Instructor Interview: Lynn Oliver
Lynn started sailing as an adult and has cruised the Northeast extensively on her J-40 along with racing, deliveries and just “messing around” on boats anywhere she could. Let’s hear more about how she started sailing and how she thinks about the challenges out on the water.
1. How did you first get into sailing?
I married a racing sailor and wanted to catch up. So I joined a sailing club and learned on Ideal 18’s in addition to the J-35 we had, and then a J-40.
I also started taking courses through the local Power Squadron and it wasn’t long until I found myself mentoring; then teaching others. I’ve always loved adventure and travel. Sailing — especially cruising — combines both of these.
I used to skydive, water white raft, canoe and hike. Sailing was an easy shift and what’s not to like about being on the water?!
2. Have you had any disaster scenarios, failures, or simple problems in your sailing career that have given you a valuable lesson as a result?
Oh yes, all of the above! That’s part of boating.
What I’ve learned is that preparation and following procedures goes a long way towards preventing issues and keeping people safe. Regular maintenance, keeping things organized and put away, thinking through potential dangers or issues and having the right equipment are key. And don’t push a schedule! A simple problem can escalate in a hurry on a boat due to being overtired, short-handed or fighting challenging weather conditions.
3. If there’s one thing you can tell new sailors when they are just introduced to the sport, what would you tell them?
Breathe. Then breathe again.
I know it sounds crazy, but most new students are very focused on mastering the skills and physics of boat handling. They get tense and sometimes get overwhelmed. I will often tell students to close their eyes, breathe, and feel the wind on their face and have them turn the wheel to sense the increase or decrease in speed through the helm.
Of course, I do this when it’s safe and I keep a watch. But it helps to connect students with the boat and the elements, to focus on the feel of sailing, rather than fighting it.
4. What advice would you tell a new sailor to ignore? What are bad recommendations you hear about sailing?
“Don’t worry about it! You, or it, will be fine.”
Sailors should never lose their respect for the water and what it means to be on a boat. If there is something you are concerned about or don’t understand, get clarification or a fix that makes you comfortable. Fear or misunderstanding are not good sailing partners.
If you want a great day sail, race or cruise, get to know your crew mates and respect their strengths, challenges and concerns and work with them. Don’t leave anyone sitting in a corner!
5. Who most influenced your life when it comes to sailing?
I have been challenged, helped, mentored, taught and influenced in so many ways by so many people that I can’t say there has only been one.
Certain moments stand out-like being yelled at and deciding right then, that I was going to sail but NEVER again with someone so demeaning. Or a friend who has captained all kinds of vessels from tugs to the Amistad, and she told us that a boat doesn’t know the gender of the driver, only the heart and mind. Or my sons, who always encouraged me to handle our J-40 with conviction in their voice when they said “You’ve got this Mom.”
If we are lucky, we will continue to be influenced by those with whom we sail, all of our sailing days.
6. Outside of sailing, what is something that you love to do; something that makes you feel alive?
I love being with family and friends. A shared meal, a good walk, a beautiful sunset all remind me of the great gift that is my life.
About Lynn Oliver
Lynn started sailing as an adult and has cruised the Northeast extensively on her J-40 along with racing, deliveries and just “messing around” on boats anywhere she could. She has taught sailing, Navigation, Seamanship, Safety and other courses with her local Sail & Power Squadron. A strong advocate of empowering women, Lynn loves to share her passion for being on the water with others. To prove her point, she will often have students close their eyes and just be in the moment while sailing!
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