Question: We are considering the purchase of a 52′ motorsailer and wanted to know your thoughts regarding at what age (we are 62 and 60) should a couple consider a trawler versus a sailboat. After reading your very detailed descriptions regarding handling of sails while voyaging we were just wondering if we are taking on a bit much as we plan to passage to Alaska, Hawaii and beyond.
Answer: Assuming no physical or health limitations, other than the standard aches and pains that go with the age, I see no reason not to be ocean sailing into your sixties or even seventies. If a motorboat is really what you want, then fine, nothing wrong with that, but don’t go that way just because of your age.
After all, many of the most daring and arduous sailboat voyages of the last 50 years were made by people over 60, and many of those sailors were not immune to the ravages of age either: Francis Chichester was fighting cancer, Miles Smeeton’s arthritic knees were so bad that at times he could barely walk, and H.W. (Bill) Tillman suffered from intense chronic back pain.
I have a friend that is pushing 80 and still offshore voyaging under sail; he has circumnavigated the world twice since celebrating his sixtieth. I have another friend in his middle sixties who is currently preparing his 32 foot boat for a voyage to Greenland. These are not super-people either; both of them have had serious and debilitating battles with cancer. I guess what I’m saying here is that I think that whether we go on sailing (or do much else worth while) as we age is more an attitudinal issue than a physical one.
I’m only four years behind you and hope and plan, barring serious illness, to be sailing Morgan’s Cloud with her big rig and manual winches, well into my sixties. Sure, hoisting the main is harder now than it was ten years ago and I guess there is even a small chance that the exertion could kill me—better that way than shoveling snow.
I can’t say what is right for you, but for me I think that pampering myself and avoiding exertion because it hurts a bit or makes me more tired than it once did is a slippery slope to the rocking chair. I’m not suggesting that all of us can or should emulate Chichester or Tillman (I know I’m not that tough) but I do want to go on pushing myself past my comfort zone, even if only a little.
By the way, if you think that I’m one of those hard men that is never sick and has no sympathy for those that are, just talk to anyone who knows me well; they will dissolve into gales of laughter at the thought.
If you do decide to go with sail, I would be thinking more about a real sailboat, albeit with a powerful auxiliary engine, than a motorsailer (more on this).