Safe Sailing, Healthy Sailing

A compilation of information taken from current best practices in lifestyles and safety afloat
Stephanie Webb, Edison Sailing Center

Sailing is a lifelong activity that provides enjoyment of our largest natural resource here in Fort Myers: our rivers, the Gulf of Mexico and the tributaries that trickle through these waters in an intricate network of streams, canals and lakes. Sailors share the water with  hosts of marine life more easily observed in a “noiseless” boat.

Sailing requires upper body strength, stamina, endurance, flexibility, adaptability, to name a few. According to the World of Sailing, there are as many benefits as requirements: muscle strength and increased physical endurance, cardiovascular health, reduced blood pressure, and sailing may assist with weight loss. Pulling lines and attending to sailing tasks require a physicality that can keep the body agile.

We also know that being on or near the water somehow changes our mental outlook. A 2012 study published in Health & Place found that “proximity to the coast was positively associated with good health, with a small but significant increase in the percentage of people reporting good health among populations residing closer to the sea.”  The sound of the waves, the rocking motion of the waves along with the sails as they capture the wind can influence the brain in a way that is similar to meditation.

In addition to the health benefits of sailing, data supports the statement that sailing is a “safe” activity when compared to accident statistics: For every 100,000 people, five are boating deaths vs. eleven out of 100,000 who will die in an automobile accident. And most of the boating accidents are attributed to boats with motors, failure to wear life jackets or the consumption of alcohol.

Every beginning sailor at Edison Sailing Center is taught to capsize on the first day of instruction. Capsizing simply  means flipping over. A capsize can occur when excess wind overpowers the sails or when the sailor’s weight and placement on the boat may counterbalance the wind on the sails. Insuring that every new sailor can safely recover a capsized vessel ( 14’ or less) is a basic skill that helps alleviate the fear of capsizing as well as the increasing the likelihood of knowing safety procedures to properly right a boat.

There is always a chance of injury in any sport or activity. In sailing, the most common injury is concussion. Sailors, parents and coaches are taught how to avoid a concussion as well as how to spot the symptoms & treatment of possible head injury. Some boating groups are advocating for the use of soft helmets for young sailors as an added layer of protection.

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