There used to be a bumper sticker, popular in marinas, that said “Old Sailors Never Die, They Just Go a Little Dinghy.” The premise of this book is that they should go cruising offshore. The author and his wife did, embarking on a circumnavigation when they were newly wed and in their sixties. He has written about those travels in two other books (Sailing the Golden Sea and Sailing the Inland Seas), and in the current book provides a dozen chapters of advice, primarily intended for senior citizens whose “mental attitude is the primary deterrent” keeping them from setting off into the cruising life.
The first six chapters discuss topics of importance for would-be cruisers, including whether to go or not, and mostly focus on the choice of boat and its attributes. While it is difficult to find fault with any of the opinions expressed by the author, few of them relate explicitly to seniors’ issues. He does call attention to the sailing consequences of the lessening of physical endurance and strength to be expected when one passes 60 (don’t push yourself or your boat), and also to the loss of balance and its importance in a seaway (grabrails everywhere!). Otherwise, most of the advice is such that the book could just have easily been entitled Cruising for Inexperienced Sailors Who Are Safety Conscious and Not in a Hurry.
Several of the later chapters in the book are written by experts on the topics of weather, boat electrical systems, and medicine. One, by the author’s wife, Emily, looks at cruising from a woman’s perspective. None of these chapters address any issues that are unique to seniors, except for the one on medicine, Medicine for Geriatric Cruising, by Mark Anderson, M.D. If you are a senior and about to go cruising offshore (or even coastwise), you would do well to read this chapter – it might even justify the purchase of the whole book. For younger sailors, this chapter might frighten you into making your parents abandon their cruise – don’t do it, they’ll survive.
In sum, if you are a senior, want to go cruising, and know little about sailing, this book might be a good place to start reading. At a minimum, you’ll also want to read the books offered as selected references by the author in his last chapter.
Cruising for Seniors by Paul H. Keller (Sheridan House, 2000; 160 pages)