The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

At What Age should You Stop Sailing And Buy a Motorboat?

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.

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We have known in exercise physiology for more than 50 years that, when you decrease your work load, your body will very quickly atrophy down in fitness to match that work load (within as little as two weeks). This means that, if you decrease your work load because you are getting old, you will get weaker so that the decreased work load will be just as hard and even harder to manage. If you work harder to keep a higher level of fitness than is required to achieve your desired task, the desired task will be much easier. We have also known that, when elderly people cut back on their physical work load, they atrophy down in fitness faster and age faster becoming incapacitated sooner. Therefore, the key for cruising into your later years should be to keep active and maintain a higher fitness level than is required for cruising and not cutting back on activity and fitness unless you have a significant ailment requiring you cut back on activity.

George L

Spot on!

Some, due to jobs, family, circumstances start serious sailing at an age where lifelong sailors kick up the heels and call it a day. Obviously, they will need to stay fit into advanced age if they want to live their dreams. Funnily enough, doing so will make it more likely to stay fit into old age.

Others just stay with it. Erich Wilts comes to mind who with his wife had done some 50 years of serious sailing (German sailors will know them well, had their last yacht built in their early seventies (after the previous one got wrecked due to the Fukushima earthquake), and literally went from his last cruise to terminal care. Staying active and working hard most likely allowed him to live a great life to the very end.