Sailing Is Where She Is Meant To Be

Sailing brings transformation

Sailing can be life-changing, and for many, including Vaunita Goodman, learning to sail is a way to embrace life. After being diagnosed with Stage 4 chronic kidney disease Vaunita not only continues to expand her own sailing horizons, she is sharing sailing with others.

woman sailing
Vaunita Goodman sailing in Baltimore Harbor.

Adventurous and artistic

Growing up, Vaunita lived overseas, learned to love travel, and came to appreciate meeting all kinds of people and experiencing different cultures and ways of life. Today, she enjoys solo travel and adventure. With an arts background and a concentration in dance, Vaunita was an artist in residency on the West Coast before coming to Baltimore, where she now works in the arts community. She designs and instructs STEM programs, has taught interdisciplinary collaboration at Baltimore School for the Arts, and is associated with The Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Between travel and dance, movement was a very important part of Vaunita’s life, but a kidney disease diagnosis in 2017 made movement difficult. Abruptly, instead of enjoying travel to experience how others live differently, she needed to learn how to live differently herself.

“I had always moved through life guided by my intuition, and I continued to do so,” she says. Despite dialysis and doctors’ appointments, Vaunita forged ahead, sporadically sailing with the Downtown Sailing Center’s (DSC) Women on the Water (WOW) program. She underwent home treatments that lasted 12 hours a day, every day. She had to visit a nurse monthly for labs and checkups. There were many doctors’ appointments. Always a leader, Vaunita became an advocate for herself and others experiencing the natural anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression that can result from navigating dialysis treatments.

“On the water I was transformed,” Vaunita recalls. “I was able to feel normal, capable, and strong. I could contribute. The others at DSC didn’t know of my kidney disease, and I didn’t tell anyone outside of my family and a few very close friends. When sailing I would think, ‘This is where I’m meant to be.’ Then the pandemic came, and I was among a group of 12 to 16 brave and enthusiastic souls who continued sailing. It gave me a calm space with inviting and fun-loving people at a time when the world was feeling fearful."

The importance of sailing clubs

“When I was sailing with WOW, it seemed that everyone was in harmony, and I was drawn to the idea of ancestral women taking off to explore or hunt… or sail. As a STEM instructor, I was also drawn to the ancient science of sailing. I learned to be present on the boat and to adapt to different conditions. I became more resilient.  

“In the last two years, I have grown into racing. A fellow sailor from DSC and the Universal Sailing Club, Karen Southern (who was featured on this page in the June 2023 issue), introduced me to two skippers from Baltimore City Yacht Association that needed crew, and there I have been trimming sails and doing pit.”

Vaunita has also sailed with the Universal Sailing Club (USC), which was conceived for African Americans to share culture and camaraderie while sailing on the Bay and its tributaries. “Sailing with USC offers yet another perspective,” she says. “I was drawn to the club because of the members’ spunk, tenacity, and style, and the club’s emphasis on the legacy of sailing in our community. I especially like their interest in expanding to education and the annual Souls at Sea ceremony. 

founders of Dialysis to the Docks
Together, Vaunita and Cathee started Dialysis to the Docks to share the joy of sailing with those facing chronic kidney disease.

Dialysis To the Docks

In 2021 Vaunita received a kidney transplant from an anonymous, living donor. The donor’s generous gift saved her life and set into motion a remarkable series of events. Vaunita explains, “My donor, Cathee, a is woman who identifies as white. She had specified that she wanted her kidney to go to a woman of color. Cathee is also a sailor! We met in 2023 and not only did we go sailing together, but we also started Dialysis to the Docks that summer, an initiative that offers individuals in the CKD community free access to the fun, recreation, and sport of sailing. To date we along with other generous sailors in the Chesapeake Bay region have offered six free on-water sailing excursions to individuals and families of the CKD community.” Find Dialysis to the Docks on Instagram @dialysistothedocks. They welcome inquiries about program offerings, partnerships, and collaborations. Reach them at [email protected].

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