From Novice to Sailing Instructor: Meet Sue Chapman

Sue Chapman Found a Welcoming Community at Sail Nauticus

Through her community sailing center, Chesapeake sailor Sue Chapman went from novice sailor to assistant instructor. Here are her responses to our questions about how she got hooked on sailing:

Tell us about how you got into sailing.

Shortly after my husband and I downsized from a home in Virginia Beach to a condo in downtown Norfolk, I was walking around downtown and stumbled upon the community sailing center, Sail Nauticus. It was 2015, I was 54, and I had no idea what the organization was or how it operated. I had spent a lot of time powerboating and kayaking on lake, but I had never had access to sailing.

As soon as I walked through the doors of Sail Nauticus, everyone was so friendly and encouraging. People would say, “You’re new? Let’s get you out on the water!” I started participating in the various social sails, and I especially liked the social aspect and making friends. Gradually I connected with some female mentors, and we spent many wonderful hours on the Elizabeth River. It’s such a nice community of welcoming people.

I took the U.S. Sailing Basic Keelboat course, and by then I was hooked! I passed by Sail Nauticus captain’s test and became a volunteer instructor with the Sail Nauticus Academy. For the past three years I have been helping to teach sailing to sixth graders. I really enjoy watching them begin with a little fear and concern and then grow into confident young sailors.

There’s always something happening at Sail Nauticus. Monday is race night, which I really enjoy, because we rotate through the various positions on the boat, and I’m a competitive person. Tuesday night is ladies sailing night, and Thursdays are for social activities. On Friday evenings we often race at Portsmouth Yacht Club. This time of year we frostbite race on Saturdays, and I also enjoy sailing with my husband.

If someone were interested in learning to sail, what would you tell them?

If they live in the Hampton Roads area I would tell them about Sail Nauticus, and invite them to come out with me on one of the Harbor 20s. It can be a great way to relax, to learn new skills, challenge yourself, and meet new people. I’d also say that sailing is like learning to play the piano. You need an opportunity to practice, and Sail Nauticus provides that opportunity.

Did you encounter any obstacles or barriers when you began sailing?

I took the U.S. Sailing Instructor Course and came close to passing, but did not prevail. I believe I needed more time on the water and probably more experience on other sail boats (the Harbor 20 is the only boat I have sailed on my own). However, I learned a lot about sailing and about myself through that course, and I am glad that I was encouraged to try.  I hope to take some more US Sailing courses and continue to enjoy the sport!