Women sailing as a way to travel aren't that unusual. After all, a yacht is a holiday home at any exotic landfall!
We have our transportation and accommodation rolled into one, it's an economical way to travel, and it is also a passion and a way of life. We sail rather than motor and the wind is free and clean so we generally leave a light footprint on the planet.
Women who sail can explore many areas only accessible by yacht, reefs many nautical miles from land and have close encounters with some of the wonders of the deep, like whales and dolphins.
The sailing travel lifestyle is full of adventure. Not just the places visited but the voyage itself teaches you much about yourself. This is especially true for women sailing solo.
Just the act of sailing, hoisting sails and maneuvering on a tilting platform is exercise, away from pollution and the stress of land - you feel healthier. You learn to be at one with Mother Nature and all the elements can throw at you, the storms and the sometimes frustrating dead calms. You gain tremendous respect for the sea.
Women sailing don't have to rough it. You have your own home comforts - no need for backpacks or suitcases. You stock your galley with provisions often bought in bulk or from countries that barter or have cheaper products.
Most yachts have toilets, wash basins, and showers of some sort, so the same hygiene standards apply at sea as on land.
Women sailing do have to be totally self-sufficient when you are days, often weeks from any shop, garage or medical facility.
Sailing and navigation can keep you busy, and when relaxing, reading and hobbies keep solo sailors occupied. Sailing for women can be fun socially: anchorages and marinas keep you occupied - sailors are a very social community and love pot luck meals and spinning tall yarns.
Buying your own boat is no different from buying a car: you do your homework and establish your requirements, especially if you are going to sail solo. Like any purchase, you'll have to come up with the money either in full or by financing your yacht purchase. I had half the money saved for my 32-foot yacht, and a bank loan paid off the rest. Most women who sail solo have yachts around 30 feet in length as they are easy to manage, comfortable and affordable.
I definitely recommend taking sailing courses - most countries require you to have a boating license and take courses in seamanship and navigation. Women sailing must learn the International Rules of the Sea which are applicable in any country.
Learning to sail should also involve dealing with an emergency at sea and there are some good courses that can assist in this. With today's modern technology - GPS, radios, satphones - sailing is much easier than it used to be.
I learned to sail in a four-day course in New Zealand when I was in my forties and 10 months later I had bought my yacht and taken it out sailing on my own.
Four years latter I sailed across the Tasman Sea from New Zealand via Lord Howe Island to Australia. My solo sailing has been on the east coast of Australia from the Gold Coast up to and around the Whitsundays Islands off Airlie Beach. But my yacht is capable of sailing almost any where in the world.
Women sailing are more numerous than you might think - and our numbers are growing. Many are yacht owners and sail solo, some along the coast and others sailing around the world.
Age is no barrier and neither is strength. A spirit of adventure is definitely required, and many are inspirational for others who dream of sailing solo. Tania Aebi set sail solo in a small yacht at the age of 18, leaving America for a life of adventure and sailed to many parts of the world. Ellen MacArthur too started her career as a solo sailor at the age of 18, circumnavigating England in a 21ft yacht she bought in a rundown condition and worked hard to make seaworthy. At the other end of the scale we have great-grandmother Mary Harper who sailed solo 1700 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean when she was 79, and continued sailing single-handedly to foreign ports well into her eighties. These are not rare cases, and women who sail, often solo, are on the increase.
Sailing for women can take place virtually anywhere there's water and wind, but some places are best avoided because of political unrest or terrorist threats. Pirates are known to attack yachts sailing in waters around the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea, for example, or the channel between Indonesian Sumatra and Malaysia and the waters near Somalia, all of them hotspots for Pirates.
Sailing women don't always go alone. There are women's sailing teams, women who hitch rides on yachts as crew, women who work in yacht jobs and a couple of Australian women who saved, planned and bought a yacht to sail offshore, fulfilling their dream.
Whatever your experience, the rewards are truly worth it, not just because of the amazing destinations but the self-confidence, emotional and spiritual benefits that you receive while sailing solo.
Christine Couch is an avid sailor - and owns her own yacht. You can find her at Sailing Women on Yachts.
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