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Thread: Learn to sail at 75?

  1. #1
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    Default Learn to sail at 75?

    I'm a relatively healthy 75-year-old who wants to build and sail a small boat. It's long been on the bucket list. Building a boat isn't daunting. I'm fairly handy, have decent tools and have built two very simple boats in the past - a Mertens cheap canoe and an Atkins mouse boat. Although both are very simple to build, I think I could scale up to something like the puddle duck, goose or goat island skiff without too much difficulty. The sailing bits would be more challenging but I'm not afraid of that either.

    The more daunting piece is the actual sailing. I have never sailed a boat before. I would most likely learn to sail on small lakes in Ontario with a view to someday graduating to larger lakes such as Lakes Erie, Ontario and Huron. I don't know any sailors who could teach me the basics and I'm unlikely to sign up for lessons. I have lots of patience and would likely enjoy teaching myself to sail if that's even possible. I'm not after speed, I'm more into low-end messing around, exploring shorelines and wildlife - maybe even a bit of fishing.

    What do you think? Is this a crazy idea for an older guy? Should I cross it off the list and move on to the next item? Give it to me straight, I can take it. I have been reading this forum for years and I have great respect for the knowledge and opinions of the members.

    Ted

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Pick a design with a long enough waterline to get some speed and go for it, absolutely.
    I'm sure there's someone in canada that can teach you the few things you need to know.
    "When in doubt, let it out"
    That would be the main sheet...

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    I think it's a great idea. I have a friend your age who is your age who sails. He just finished restoring and customizing a cruising boat. While you are building your own boat, find a small fiberglass dinghy on your local craigslist or facebook marketplace. Something simple. Then you can learn to sail while you build your boat and have the best of both worlds. People can get too bogged down in a build and then never realize the dream of sailing. I say do both simultaneously. Sell the glass boat when yours is finished.

    The basics of sailing are relatively simple. Sails out at right angles to the boat going downwind and hauled in tight going upwind. With increments in between. Look it up online, there will be diagrams. There are also lot's of forums, like this one.
    Start in smaller more controlled areas so you get some confidence and don't get spooked and then build up to more adventurous territory as you pick up more knowledge as you sail. Talk to sailors you meet.
    I had one sailing lesson from a friend for about 30 minutes on a small placid local lake with my first boat 'the leaky bastard' 20 some odd years ago. Basically what I said above, and that's it. The rest I leaned by going sailing. Since then I have researched and learned more and have done tonnes of small boat sailing. The first moment of leaving a dock under sail and knowing you are wind powered is pretty magical.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    As an kinda of old guy my only advise is to separate the two.
    Don't wait to learn to sail until you have built a boat and don't wait to build a boat until you have learned to sail.
    They really are two very separate things.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Quote Originally Posted by ShorelineJohn View Post
    As an kinda of old guy my only advise is to separate the two.
    Don't wait to learn to sail until you have built a boat and don't wait to build a boat until you have learned to sail.
    They really are two very separate things.
    This is really good advice, you could pick up an inexpensive boat ready to go and sail it while you build a boat.
    Many traditional designs require some acquired skill to work well.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    A human never becomes to old to learn but as years go by reactions get slower and requires more training.
    Therefore I think that the best boat for you to learn sailing isnt very nimble nor very fast but a good sturdy sea boat.
    Just a conclusion I draw from seeing how my father age 74 and my uncle age 85 learn new things. Learning and understanding is almost as fast as on a young person but reactions are noticeable slow and require plenty of training.

    I suggest you look for something secondhand which you can fixh up in a year or so and then go sailing. Otherwise you run the risk of getting too few years of sailing.
    Amateur living on the western coast of Finland

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Lots of good advice here. I’m 79 and am very conscious that the thing I have least of is time.
    Building a boat can take years, especially if you’re inexperienced at it. Don’t let the delay of building a boat slow down getting to the other fun part, sailing.

    We’re not as quick or as agile as we once were. The ideal boat for learning is one that’s stable, steady and has comfy seats of good height. (Have you discovered ‘comfort height’ toilets?). My first boat choice for first lessons would be a ballasted boat of 16-20 feet. It might not be the boat you want to build or own. Find a school or sailing club that has such boats and take a few lessons. To the uninitiated, the mechanics of steering a sailboat to the wind are not at all intuitive. I’ve seen many people get soured on sailing after trying to figure it out by themselves. It’s unnecessary. A teacher will save you a lot of frustration and keep you out of unsafe situations.

    The notion of sailing on the Great Lakes is another long discussion. A boat that’s big enough for that is a poor boat to learn on (too complicated), will take years to build and will cost much more to build than a used boat you could buy. Let this idea ripen.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    I think that you should join a club and find someone to teach you.
    Then you will understand what sort of boat suits your agility and speed of reactions, which will help you to select a design suited to your condition.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

    The power of the web: Anyone can post anything on the web
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Not sure where the OP is located in Ontario and that will dictate to some extent a suitable model. I suspect that he needs a trailerable boat, one that is pretty stable under foot and under sail.

    That said the advice to start learning sailing sooner rather than later is valid but with winter coming on, building season is here.

    The best learning to sail book I've ever seen is this one: https://www.amazon.com/Craft-Sail-Pr.../dp/0802772145 available used for small money. Highly recommended.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Tipsy, Tippy, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity, Look Far, Flash and a quiver of other 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tedr View Post
    What do you think?
    I think you should GO FOR IT!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tedr View Post
    Is this a crazy idea for an older guy?
    No, not at all. Life is for learning, you have the desire and the motivation to learn something new, hence my reply to your first question above.

    I built my first boat 50 years ago. Knew absolutely nothing about sailing, never been in a sailboat before but was fairly handy with tools & love to mess about with stuff. Plans were published in Popular Science magazine over two months in 1971. Girlfriend suggesting we get a boat added incentive.

    Built over winter in garage at my parents (I'd just graduated from college, there was a recession on, I was working 30 miles away) it was launched in 1973. A friend taught me the rudiments, another friend shared many days' outings with me on a smallish lake nearby where his sister & BIL had lake access. We had a blast!

    I'll be 74 next April. The love for sailing never died despite the short-lived useful life of that stripper scow. My lack of knowledge left it vulnerable to rot.

    Forums like this one (and another in the UK hosted by FyneBoatKits) weren't around back then so you've got more going for you with your project than I did at the start. Last year I launched my second boat, this time a kit offered up late in 2016 from Chesapeake Light Craft. It's the result of a commissioned design they'd developed then released as a kit for others. I think I bought the very first kit the day it was first offered.

    It's nothing like that scow, much more refined a design and more demanding of its crew. That second friend isn't close anymore geographically but last June we got together for the best time we've had in years, taking it out for the first time this year on a local lake.

    Small lake boats are rarely appropriate on the more open waters of our Great Lakes. At our age we need to remain mindful of our capabilities so be cautious in your enthusiasm for such adventures. Build your boat, enjoy it as often as you can for the kind of waters it was designed to be used on, grow your skills and make new friends.

    Here's a fellow in his '80's who may serve as an example of what we can yet accomplish as we grow older. He's designed and built many a well-respected sailing craft, one of which is offered in kit form by CLC. Depending on where you're located in Canada he may even be within your reach for friendship and advice on building & sailing both.

    So again I say GO for it! Then come back here & let us know how you're doing!

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    I taught myself to sail from books on the topic, you can too. As with any new sailor, boat, or rig, I suggest starting in warm shallow water, light breeze, close to shore.
    Keep us posted.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Quote Originally Posted by ShorelineJohn View Post
    As an kinda of old guy my only advise is to separate the two.
    Don't wait to learn to sail until you have built a boat and don't wait to build a boat until you have learned to sail.
    They really are two very separate things.
    ayup
    "sailing" itself is two different things.cruising about and....racing

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tedr View Post
    I'm a relatively healthy 75-year-old who wants to build and sail a small boat. It's long been on the bucket list. Building a boat isn't daunting. I'm fairly handy, have decent tools and have built two very simple boats in the past - a Mertens cheap canoe and an Atkins mouse boat. Although both are very simple to build, I think I could scale up to something like the puddle duck, goose or goat island skiff without too much difficulty. The sailing bits would be more challenging but I'm not afraid of that either.

    The more daunting piece is the actual sailing. I have never sailed a boat before. I would most likely learn to sail on small lakes in Ontario with a view to someday graduating to larger lakes such as Lakes Erie, Ontario and Huron. I don't know any sailors who could teach me the basics and I'm unlikely to sign up for lessons. I have lots of patience and would likely enjoy teaching myself to sail if that's even possible. I'm not after speed, I'm more into low-end messing around, exploring shorelines and wildlife - maybe even a bit of fishing.

    What do you think? Is this a crazy idea for an older guy? Should I cross it off the list and move on to the next item? Give it to me straight, I can take it. I have been reading this forum for years and I have great respect for the knowledge and opinions of the members.

    Ted
    I think this is great, Ted. I would definitely recommend a kit especially a very complete one that details out rigging and other details that will help make the sailing successful. A stable flat bottom skiff in dory style sounds like it would be a good fit...will help with the sailing. Go for it!
    Clinton B. Chase
    Portland, Maine

    http://tinyurl.com/myboats

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    While going to a club and sailing there does have it advantages. Boats are there, you can try a few different ones, and someone can help you. In my experience there are also disadvantages you are subject to other peoples schedules, possibly poorly maintained boats, style, and mistakes.

    I think the fastest way to learn is to buy a boat and sail the heck out of her. You will then get to sail as much as you want, you will learn faster as you will have to do everything, and you will feel more confident. If you are fit and research how to sail, it’s not that complicated, you will be fine. Pull up the sail, pull in the mainsheet, grab the tiller, and go. The rest will make sense as you do it. You can throw out boats that are available in your area here for advice. And while doing that figure out what to build.
    "Yeah, well, that's just, like your opinion man"
    -The Dude-

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    I'm an experienced keelboat sailor close to your age who built a small row-sail dinghy last spring. Sailing big versus small boats is very different, maybe like a car to a motorcycle. I weigh twice as much as my dinghy which makes it very sensitive to weight shifts. When sailing, I lie in a semi-supine position on the floor with my back against the hull, feet braced against the opposite side. In this position, shifting my body to the opposite side during a tack or gybe isn't quick or easy, with a sheet in one hand and tiller in the other. If I didn't already know how to sail, I would be doing a lot of capsize drills

    Based on this, I would echo what some others have said and learn to sail on a bigger boat with weight and form stability (and bench-height seats) so you can move around without upsetting the boat, and an accidental gybe will be of little consequence.

    I know this sounds negative but my intent is that you don't start on the wrong foot and get discouraged. Anybody here will tell you that sailing is a wonderful, almost magical thing, and well worth pursuing.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Something I always tell beginning friends is that your "first boat" is just that: the first of possibly many. I'd invest in a used boat to learn to sail in and use it to refine your criteria for the one you propose to build.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Where in Ontario?
    R
    Sleep with one eye open.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    When looking for a boat to build I first became enamored with the Melonseed skiff. It is about the size I wanted, looked like it sailed well, wasn't too tippy, and they are beautiful boats. Before this could happen I had to finish our home remodel but I did have time to sail a bit. So I bought a well used Wayfarer from the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle. I was pretty sure that my sailing skills of years past would come back to me fairly easily. They did. I really liked the Wayfarer but was always worried about capsizing the thing. I'm just that way. So I rethought the Melonseed and discovered the Somes Sound, designed by John Brooks.

    The SS is a ballasted boat with about 600 pounds of lead in its keel. It is a derivation of the H 12.5, long used as a training boat and beloved by many who sail them. It is not fast or sporty when compared to many. But it's stable, fun to sail, comfortable, and easy going. The construction is glued lapstrake, a process that appeals to me. So I built one in about 16 months. This was my first boat build. I'd made many things in my career and those skills helped a lot. When almost done, a neighbor offered to purchase the Wayfarer.

    The Somes Sound has proven to be everything I hoped for and I love sailing her. She trailers easily behind my Eurovan that has only a 2000 pound towing capacity. I can set her up at the ramp by myself in about an hour. More time is needed to field the many questions I get from onlookers. I am now in my early 70's and so I appreciate the stability and security offered by this boat.

    I encourage the OP to get a bit of experience in small boats so that he can fully understand what the experience is like. I've never sailed a skiff, but they seem awfully prone to instability. I'm sure many will disagree with that. And so would I have when I was 16. Or 30, for that matter. But now is now.

    Jeff

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Many boating clubs have informal. "beer can" racing, often on Wednesday evening. They trend friendly and diverse experience, even with folk doing it wrong. You can learn a lot.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    I was approached by a fellow YC member a short time ago and asked if I would teach him how to sail on his boat, a fifty foot auxiliary yawl, with a lot of strings to pull! I said, politely no. He has owned and used a number of power boats but has never sailed. I guess he has never raised sail on this yawl. Put-put all the way? I told him I would be delighted to sail his boat with another sailor but not teach him. I referred him to a YC member who teaches sailing classes and will give one on one lessons.

    I also suggested that he could learn faster on a small boat than on his 50 ft yawl. He could buy second hand, or charter something like a Rhodes 19, or an O'Day Daysailor which are simple, stable, reasonably fast, and have a good resale value.

    Don't wait to build a boat. If you can sail several other boats you can find what you like , or don't. Scrounge rides with other sailors if you can.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Tedr, you should definitely learn to sail AND build a boat. I wouldn't wait to sail before finishing the boat though.
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Take an Elements of Sailing class at the Wooden Boat School. They are great.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Something my father told me many years ago - if you cannot justify not doing something, then do it. Very simple & something I have tried to live by. My neighbour is frustrated because he won't have finished building his 14th bout for his 80th birthday.

    So, we are all young really.

    Regards Neil

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    That's great. I recommend you to learn sailing on a very stable dinghy like the Caravelle, it is a kind of Optimist for seniors, all French adults of the 60's generation (inc. myself, now l am 71) learned sailing on this boat :
    https://www.bateaux.com/article/3245...endre-la-voile

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Thanks for all the encouragement and the sage advice. My next step will be to determine what suitable boat I should buy that will be safe and stable to learn the basics of sailing. I've seen some good suggestions here that I will follow up. And maybe a couple of lessons would be a good idea to get me started faster.

    After I get comfortable with puttering around in a boat I will know better what boat to build. I really love paddling a boat I made with my own hands, and sailing one would be even better.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    This is a really encouraging thread.

    I think a day sailing keelboat is the best place to start. O’Day 19, Herreshoff 12.5, etc.
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Craig-Bennett View Post
    This is a really encouraging thread.

    I think a day sailing keelboat is the best place to start. O’Day 19, Herreshoff 12.5, etc.
    Agree 100%.
    Note the many variants of the Herreshoff 12.5. Haven 12-1/2, Doughdish, Bullseye, Somes Sound.
    Also add Alberg Typhoon, Cape Cod Mercury (keel version), Rhodes 19…

    If you still need to build something, build a dinghy to get to it.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Quote Originally Posted by JimConlin View Post
    Agree 100%.
    Note the many variants of the Herreshoff 12.5. Haven 12-1/2, Doughdish, Bullseye, Somes Sound.
    Also add Alberg Typhoon, Cape Cod Mercury (keel version), Rhodes 19…

    If you still need to build something, build a dinghy to get to it.
    Another good one along these lines is the Cape Dory Typhoon. Lots of them for sale, used, at cheap prices and in decent shape. A nice deep cockpit to sit in, very secure. I would love one for myself.

    HERE IS ONE.

    Tom
    Ponoszenie konsekwencji!

    www.tompamperin.com

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    https://www.pearsonyachts.org/models...on-ensign.html

    That is a good one.
    At the club and I sometimes sail on an Ensign. I like them fun comfortable stable easy to sail, reminds me of driving around an old Cadillac.
    "Yeah, well, that's just, like your opinion man"
    -The Dude-

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    For a first construction, I also recommend you to go for a dinghy, like this one Mesker, very stable and polyvalent, by naval architect François Vivier specialised in plans for amateurs, the construction is given for 450 h of building time :
    Mesker – François Vivier Architecte Naval (vivierboats.com)
    Or if you want a little bigger with a cabin, the Jewell by the same architect, design from a discussion with Clint Chase , a boat-building partner in North America, given for 800 h of building time :
    Jewell – François Vivier Architecte Naval (vivierboats.com)
    The one built by an Australian amateur :
    (34) Early sail on our Francois Vivier Jewell design, tuning the sails and having a bit of fun. - YouTube

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    I did
    Launched my just finished Oughtred Penny Fee last year a couple of months before my 76th. No sailing experience for 50+ years and never as skipper. I read several instruction books which helped a lot! I'm more interested in stability than speed; rigged with a simple balance lug. I'm still learning, but it sure is fun!

  32. #32
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    I'm in Ontario, I taught myself to sail on a lake in NB, after I built my trimaran. There is an obvious feature on the lake, as a target to set out to. I took a piece of paper and drew schematics of the boat and it's sails for the course to that point, given 4 different conditions of wind. Nothing to it.

    I didn't have an outboard, or cell phone, etc... It is possible to have somewhat more in reserve than I did.

    I was recently (October) testing in the same lake a new engine and and an outboard boat that I had built,. 25 miles by 4 miles, 300 feet deep, not a boat on it, and all the cottages empty. Still no cell phone. You need a good plan.

    As always in the great white north, you have to be aware of the temperature of the water. If you are about to do something sketchy, you need to be doing it in water that you can survive. That rules out much of the Great Lakes. Swim fins can be more useful than life jackets.

    Mostly a canoeist, the only 4 fatalities I know of, all involved university students. One involved Physical Education Students out celebrating, 50 years ago this summer, I think. None of those accidents might have happened if the kids had had the internet. But it does go to show that youth alone does not make you a good judge of tricky water conditions. One nice thing about learning sailing on a friendly lake is that it doesn't have to raise those issues.

  33. #33
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    I used to really really want a typhoon. Perfect mini yacht if you're going to get a glass boat. They very rarely appear on the west coast and then often quite expensive. One turned up for $5000 but it was a bad time.
    Not sure I would get a keelboat for a first boat as the launching logistics, likely moorage and maintenance are all more involved. I understand that they're more stable etc. Just my two bits though and up to the OP. Love the Typhoon and the Herreshoff.


    For Ontario finding a used Nordica 16 might be easier. Shoal draft ballasted mini double ender keelboat with a rudimentary cuddy cabin. I used to own a Danica16 based on the Nordica 16. Fine stable stout little attractive boat
    4 or 5 down there's one in Petersborough

    https://kingston.usedboatsforyou.com...6_1624103.html

    Unknown-3.jpeg
    Last edited by Toxophilite; 10-31-2022 at 12:01 AM.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tedr View Post
    I'm a relatively healthy 75-year-old who wants to build and sail a small boat. It's long been on the bucket list. Building a boat isn't daunting. I'm fairly handy, have decent tools and have built two very simple boats in the past - a Mertens cheap canoe and an Atkins mouse boat. Although both are very simple to build, I think I could scale up to something like the puddle duck, goose or goat island skiff without too much difficulty. The sailing bits would be more challenging but I'm not afraid of that either.

    The more daunting piece is the actual sailing. I have never sailed a boat before. I would most likely learn to sail on small lakes in Ontario with a view to someday graduating to larger lakes such as Lakes Erie, Ontario and Huron. I don't know any sailors who could teach me the basics and I'm unlikely to sign up for lessons. I have lots of patience and would likely enjoy teaching myself to sail if that's even possible. I'm not after speed, I'm more into low-end messing around, exploring shorelines and wildlife - maybe even a bit of fishing.

    What do you think? Is this a crazy idea for an older guy? Should I cross it off the list and move on to the next item? Give it to me straight, I can take it. I have been reading this forum for years and I have great respect for the knowledge and opinions of the members.

    Ted
    I helped a then 82 year old friend find a second hand SCAMP, spent some time with him to help him get the basics, he's been daysailing and overnighting on that little boat for four years now and is having a ball. He prefers to go out with the local trad boat group so there are others around should he need a helping hand at times, but so far he's doing well. His wife tells me that the little boat has got him up and active and has probably extended his life.
    So, find a boat that suits, and go for it.

    John Welsford
    An expert is but a beginner with experience.

  35. #35
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    Default Re: Learn to sail at 75?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peerie Maa View Post
    I think that you should join a club and find someone to teach you.
    Then you will understand what sort of boat suits your agility and speed of reactions, which will help you to select a design suited to your condition.
    My thoughts entirely, My club is teaching men and women and kids 7 to 80 to sail. My advice is not to go for a foiler however……………….

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