Navigate your own sailboat at your own pace

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After a sports injury

Before sailing was part of my life, in 2016, I was part of four sports teams; I played camogie and Gaelic football for Washington, DC, and two women’s football teams. At 38, after having two children, I was in the best shape of my life. Unfortunately, during a Gaelic soccer match against Baltimore, my Achilles broke and came apart completely. By the spring of the following year, I was depressed and needed an outlet. I was like, “Hey, I live in Maryland, but I don’t really like crabs or lacrosse; and sailing? And that was it! I registered for a American Sailing Association (ASA) 101 that spring, and it’s now my fifth sailing season.

Integrate sailing into a busy schedule

I joined the Sailing center downtown (DSC) to Baltimore as a cruise member and has done numerous evening and moonlight sailings with them this first year as well as trips to St. Michaels, Annapolis and Rock Hall, MD. DSC was awesome, but it was hard to navigate their schedule while raising two kids and working full time.

To solve this problem, I told my husband that I needed my own boat to do it at my own pace. In February 2018, I bought a Beneteau 331 and renamed it Catie mae (after the middle names of my daughters). The first year, I practiced motor maneuvers a lot and I learned about boat maintenance. I was not able to sail as much as I had hoped. I was humbled by what I didn’t know and a little intimidated because my family were not sailors and I did not have an experienced crew. In 2019, I decided to take a vacation and gain more experience in formal classes. I called it my remedial year.

Stefanie aboard her own sailboat, Catie Mae, which she sails at her own pace

Its crash course on everything related to sailing

I took ASA103 / 104 at Maryland Sailing School in the Virgin Islands. I also followed the ASA 105, Pilotage and navigation and 106, a DelMarVa world tour. My husband and I took ASA 118, Docking, and I also took diesel mechanics and marine electrical courses at Annapolis Seamanship School. That same year, I posted a message on the Women Who Sail Facebook page and was invited to Frostbite on a J / 30 on Eastport Nautical Club. I still have the crew on this boat today (Heidi Frist’s Suzie q) and enjoy both frostbite and weekday shopping in Annapolis.

I also look as much as possible for opportunities to sail on other people’s boats (OPB). I love to crew on boats and have participated in many local races in Miles River Nautical Club as well as spent a weekend swimming in the Miles River after a log canoe capsized as a boardman! During family vacations I try to see if we can spend a day on the water and either charter with someone on their boat or look for some sort of sailing cruise. Finally, I am completing ASA107 Celestial Navigation Online and I just need to take my exam and practice taking observations with my sextant!

Tips for someone interested in sailing

Decide what your future goals are and how you want to get there. Looking to sail and buy your own boat? If so, you’ll want to start taking maintenance and piloting lessons. Are you looking for competition? If so, contact local sailing organizations or SpinSheet crew groups and ask about the crew on a racing boat. Are you just looking to get out on the water and have some fun on your own? Dinghy sailing may be the ticket for you.

I highly recommend formal sailing lessons rather than gaining experience only on OPBs. Each skipper is as unique as their boat, and on OPBs you might not have all the experiences you are looking for. You can even pick up bad habits. The lessons have helped me gain confidence in knowing what I can do and where I need to continue to gain experience. They’ve also made me a better all-around sailor, whether I’m a skipper on my boat or a crew on a racing boat.

by Stefanie Brady

Edited by Beth Crabtree


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