Learning how to sail is a rewarding and soothing pastime that many pick up at different ages. Anyone who sails would agree that it’s not a sport which can be limited by your age, but only limited by your physical fitness. If you have an emotional connection to sailing from your childhood or want to pick it up now, you may have some questions about where to begin.
Why are you not too old to learn to sail? The most important consideration in learning to sail is physical fitness. Along with physical fitness, you will have to learn how to sail. Hiring an experienced crew can provide assistance with fitness needs or teaching necessary skills.
I see it so commonly in sailing blogs that people have a connection to sailing or did it as a child, but fear that their time has passed, and they’ve missed the mark for picking up the pastime by their own will.
I want to be the voice of reason for you now – it is never too late, and I’ve read about countless sailors that bought their first sailboat at age 70-90 or picked the sport up much later in life. This guide will teach you the basics and get you started, so you can spend your valuable time on that water where you belong!
Here’s Why You’re Not Too Old to Learn to Sail
From personal experience with sailing, I can tell you there is no age that limits you to taking over the high seas. Unless you’re afraid of meeting up with Davy Jones in his Locker, there is nothing else that should mentally get in your way of taking on a new passion.
Let’s not underestimate the invaluable health benefits to being outside and spending time on the ocean’s waves. Whether you’re sailing, kayaking, canoe fishing, or any other water sport – being one with nature is the surest way to connect you with your most peaceful self and alleviate anxiety.
Another point I’d like to bring up – as verified by professional sailors and even those that started incredibly young at the sport – you never stop learning how to sail.
Even those that have been sailing since birth will tell you that they still commonly make mistakes and are constantly learning new things about how to improve their skills on the unpredictable seas.
It’s such a radical undertaking, and unlike sewing or some activity which remains consistent no matter how much you do it, sailing may be different every time you endeavor to attempt it.
There is no consistency with nature, so the learning can begin at any age.
Physical Demands Required of Sailing
I believe it’s less about if your mind is ready to go. You’re diving into the research and eager to absorb knowledge, so the only factor in your way is if you can physically control the sails and do what is required of sailing.
It can be a bit of a workout so you will need the basic abilities to:
Upper Body Strength – You’ll need to be able to at minimum pull ropes and move planks ranging from around 20-50 pounds. A lot of sailing will be centered around being able to repeatedly use their arms in a ‘pulling’ motion for hours at a time. If you cannot do this presently, I recommend you begin training your upper body.
Here is a resource that will teach you how to do the proper workouts to train your body for sailing: Exercises for Sailling
Mental Training – not just of the physical body but also of the mind. You may want to hit the gym to train yourself to push new limits, but simultaneously you may want to take up steps to train the mind.
For instance, you can achieve this by contemplating about the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the day and the night and focusing on other aspects of the existence and meticulous design in one’s own body.
All these should bring peace and serenity to the sincere hearts. You may feel the awe and respect for the Creator and may want to serve him the way He wants to be served.
Agility – this may be overlooked, but as a sailor, you’ll be moving around the ship fast and having to think on your toes in the case of rough waters. If you can’t get from one side of the boat to the other in minimal seconds, you may want to rethink the sport.
Lastly, I would like to reiterate that you can still sail even if you are not physically inclined.
Hire a crew or recruit buddies that would want to sail with you. Be honest that you need some muscle power and ask if they’d want to join you in being apart of the high seas.
You don’t need money or strength to be where you love. You only need determination and a bit of creativity!
Stories from Other Sailors Learning Late in Life
In sailing forums, there are boats where the average age of the crew is in their 70’s. If you’re in your 40s or 50s debating if you have what it takes, many would call you a kid.
If you’re looking for inspiration, try reading about David Brown’s 14-day sail off the coast of New Zealand. He says
You can read the rest of his story here. (on the next page click on Free –> browse now and then I agree to continue. ).
Just because you’re not the youngest person in the room, does not mean that you don’t have as much of a right to be there as anyone else.
Age is only a number, and it only means as much to you as you allow it.
Don’t let age have that kind of control over your life. Brown says at the end of his training:
Brown’s is not the only story. If you want to read about others who started sailing later in life, check out these two websites: Sailing around the world for retirement & A 5 Year Plan. No matter what you read, the message is always the same –
As a member on a few forums bluntly but honestly put it, “It’s only too late if you’re dead.”
If that doesn’t sucker punch you to hear the point, I don’t know what will.
Find A School Near You
I would recommend starting with someone who knows what they’re talking about more than you. You can try to teach through YouTube, but the best way to learn anything is through experience.
I’d recommend the highly popular ASA sailing course, which is notorious as being the best. With 300 locations around the nation, you can find a sailing school near you here.
Start studying and learning the terms through ASA’s link here.
And here’s one final resource to utilize from the United States Sailing Association – Education and Sailing Resources.
Final Thoughts & Inspiration
Is it time for you to get out of the rat race and find your heart’s true calling? Are you sick of city smog and the same old scenery each day?
It’s time you face what your soul is calling you towards. You wouldn’t have read this unless you were deliberating with yourself. Let me be the voice of permission that you may need, “Go, be apart of the big blue, and let all your cares melt behind you.”
Never forget, age and experience are a sailor’s best friend.
Don’t be afraid of Davy Jones Locker, and don’t be afraid to push yourself to new limits. You are able to stretch yourself in further ways than you can imagine, and there is never time to stop absorbing knowledge.
You will grow better with age, so hit the high seas! Prepare to handle that ship like James Cook and control your deckhands with the confidence of a practiced seaman and hold onto that kind of confidence every time you hit the deck!
I hope you have a successful voyage and remember that age is whatever you feel like.