5 reasons why you are NOT too old to sail round the world!

We’re alarmed by the number of people who tell us that they are ‘too old to sail’ and are convinced they have, quite literally, missed the boat. This anxiety has become more prevalent in recent years. Why? We think we have the answer…

Sailing channels are selling a lie. We know from our thirteen years on the cruising scene that the reality of cruising is very different to what most sailing channels tell you. There are no stats available, so Jamie did a little research of his own. Bottom line? YouTube sailing channels are made by young thrill-seekers; most cruisers are ‘old’ freedom lovers.

YouTube sailing channels are selling you a lie

80% of cruisers are over 50. Most people living on sailboats are pensioners; we know cruisers in their 90s. Age is no restriction to sailing, in fact we’d say it is a positive strength.

Here are three things you need to know about us:

  1. At the time of writing Liz is 62 and Jamie is 49, so our average age is 55 and a half!
  2. We began a permanent life afloat 13 years ago in 2006
  3. Neither of us come from sailing backgrounds, we learned to sail later in life.
Still cruising at 96

Earlier this year, Jeanne Socrates, no spring chicken at 77, became the oldest person to solo sail around the world unassisted.

Over the 13 years we’ve been cruising, we’ve met cruisers in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even in their 90s! This year in the Anambas we met a 96 year old still sailing, and two years ago we met Peter and Helane where we toasted Peter’s 80th birthday.

Don’t believe the hype

Despite what you may believe from watching sailing channels, most cruisers are either middle-aged or sailing in their retirement. Jamie’s research (see more in the video) shows that 80%, of cruisers are ‘old’. For many years we were always the youngest crew in the anchorage. But recently we’ve started to catch up with the average age group!

Sailing’s not just for the young

While we think it’s wonderful that younger people are finding ways to get out and do it, in reality they are in the minority. Many of these younger cruisers enjoy making videos about their adventure, but most older sailors don’t, so we end up with a skewed view from the internet of who is actually out here cruising.

It’s not rocket science

Liz had limited sailing experience before she moved onto a boat. But with a competent crew certificate gained in her 40s and a single off-shore sail, she knew she loved the freedom it brought. Jamie had more experience, having spent a year crewing in the Med and across the Atlantic.

Neither of us had owned a boat before we bought and moved onto SY Esper.

Sailing is not difficult. It is mostly common sense and safety awareness. Unless you’re going to be racing, you don’t have to have perfect sail trim when you start out. You’ll learn the finer details as you go. We’re still learning! Before moving aboard full-time, Jamie took a number of RYA courses to learn the theory, but we have learnt more by experience than anything else.

If you think this might be the life for you, but have no experience at all, try some of the following:

  1. Join a sailing club and go sailing at the weekends
  2. Go on flotilla holidays – you don’t have to know anything about sailing, but you’ll learn the basics. And find out if you like living on a boat for a week.
  3. Volunteer to crew on other people’s boats
  4. Learn to sail a dinghy – we didn’t, but we’re told it gives you a good, basic understanding of wind and water.

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Experience counts
  1. Money is the biggest worry when it comes to cruising. Maintaining your boat is important, but even the best kept boats develop problems, which can be expensive to repair. Storing your boat in a marina or boat yard can also be expensive. Cruising, despite your careful budgeting, will be cost more than you expect. But this is where older sailors win. With a regular pension or property rental bringing in a monthly income, you remove that anxiety. There are other ways to fund the lifestyle, watch “How to become a liveaboard cruiser” where we go into detail on this one. This includes how common it is now to work remotely… even from a sailboat!
  2. Life experience. Even though you may not have sailing experience, older people bring all kinds of life experiences to cruising. As we’ve already said, sailing’s the easy bit! You might already know a bit about plumbing, carpentry, engine mechanics, electrical installation, cooking, sewing, you might have language skills etc. Through work, you may be a good people manager, know how to run a budget or critical path analysis, be a good organiser etc.

Old ‘uns doing it for themselves!

Cruising keeps you young

It’s a physical life and it’s important to be reasonably healthy, so that’s something you can start working on before you climb aboard.

  1. You don’t need to be an athlete, but a reasonable amount of stamina for long passages and some agility around the deck are important. All that line-pulling and core-stability strengthens your body as you steady yourself on a rolling deck. Getting in and out of dinghies, swimming, snorkelling, diving, kayaking – they all keep your body active.
  2. And remember, there are many sailors with disabilities who cruise. Check out our friend Dustin Reynolds’ blog at The Single Handed Sailor. He’s a double amputee currently sailing round the world.
  3. If you’re worried about your stamina, then do what many cruisers do for long passages (it’s a very small part of cruising) and have crew help you. Usually family members or friends are more than happy to join you. If not, there are always people desperate to work for you as crew.

Sailing is also mentally challenging.

  1. There are untold new skills to hone and develop. Passage-planning and navigating concentrates the mind. Keeping up with new on-board technology and ever-changing advances in IT stretches you. All those new skills you have to learn exercise your brain.
  2. Problem-solving is a big part of cruising, and we’ve all read that doing puzzles is good to keep the brain active!

Useful videos:

Watch sailing channels from older cruisers

These are some ‘oldies’ with YouTube sailing channels, check them out for a more balanced view of the cruising world:

Adventures of an old Seadog
Cruising Lealea
Life in a Nutshell
Off The Starboard Hull
Patrick Childress Sailing
Sailing Emerald Steel
Sailing Kejstral Adventures
Sailing S/V Double Deuce
Sailing A B Sea
Sailing Fair Isle
Sailing Infidels
Sailing Ocean Fox
Sailing Salty Lass
Sailing SV Sarean
SV Impavidus (Ant & Cid Sailing)
SV Make My Day
S/V Rock Chalk
Wild Free Sailing
Winded Voyage Sailing

Thanks for all your support and for encouraging us to keep striving to create better videos.

Peace and fair winds!
Liz, Jamie and Millie xxx

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16 Comments on “5 reasons why you are NOT too old to sail round the world!”

  1. Ha.

    My old man was well into his 80’s and sailing. My brother in law is doing the Clipper Ocean Race ( all the way ) currently – 62 and that is Ocean Racing, Force 12 on the Punta/Cape Town Leg, currently in the Southern Ocean heading for Fremantle and he is well down on the list of the oldest on the race!

    I know people ‘old’ at 40 and young at 80. old is a number but more than that it is a state of mind!

    1. Yes! I know a lot of young ‘old’ people and have met too many old ‘young’ people. Haha! Liz

  2. Well if you count over 50’s as ‘old’ I guess we’ve got both ends of the scale as we’re sailing with our young kids too 🙂

    1. Age is just a number…and perspective! I think 50 is young, but sometimes, when you watch many of the sailing channels, you’d get the feeling it’s old! Enjoy this wonderful time sailing with your kids, we’ve met lots of brilliant sailing families. xxx

    1. Love your attitude! People ask us all the time what we’ll do when we stop. We’re always a bit non-plussed by this question. We have a vague idea that when Esper becomes too difficult to handle we’ll downsize to an easier sailboat and find a cruising ground to base ourselves. Then when health dictates we can’t sail anymore, we’ll buy a barge and live on that. We can’t imagine being tied to one place on land, so even if the barge doesn’t move, we’ll still hold the dream of being able to move our home somewhere else… xxx

    1. Thanks so much for adding your name and link to the growing list of older channels. And for the link to Dustin. Brilliant. xx

  3. Thanks for the encouragement Liz. My wife and I have had the cruising dream from our “20 somethings” when we bought a small sailboat and cruised the Gulf/San Juan Islands for a month. In these intervening years we went on with careers and raising a family. Now with retirement looming ahead, the dream of cruising is only now becoming a possibility again – as you said – pensions, savings, kids married and gone, a home we can rent all make that possible. So we have begun looking for a boat (San Francisco Bay Area), and taking steps toward that long ago dream. God willing, we’ll cross paths in some foreign port one day.

    1. You sound like perfect cruiser material and like many, many others we have met over the years. You’re going to love it! And yes, it would be fantastic to meet up one day. xxx

  4. here here … Well said
    I’m a pensioner having to tie to a marina and live on my yacht after 30 years of sailing every where from Australia. Yes we all get older…

    1. I bet you’ve got a few yarns to spin after all that time sailing. Wow, well done! Now you can relax on your boat and answer all those questions from newbies setting out on their first adventures… 😉 Liz xx

  5. Thank you so much for this. As I’m about to turn 50, I was starting to question, with a lot of help from other people, if I was getting too old for this dream. You are an inspiration.

    1. You’re a spring chicken and younger than most people out here living the cruising life (YouTube channels don’t reflect the average demographic 😉
      Cheers, Liz

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