Start Sailing Now: Meet Rodney Mitchell

Tell us about how you got into sailing? I was well into middle age and looking for a new hobby besides the high-impact sports that I had been involved in since my teens. I’ve always loved the water, so initially I was thinking of deep sea fishing. But sitting around waiting for fish didn’t seem like my thing. Then I spoke with a friend who had been a motor boater and had switched to sailing. With a little encouragement, I started researching sailboats and sailboat racing and took a sailing lesson at D.C. Sail. I was immediately in love with the sport—the water, the wind. It was great, perfect for my new hobby. web What has been your sailing experience thus far, and what are your future plans? After learning on the Flying Scot, I became interested in keelboats and cruising, and I continued with keelboat lessons. I bought a 1976 27-foot O’Day, and for an entire summer I sailed out of Rock Hall, MD, on the Eastern Shore. I was obsessed. I went sailing three to four times a week in all kinds of weather, from virtually no wind to near gale force. My neighbors were extremely gracious, offering many tips, advice, and even lessons on backing under power and downwind sailing. I later bought a 1974 36-foot Morgan, the Coot, which I now sail out of Baltimore. Again I have great neighbors who offer tips and lessons on docking, reefing, and more. I’m having a ball sailing with friends and relatives. I leave my boat in the water all year and even sail in the winter on some of those rare 50-degree days. I live in the city of Washington, DC, and there is nothing like getting away on the water for a long sail to melt away the stress and leave the rat race behind. After more experience, I would like to sail south to the Florida Keys and the Caribbean Islands. I want to obtain certification to be able to bareboat charter at various destinations around the world. Did you encounter any obstacles or barriers when you began sailing? No barriers, but many rookie mistakes that only made me a better sailor, such as running aground, trouble docking, and engine problems while motoring. Whenever I encountered a “problem” while out on the water, I would fully research the issue. Within seconds of doing a search in a sailor chat room (of which there are many) I would retrieve responses and threads sometimes on the exact problem or challenge that I experienced on the water. I would next place a call to a trusted, experienced sailor to verify what I had read. I would then make the corrections, repairs, adjustments and get right back out there. Did you have any preconceived notions about sailing that proved true or untrue? I thought the sailing scene was prohibitively expensive, but it turned out that sailing is far more affordable than I first realized. If someone were interested in learning to sail, what would you tell them? They should go for it and just dive right in. Take a lesson to learn the basics, such as points of sail, tacking, and gybing.