active role in their sailing adventures, as she often felt more like a guest. In their sixties, the pair started completing ASA sailing courses with Go Sail Virgin Islands. Dana credited the course as filling her with the confidence to make decisions at the helm and take more control of the couple’s sailing adventures.

Improved health and well-being

Many people credit their love of sailing to improved health. Certainly, getting plenty of fresh sea air instead of pollution from the cities is going to be good for everybody. Then there are the mental benefits, such as reduced stress, mindfulness, and consistent cognitive stimulation. Sailing also has its physical demands, which require people to constantly improve their strength, fitness and flexibility. By staying active as you get older, you can set yourself up to do the things you love for a lot longer.

While not crediting sailing as a cure for cancer, one of Captain Genevieve's inspiring students was a young man named Zander. He’d had a passion for sailing since his youth, until a shock cancer diagnosis upturned his life. Using sailing memories to get him through chemotherapy, one of the first things he did following surgery was book a course to gain ASA certification. Zander credits his diagnosis as the catalyst for rediscovering his love of sailing and helping him lead a fuller and more rewarding life.

Community and connections

The sailing community is known for being extremely welcoming, whether you’ve had years of experience or you’re new to the craft. Genevieve has seen first-hand how many friendships can be forged, even during sailing certification courses. Knowledge is shared freely amongst sailors, and you can build a great network of people with shared interests – even if you literally only cross paths like ships in the night.

Even Captain Genevieve herself can recall an experience she never thought she would have, teaching local St Lucian instructors from an American sailing school at a resort in St Lucia. They are now lifelong friends, and Genevieve thinks of that experience as an amazing paid vacation. It emphasises that no matter your age or skill level, you can build amazing relationships through sailing.

Starting your sailing journey

No matter your age, starting your sailing journey is always an exciting time. In fact, if you’re arriving in the world of sailing later in life, this can be a benefit. You’ve got the maturity and life experience to prepare yourself correctly for a rewarding trip.

While you don’t need prior experience, having a basic knowledge of sailing is preferred. Even if you’ve had no hands-on experience, you can still learn some theory. Online resources can be useful, and when you choose a sailing school, they’ll be able to provide plenty of information, too.

One misconception about sailing is that you have to be wealthy. That’s another myth, because you don’t need to own a multi-million-dollar vessel to enjoy sailing. You can rent boats or explore various other finance options that suit your circumstances. So, do some research on sailing course prices and how you might be able to fit sailing into your lifestyle.

Again, age can actually be a benefit here, because sailing is an incredible lifestyle and pursuit for people nearing retirement or even those who have already finished work. What better way to enjoy your reward for all those years of hard work, than out exploring the open seas?

Choose a sailing school

There are countless sailing instructors and schools out there, so what do you need to consider when choosing one? Captain Genevieve Evans from Go Sail Virgin Islands has learned first-hand what makes a great sailing school, through over 10 years of working for them before branching out on her own. She explains that she felt students didn’t get the communication upfront to enable them to prepare properly for hands-on learning.

With communication and support being a major factor, what else influences your decision? Schools should be accredited by reputable, recognised bodies such as the American Sailing Association (ASA). Additionally, look for experienced instructors with evidence of a lifelong passion for sailing. Flexible, yet small group sizes are another bonus, and it’s ideal if the course includes a range of different teaching methods. Boat quality is also a significant red flag. If they use tired, worn-out old boats that need maintenance, you should probably look elsewhere.

Perhaps most important though is gaining International Bareboat Charter Certification. Even once you become ASA certified, it’s difficult to hire vessels without Bareboat Charter Certification, so look for a sailing school that offers this as part of the course.

Prepare for your first lesson

Just to set people’s minds at ease, you don’t need to be a sailing expert before your first lesson. However, you should certainly do some preparation to ensure you're ready to get the most out of your course. This includes dressing in comfortable weather-appropriate clothing and non-slip footwear. Sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and water are also essentials.

Aside from that, your sailing school should send you some information to get you started. You’ll be able to familiarise yourself with basic sailing terms and concepts so they don’t seem completely foreign when your course begins. Basically, it’s all about having a positive attitude, being willing to learn, and making sure you’re ready both physically and mentally.

With passion and practice, anybody can become a sailor

Regardless of age or background, anyone can become a sailor. It just takes a willingness to learn, and a passion to do something a little different. Sailing is a great way of life, but it’s also a way to consistently challenge yourself with ongoing learning. The physical and mental health benefits are clear, and you’ll certainly find plenty of like-minded people in the sailing community to swap stories with.

So, to those who think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, Captain Genevieve Evans from Go Sail Virgin Islands can point to countless late-bloomers who have made sailing their passion. Why not challenge yourself and dip your feet into the exciting world of sailing today?

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