Jeff and Debbie joined us for sailing classes and have had a journey together since! Below is their inspiring story, directly from them, as a couple that has been together for four decades, each had some experience sailing, and are in the midst of sailing south after deciding to live on a sailboat!

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We left Barrington in late October 2022 and have been heading south at a relaxing pace. We went offshore hops: Block Island, Montauk, Atlantic Highlands, Cape May, Norfolk, Intracoastal Waterway inside Hatteras, back out to Southport NC, Charleston SC, Amelia Island FL, Canaveral, Ft. Pierce, and now, Coconut Grove. Soon we cross to the Berries in Bahamas and then the Exumas.

Lots of motoring this trip as the winds have been unfavorable to sailing down the coast. We’ve been in some interesting weather and have experienced some crazy inlet conditions, particularly an early morning entry to Cape Fear with wind against current. That was a scary learning experience: that huge standing waves that stop the boat can happen in big boat channels AND that we and our trusted boat could handle it.

There are other things we are learning:

  • The weather is the center of everything. I heard this but living it is crazy.
  • There are a lot of boats out here full of snowbirds heading south. Everyone is so nice and helpful.
  • Marinas are expensive. Finding anchorages in the south for 6ft draft sailboats is challenging.
  • There are 1,000,000 possible docking scenarios but each makes you better at it. Be deliberate, decisive and confident.
  • Living on a boat is actually the easy part.
Regarding Narragansett Sailing School specifically:

When we decided to “get real” about the cruising lifestyle we needed to have a fun way to ease into it and discover if we really thought we could do it and have some idea of what boat to buy.

We heard about NSS and liked what we read on the website. We decided to do the whole series even though we both had sailing experience.

Q. What parts of learning as a couple did you enjoy most?

(Deb) I enjoyed the hands-on sailing experiences with my husband the most (both the good and the more challenging). It was very important to me that we be on the same page with the same foundational skills. We are such different learners and I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to show him what I know about sailing. This opportunity allowed me to show him and myself that I am a capable sailor, even if we are different types of sailors. He is more technically aware and I am more concerned with the feeling in my gut and wind on my face.

(Jeff) It was a good choice to get the whole package as a couple. We heard the same thing as each other from the same authority. We had the same vocabulary. We could discuss real-time what we learned in the classroom and what we experienced on the boats.

We had different sailing backgrounds and very different learning styles. Deb is not the kind of person who is going to listen to me “teach” her sailing. And I knew little of cruising, only racing.

What I enjoyed most was watching Deb’s confidence and competence grow in your great learning environment. This was also reinforced by the others in the classroom. Deb seems to thrive in group learning. I appreciate her discipline and more serious approach to cruising and the right way to do things. This has been helpful in later situations, her insistence on rules and checklists. Many times, I have been reminded of important oversights.

Q. What’s different about learning as a couple compared to learning individually?

(Deb) I think we were able to discuss the classes and shared experiences. “Remember when Mary (or another instructor) said this…” or “When this happened, we did that…”. We were able to chat and dive deeper and work on practice test questions. (I am not a good test taker and he would try to simplify for me.) Note: I did take an additional class on my own to help me with my 105 Navigation knowledge. It was good to meet and share with others, but I did miss the “debriefing” afterward with Jeff.

(Jeff) There needed to be times when I wasn’t there at all and I was only getting in the way or not helping or judging. Then the instructor or some others in the group could step in and I could try to disappear.

Maybe it sounds silly, but that we did this together, something new and exciting, fueling a dream of adventure, was worth it alone.

Q. What surprised you about learning with your partner?

(Deb) I guess I was surprised that as a couple of more than 40 years, that we can still learn new things together, about each other, and about being sailors and live aboard cruisers!

(Jeff) What surprised me the most was that Deb never got flustered or scared or indecisive on the boat. In every situation, she stepped up and took care of things. This made me proud, especially on our 106 cruise where we had challenge after challenge and smiled all the way through it.

We never would have made the leap into buying a live-aboard cruising boat without the sailing school’s foundation. It would have remained a dream. Maybe we would have started slowly, but the school gave us the confidence to buy a 42-ft cruising boat and head off. Time will tell if that was a good idea or not, but thank you for the solid start.

Our Timeline

  • Jul 2018 ASA 101
  • Jul 2018 ASA 103
  • Aug 2018 ASA 104
  • Jun 2019 ASA 105 / 106
  • Oct 2019 – At the Annapolis Boat Show, we place a deposit on a Valiant 42
  • Aug 2020 – Valiant 42 sails home to Barrington, Rhode Island
  • Oct 2022 – we sell everything, move onto the boat, and sail south