A Sailor's Journey - Sail Magazine

A Sailor's Journey

My sailing journey began in 1983 when I met my future husband, who then owned a 25-foot daysailer. We sailed locally on New Jersey’s Raritan Bay on weekends, with an occasional evening sail during the week. After a few years of daysailing we graduated to a 27-foot cruiser. We spent most weekends and our summer vacations cruising together. But then I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a
Author:
Publish date:
Wendy-LaForge-photo-2

My sailing journey began in 1983 when I met my future husband, who then owned a 25-foot daysailer. We sailed locally on New Jersey’s Raritan Bay on weekends, with an occasional evening sail during the week. After a few years of daysailing we graduated to a 27-foot cruiser. We spent most weekends and our summer vacations cruising together. But then I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a progressive neuro-muscular disease. This was a setback, but we still kept sailing.

In 1998 we purchased a brand-new Catalina 380. My MS didn’t severely affect me during our first few years sailing this boat, but gradually I started losing strength in my arms and the ability to walk unassisted. Over the next five years, I went from needing a cane to using a wheelchair. I could no longer climb the companionway steps by myself nor stand at the helm.

By the summer of 2008 my MS had advanced and I stopped looking forward to sailing. For the first time in 15 years we didn’t spend at least two weeks cruising. I couldn’t move around the cockpit or belowdeck without assistance. My choices were clear: give up sailing or find a way to make it easier to negotiate the boat. My husband wasn’t about to let me give up sailing, so we chose Option B.

We started by compiling a list of the physical obstacles I had to confront on the 380, then we listed ways of overcoming these obstacles. Then it was decision time: should we modify our current boat or find a new one? We weren’t looking for a one-off cruiser, so our solution was to subtly modify a production boat.

Our positive experiences aboard our 380 and some time spent sailing aboard a friend’s Catalina 42 helped us decide that a new Catalina 42 MKII would be ideal. At the 2008 Annapolis Sailboat Show we spoke with Gerry Douglas, Catalina’s in-house designer, about modifying a Catalina 42. Our initial discussion included moving the boarding gates aft and reversing a stanchion so I could have direct access to the cockpit. I showed Douglas where a few extra handholds would be helpful; he suggested two additional stainless steel handrails on either side of the companionway, plus a removable stepstool and a bulkhead-mounted handrail to help me access the Pullman berth. We chose to eliminate a sliding door (along with its track) in the forward head, thereby eliminating a tricky four-inch threshold. We looked at the head’s shower door and decided it needed to be lowered; we also added stainless-steel handrails.

We completed our purchase order that day and took delivery of our new boat in the spring of 2009. Now, when I proudly show off our boat to fellow sailors, they all remark how it took only a few simple changes to allow me to enjoy sailing again, and how wonderful it was that Catalina helped keep my sailing dreams alive. My sailing journey continues, and for this I am forever grateful.

Related

daviscards

Davis Instruments: Quick Reference Cards

CHECK THESEIf you’re sailing with new crew this summer or your kids have suddenly and inexplicably started to look up from their phones and take an interest in the finer points of cruising, these Quick Reference Cards from Davis are a great way to further their boating education. ...read more

01-rbir18-596

Another Epic Round Britain Race

There are basically two kinds of offshore sailboat races out there: those that take place annually, like the Fastnet and Chicago-to-Mackinac races; and those that take place every other year, like the Transpac and Newport-Bermuda race, in part so the competitors have sufficient ...read more

01b_WALKING-KEDGE-OUT-cmykpromo

Getting More Use From Kedge Anchors

If you are cruising, you need at least two anchors on board for the simple reason that you must have a backup. Imagine having to slip your anchor on a stormy night with other boats dragging down on yours, or having your rope rode severed by some unseen underwater obstacle, ...read more

SailAwayCharter

How-to: Navigating on a Bareboat Charter

So you graduated from navigation class where you practiced dead reckoning, doubling the angle on the bow and maybe even celestial nav, and you now feel well prepared for your first charter trip. Well, you won’t be doing any of that on vacation—not past the first day, anyway.Most ...read more

04-Turtle-rescue

Turtle Rescue in the Vic-Maui

Strange and often wonderful things can happen in the course of an offshore sailboat race, and one of the strangest and most wonderful things we’ve heard of recently took place during the 2,300-mile 2018 Vic-Maui race, from Victoria, British Columbia, to Lahaina, Hawaii.It ...read more

dorcap-open-blue

ATN Inc: Dorcap

COOL SLEEPYou’re fast asleep in a snug anchorage, forehatch open to catch the breeze, when you’re rudely awakened by a sneaky rain squall. Now you’re not only awake and wet, you’re sweltering with the hatch closed. Sucks, right? That’s why ATN came up with the Dorcap, an ...read more

HIGH-RES-29312-Tahiti-GSP

Ask Sail: Who has the right-of-way

WHO HAS RIGHT-OF-WAY?Q: I sail in Narragansett Bay, which is a relatively narrow body of water that has upwind boats generally going south and downwind boats generally going north. When sailboats are racing, the starboard tack boat has the right-of-way over the port tack boat, so ...read more