The seven ages of sailing!

At different ages we all look for different types of sailing. A very young child will need to be protected from too many thrills and spills, while your older, veteran sailor will have seen everything yet chooses not to be in Force 10 survival conditions.

Give an 18 year old enough beer and they'll do anything.

William Shakespeare wrote the monologue 'All the World's a Stage' which reflects on the 'seven ages of Man'. Let's sail through those ages and reflect on how to best enjoy sailing throughout your life!

Mewling and puking – a great time to associate water with fun…

While the concept of mewling and puking is often associated with a bad dose of seasickness or far too many beers on a run ashore, we all have to start somewhere in life. Here, Shakespeare referred to the infant:

At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms
. Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school…

These first two ages are when you can draw in or utterly repel a kid from sailing. Expose your mewling and puking infant to water, and associate it with good times. A lot of important impressions are made on a child. Do Mummy and Daddy get excited by the water? That must be a good thing!

As the father of a girl of nearly three years old, I have been very keen to get her on and in the water. In summer we paddle deep into the water, get afloat whenever we can, and have our best times together just metres from the sea or actually in it.

The Golden Globe sailor Susie Goodhall, the youngest woman in the solo round the world race beginning on the 1st July, has been sailing since the age of three. As soon as she was out of nappies and could string a few words together she was going afloat and getting the right impression about life at sea. Now 27, she is about to sail the hardest yacht race in the world over 300 days, navigating by the stars and chronometer.

It is possible to frankly bore the shite out of your child when it comes to sailing. I have friends who stifle yawns when talking about going sailing with their Dad on a Wayfarer. Kids want their hearts to beat! A lack of interest in developing 'athletic sailing' and a heavy focus on getting kids sailing in thrill free Optimist bathtub boats has recently been blamed as one of the reasons for US sailing as a whole dying a slow death.

Why not foiling Optimists? Why not Hobie sailing cats? Boats that raise the pulse and get the heart going! These are the things that light kids up. Put another way - have you noticed how your mewling, puking infant giggles when you throw them in the air or across the sofa? Kids don't love dull!

On a Kavas Greek yacht charter sailing holiday, come out on our Bali catamarans with your very young, and then perhaps move onto a monohull as they gain strength and fearlessness. Build that confidence toward a blast on a broad reach or energetic tacking on a beat to show them that sailing isn't just about drifting between bloody museums and ancient ruins!!!

Teenage and young adulthood

Shakespeare again:

And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth.

As the whining schoolboy becomes a whining teenager focused on sex and other thrills, a well-crafted sailing career may well get them thinking of chasing the objects of their desires afloat. When I was 18 on my sailing ship, taking a girl for a 'tour of the ship' could take a while, and at least one of us would have a grin on our faces after…

There is a saying that if you get your kid addicted to sailing they never have enough money for drugs. That is hardly a bad thing in a world where cheap thrills are on the mind of so many youngsters. The parent can be dragged huge geographical distances to support their loved one's sailing career – no bad thing if they want to get into global elite yachting or Olympic sailing…

From the age of 18 it is possible to take a Kavas yacht out yourself, especially if you have the right sailing qualifications. Parents can invest in these qualifications as their child grows up, and it enables them to do deliveries as well as sailing off with other families as a useful member of crew.

Again, from personal experience an 18 year old will sail anywhere if there is enough beer cooling in the bilges. At that age – the 'soldier' of Shakespeare's seven ages – they will have developed their skills to experience a nasty storm and walk away from it. Offshore racing? They are in the prime of their lives and they can seek that 'bubble reputation, Even in the cannon's mouth'.

Beyond immortality

The poem again:

And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part.

Another saying in life: you feel immortal until you turn 40 and are then forever aware of your mortality! If you are like me you may be in the awkward situation where you have an ankle biter you need to thrill into sailing yet are getting slow and fat yourself…

Let's not reflect on us older parents. Most people have the good sense to have their sprogs in their late 20's or early 30's and still have the energy to get that Hobie or foiling Nacra when their kid wants to push the limits sailing.

For most of you, you will be thinking of that Kavas Bali catamaran again by your late 40's. Gentle cruises and lots of luxury to waft you between vineyards on the Greek islands, tasting new cuisines and not being too fussed if you have a few more kilos of blubber round your midriff on your return home. This is not to say you won't be able to handle the odd bit of heavy weather – you will have learned in your own sailing career how to survive a Force 8 and walk away intact…

Been there… done that!

The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Last summer we reflected on the Evandria regatta in September: The race is a celebration of the worth of manhood even into old age. According to the race website, Evandria stems from an Ancient Greek celebration: "Evandria" or the "Evandrian contest" was a male beauty pageant as the etymology of the Greek word informs us. It was celebrated on the 27th of the Athenian month of Hekatombaion (June 19 to July 20) along with the competition of armed dancing known as Pyrrhichia, during the Great Festival of Panathenaea. It is still debated whether not only youths but also elder men participated.

You're never too old to sail - you will often just not be stupid enough to sail through everything that Neptune throws at you! I have heard rumours that an elite yachtsman is about to begin a circumnavigation despite needing a hip operation. He's done it a few times, and while I personally question the sanity of the plan, it does show that you are never too old to be stupid enough! This is a calculated risk on the sailor's part and I wish him well. Most others of his age will be sitting in a nursing home heading towards 'second childishness and mere oblivion'. In his case it may well be a decision that it is better to burn out than fade away.

I wish him well!

See also ↠ Baby on board - Evandria, a regatta for crew chiefs above 70 years of age

Richard Shrubb