Local writer and life-long sailor Nicholas Hayes wonders why sailing seems to become less popular year after year, especially among younger generations. He asks this question, as well as provides a few solutions in his book Saving Sailing: The Story of Choices, Families, Time Commitments, and How We Can Create a Better Future (Crickhollow Books, 2010).
Hayes has interviewed more than 1,000 sailors, and their stories explain why sailing is such an engaging activity. It’s a way to connect with nature. It’s an activity that helps bond family and friends. It’s active, not passive, and sailors are constantly learning about their craft. And it’s just a lot of fun. After a while even a non-sailor will understand why Hayes is so concerned with sailing’s plight.
Many sailors are older — baby boomers like Hayes. But the popularity among young people between the ages of 13 and 24 is particularly intriguing. Once these people reach 25, however, a majority of them stop sailing. Why is this? Well, often careers, marriage, kids and other activities consume their lives.
Plus, buying a boat, even a used one, isn’t cheap. And paying a membership to a sailing cub, though often less expensive than a monthly cable bill, can also eat into the household budget.
However, time constraints and money aside, the fault also lies in the choices we make in how we spend our free time. Often we choose to spend our time watching TV or surfing the Internet. It’s just “easier” than taking that boat out on the water, or doing another less passive activity. But is it as fulfilling? Probably not.
Hayes mentions a lack of older mentors and uninvolved family members as barriers to younger generations of potential sailors. Sometimes elders don’t offer their wisdom and expertise to young people, or maybe they think it won’t be welcomed. And for many parents, most of their involvement with kids’ sailing (or most kids activities, for that matter) ends when they drop off their son or daughter for practice. The generations are polarized, not connected.
Hayes’ passion and devotion to sailing is evident on every page (and the footnotes explaining certain sailing terms are much appreciated). Sailors will recognize themselves in the stories and possibly be inspired by Hayes’ ideas. But Saving Sailing isn’t just about sailing; it’s a metaphor. This book asks us to examine our lives.
What is important? What gives our lives fulfillment? And most importantly, how can we share these things with others?