Looking back on a season of sailing

Eric Zelz | BDN
Posted Oct. 06, 2011, at 12:58 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 06, 2011, at 4:56 p.m.

Maine offers a unique opportunity for an activity that can keep you fit, healthful and happy and provides a way to spend large amounts of your discretionary cash. Yes, I am referring to sailing. Sailing can be as challenging or as easy as you want to make it and it can last well into your golden years. Sailboats themselves can be pretty old, too, and still have a lot of life to share.

Once a sailor always a sailor, they say. My husband and I once bought a 44-year-old sailboat from an 82-year-old fellow in Bremen. He took us out for a spin while we watched him single-hand the boat around the bay. He claimed he wanted to give up sailing and buy a motorboat. We stayed in touch with him with Christmas cards and, sure enough, one year with the motorboat was all he could stand. He then bought a larger sailboat than the one we had purchased from him. The fact is, on a motorboat, if the motor dies and you don’t have any sails, you had best have an anchor and a radio. I think a lot of sailing folks like having a motor and various other amenities, but they know they can always use some wind to get home.

I am not recommending that octogenarians that have never been to sea take up sailing. But if you are looking for a life sport that allows you to be active outdoors, away from bugs, away from roads, camping but not on the ground and with lots of natural air conditioning, sailing might be worth looking into. If you need help, there are many young people who have learned to sail who cold be recruited and would love to help sail or who will even sail your boat for you.

A boat could be your camp. And let’s say you wanted to change locations and didn’t want to be the one to sail it to the new place. It is relatively easy to find someone willing and able to move it there. We like the ocean, but there are many Maine lakes that offer great sailing enjoyment.

As an aging couple, my husband and I have discovered that sailing offers opportunities for teamwork that don’t involve raising children or housework and is very rewarding. A happy couple that can reverse the direction of their sailboat — known as “coming about” — is something to behold. And there is nothing to compare to the good tired feeling after sailing for the day.

It is easy to lose weight when you’re sailing just because you don’t have an unlimited pantry with you and what you did bring has to last or you will have to find a store and haul more food to your boat. And if you forget something, oh well. Trust me, you will survive. This sport is not for those with a cruise-ship mentality.

Amenities abound but sometimes it requires getting a larger boat. We are on our third sailboat and now we have a kitchen, a shower and a lot more sleeping and living space.

You don’t have to be born to a seafaring family to enjoy one of Maine’s most essential features, the water. I highly recommend sailing to all.

Noelle Merrill is the executive director of the Eastern Area Agency on Aging in Bangor.

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