ASA Featured Instructor: Thelma Brooks

By: Instructors, Schools, women on the water

Thelma Brooks of Narragansett Sailing School is This Month’s Featured Instructor

Mary Goff, owner of Narragansett Sailing School suggested we should feature one of her instructors, Thelma Brooks. She shared testimonials from her students and the underlying theme was her patience with students. The testimonials can be found at the bottom of this article but it is important to note that she makes strides teaching other women to sail. The American Sailing Association has quite a few women instructors who are making a huge difference in bringing more women on the water. 

Captain Thelma Brooks is this month’s ASA Featured Instructor.

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ASA: What got you into sailing?

Captain Thelma Brooks:

The only sailing experience I had was on my cousin’s boat in Halifax Harbor Nova Scotia about 16 years ago. We sailed on the most beautiful afternoon during the Tall Ships visit and I fondly recall the moment the motor was turned off and I felt and heard only the wind and water. Absolutely breathtaking! Our family had no plans to learn to sail until a friend gifted us his 22’ Catalina w/ trailer and we spent a year refitting it. We took a basic Coast Guard night class and then taught ourselves to sail with books, internet and YouTube. Each step was both exhilarating and petrifying! Every time we went sailing, I learned something new and I was soon addicted.

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ASA: What was your most memorable student or class?
Captain Thelma Brooks:

There are many…. When students come to our class and feel overwhelmed or worried they won’t do well, I make it my mission to make them feel comfortable and I work hard to transfer their worry into excitement. There is so much to worry about in life that I want their time at our school to be comfortable, enjoyable, and a great memory. It’s awesome to see those students gain confidence and watch the transformation in just a few days! One student started the first day of ASA 101 thinking she wasn’t going to complete the class. She did, and then she signed up for ASA 103. That is why I love my job.

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ASA: Your favorite place to sail?
Captain Thelma Brooks:

Our cruising grounds are Narragansett Bay RI and Buzzards Bay MA. Life hasn’t allowed my husband and I to venture off yet, but I hope that will change soon. However, I must say that our area has so much to offer, I’m not in a hurry to leave. This part of the world is well known for great sailing conditions, and so many nooks and crannies to explore. We love the sailing here!

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ASA: What do people not know about sailing that they should?

Captain Thelma Brooks:

My experience has taught me that the absolute BEST sailing foundation a person can have is some sort of instruction. My husband and I taught ourselves and every small step was overwhelming. Now that I’m an instructor, I have seen the benefits of having instruction. It provides that solid foundation to build off of. It gives you what you need to be safe, and have an enjoyable time on the water so you can then focus on honing your acquired knowledge and skills without being overwhelmed. I would like to add that it’s never too late to learn how to sail. We have students of every age and fitness level that really love our classes!

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ASA: Why do you Sail?

Captain Thelma Brooks:

This is an interesting question. The act of sailing is not what stands out to me although I do love it. I love to sail because it pushes me. It pushes me past my unfounded fears… it pushes me to overcome the challenges… It’s helped me realize that I’m capable of a great deal more than I ever thought I was. Sailing teaches me so much about myself and that is the main reason I love to sail. The perfect moments, and the ability to share those moments with students, friends and family is the “cherry on top”.

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ASA: How do we attract more women to sailing?

Captain Thelma Brooks:

At our sailing school, there are many classes for women only. Some women really benefit from this since they can feel overwhelmed and intimidated in a mixed group. Historically, sailing has been perceived as a sport that requires special skill sets that are difficult for women to acquire which is not true. Perceptions are thankfully starting to change and the more images and stories we see of women at the helm and in leadership roles, the more confident women will be that we are capable. As an example, Narragansett Sailing School, where I teach, is owned by an amazing woman sailor.

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ASA: Are there obstacles to sailing for women that are not widely known?

Captain Thelma Brooks:

I honestly believe that the biggest obstacle a woman faces is her own lack of confidence or fears. Most obstacles are perceived and are only insurmountable if we allow them to be. One other obstacle is that of listening to the wrong advice. If someone says you can’t, or shouldn’t… don’t listen.


Hi Mary, Just a quick note to let you know how much Wendy and I enjoyed the ASA 101 class the past 3 days. Thelma and Bruce are amazing instructors with the rare ability to pass on their knowledge and sailing experiences, to their students, in a relaxed and confident way.
We experienced lots of things that we hadn’t done before, from sailing on a larger boat (Catalina 22 to Pearson 30), wheel steering vs tiller, three point-turns, picking up a mooring ball and docking. All done in winds greater than we’re use to. As a result, I’m a much more confident and competent sailor.
Hats off to Thelma, who took Wendy under her wing and as a result Wendy is much more relaxed sailing and actually looking forward to ASA 103.
Thanks, Chris

It was a beautiful evening, Thelma was wonderful and the other students Joyce & Tom were fun to be with. Pat is getting more confident at the helm and with Thelma’s help she overcame some of the issues that were bothering her. We were hoping to get out again before the season ends (if at all possible) to further shore up Pat’s new found confidence.
Peter and Pat

Thelma currently sails with her family out of Warwick Rhode Island, cruising Narragansett Bay and Buzzards Bay on their 35’ Bristol. In the summer of 2007, she fell in love with sailing when the wind filled the sails on her cousin’s sailboat while passing the tall ships in Halifax Harbor, Nova Scotia. Soon after, she and her husband were given their first sailboat, a Catalina 22’, and her sailing career began. She enjoys all aspects of sailboat ownership and is always adding to her ever growing knowledge base. Thelma is excited to share the thrill of sailing with others.

Thelma Brooks is certified to teach ASA 101, ASA 103, ASA 104, ASA 105.

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