Captain Kathy Struchen started sailing after she first came out of college when her boyfriend (now husband) introduced her to scuba diving. Through the various locations they went to dive, sailboats would be around and it wasn’t long before she got the bug. Between diving and sailing the couple knew being on the water was what they loved most and began to figure out how to make it a more substantial part of their lives. They did and today she is being recognized as one of the American Sailing Association’s Outstanding Instructors.
“My husband & I were sailing on a Hobiecat in Santa Rosa Sound and asked ourselves, ‘what would be a dream job?’” said Struchen. “Well, running a sailing school in Pensacola seemed like a good option. We had been sailing for years, and our current jobs entailed lots of participatory education and theatre, so we knew we could make it work.”
“I have always been an entrepreneur, so when the opportunity presented itself, we just took the leap. We sold our house and a lot of belongings and totally committed to changing our lives.”
That was 16-years ago and now they run the Lanier Sailing Academy in Pensacola Florida. Like most of the Outstanding Instructors, Struchen loves sailing, but also loves the art of teaching as well. She says that in teaching, every day is different, every student is different and it’s that keeps things always interesting and “never boring.”
As a teacher Struchen stresses safety first, always showing students the safest methods of doing things that will work in the worst of conditions, saying: “Having good habits when things are wild and wooly is imperative.”
As a sailor, Struchen has sailed in many places, but says her trip from Pensacola to New Orleans two months after Hurricane Katrina was probably her most memorable. She was taking reporters from the National Public Radio to survey the unforgettable situation.
“It was amazing to see the combination of destruction and survival,” she says. “Shrimpers were fishing for furniture and other debris that needed to be removed from the waterways. Dolphins guided us in to an unmarked channel in Biloxi, where casinos were washed up across the road. Nature can be both powerful and beautiful, and it was an excellent example of both.”
For those new to sailing Kathy gives this advice:
“Don’t rush things. Take your time and develop your basic skills. Practice one skill at a time until it becomes second nature. When you start sailing larger boats, there is so much more to consider than just the sailing. You’re managing systems, supervising crew, monitoring navigation and weather, dealing with provisions. Planning is key. The more prepared you are, the more easier the whole experience will be. Planning shorter trips will give you time to enjoy and be relaxed. After all, we’re doing this for fun, right?”