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Seamanship Lessons From a Yacht Captain - BOATING

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

There’s a lot to learn from a day with a professional yacht captain.

By Tonya Russell

Despite the trademark high winds of Chicago, the afternoon -summer sun beat down on my face while out on Lake Michigan. Squinting while wearing sunglasses, I fixed my eyes on the buoys as I navigated a 75-foot yacht. During my day of instruction with Capt. Kelly Gordon, she allowed me to take the wheel of the largest vessel I’d ever run in nine years of boating.

Over the last year or so, there has been quite an influx of -boaters joining the community. This influx includes seasoned participants and novices, popping up in major port cities like Newport, Rhode Island; Miami, Florida; and Chicago, where Gordon mans a privately owned 75-foot Sunseeker. Gordon often catches these new boat owners trying to tackle the cerulean waters of Lake Michigan, as well as the locks. While a female yacht captain might be a rare sight on the water, Gordon has seen the best and worst of the influx, and too often, she witnesses couples having arguments, detracting from what should be a pleasurable experience. I know this all too well, and early on, my time on the water with my fiancé was quite the test. He had more experience than me, and it took quite some time for him to relinquish control and allow me to be his first mate.

Spending time with a seasoned captain can help you hone your skills.John Linn



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