Whether a love of the water, a desire for confidence and freedom or an environmental awareness, sailing is filling a need for more and more women. Specifically, women in their fifties and sixties are being drawn to sailing as they manage mid-life changes. Mid-life often represents a time of endings: careers, relationships, and health. It’s a time when many women seek a more authentic life. Often, their new beginnings include a new self-image. Courage, kindness and confidence are critical for such transitions. At this important stage of life, many women intuitively know that their journey requires a different approach than in the past. Drawn to sailing, they want more than a traditional “learn to sail” course.
These women want a unique experience, within an all-female learning environment, that addresses their whole being; body, mind and spirit. HERIZEN™ Life Adventures, owned and operated by Valma Brenton, is a company that understands the needs of this growing market and has responded. Brenton’s observations lead her to believe that, especially for women making life changes, self-confidence and a belief that all things are possible cannot come through sailing lessons alone. HERIZEN™ offers a range of sail training and eco-adventures by women for women that include wellness as an integral part of their design.
Robbi Antle, a 55-year-old medical transcriptionist, took one-on-one sail training with HERIZEN™. Antle had ended a twenty-year relationship that left her emotionally, spiritually and physically “tapped out”. She was ready to give herself permission to live a fuller life. Sailing was the answer. Her goal was to gain the confidence to return to the offshore sailing that was once a part of her life, this time as the captain of her own vessel. Antle puts it this way; “Valma has such an overall program bringing into play the physical, emotional and spiritual components of the whole person that it helps instil a confidence and recognition of self that I have seen nowhere else.” Since her training, Antle has purchased a 30-foot sailboat and is pursuing her offshore plans.
57-year-old Roselle Anslow also knew that she wanted to re-gain confidence. After being diagnosed with a debilitating illness, Anslow found herself becoming more and more reclusive. “I needed a boost to my ego to become an ‘I can do it’ kind of person again. I had lost my sense of adventure and challenge.” Anslow calls HERIZEN™’s customized training on her own boat “one of the most unique experiences of my life.” The goal of feeling self-sufficient and making decisions based on their own thoughts, needs and desires, rather than being a victim of circumstance, is a common theme for many women pursuing sail training at mid-life.
But previous experience is not required to change your life through sailing. Take Raija Williams as an example. At fifty-five, Williams thought that sailing would provide learning and excitement when she joined her husband in retirement. Before she encountered HERIZEN™, she had no sailing experience.
The Williams’ purchased a 45-foot ketch first, then sought out training in order to learn how to confidently sail it. Originally, Raija started using training manuals with the goal of certification. But one fateful walk at a local marine trade show in 2006 changed everything. She picked up a brochure from HERIZEN™, and the following fall she was taking her first lesson. That experience confirmed to Williams that she had made the right choice of adventure for her retirement and she has never looked back.
Williams describes her experience best. “As a woman, Valma allows me to stay in the present, remain focused with the understanding and encouragement necessary to be successful. Even though I am novice, Valma has provided the building blocks for me to be more successful than I ever dreamed possible.”
Since then, Williams has gone on to take multiple group sail training trips with HERIZEN™, witnessing numerous examples of physical healing amongst her fellow crew mates. She has earned her Sail Canada Cruising certification and recently completed her Sail Canada Intermediate this fall. She now captains her 45-foot “Voyager” with confidence.
More than sailing however, these women recognize that what they learned expands to all aspects of their lives.
Avis Oxbury, now in her seventies, dreamed of sailing since she was thirty. After three decades of talking herself out of it for one reason or another, she finally decided that it was her time.
Since taking a 7-day all female group sailing retreat with HERIZEN™, Oxbury is now her own captain and her life has become the adventure that she dreamed of. Her daughter is one person who sees the difference.
“I just need to look at you…when you have been sailing you look like a different person and I love to see how you look…you glow and it’s not even that …it’s the whole package. It’s like there has been this person lurking inside you waiting to come out and now here you are and I just love to look at you.”
For these fifty and sixty-something women, sailing the HERIZEN™ way has fostered physical healing and filled a gap with a sense of self that was really always there. They just needed the right environment to help them remember. At a time when these women were ready to make life changes, becoming confident sailors also allowed them to become confident women again.
And when women live their power, all things truly are possible. As Valma Brenton would say, “Life is an adventure. Let your spirit fly!”
Written by Marla Hunter – Bellaia