ASA Featured Instructor: Laurel Seaborn

By: Instructors, Schools, women on the water

Captain Laurel Seaborn of American Sailing Academy

Captain Laurel Seaborn has a sailing resume that spans from growing up on a Herreshoff-design ketch to being co-founder and instructor for the Seafaring Education and Maritime Archeological Heritage Program. She holds a 100 ton USCG license, and she has seemingly done every job on boats from top to bottom. Captain Seaborn owned a boat before she owned a car and taught at a couple of universities. Fortunately for us at ASA, she loves to teach sailing, and her students in Key Largo get to reap the benefits of her endless experience on the water.

Captain Laurel Seaborn is ASA’s Featured Instructor

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ASA: What got you into sailing?

Captain Laurel Seaborn:

When I was a kid, my folks moved us onto a sailboat instead of into a house, so I grew up aboard in the Pacific Northwest. In summers, we sailed in the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands where huge tides and fast currents structured our schedules. I had my own little sailing dinghy before I could drive a car. Although I graduated from college and found a “real” job, I eventually ended up running away to sea on tall ships, sailing on everything from brigs to schooners.

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ASA: What was your most memorable student or class?
Captain Laurel Seaborn:

One of my most memorable classes happened while working at a school that did the sailing portion of classes on a sign-in basis each weekend, and it just happened to be that ALL women showed up and me as their instructor. I just remember the mixture of realization and excitement on their faces, that no one would be stepping in to do any skill for them. One woman immediately piped up, “I’d like to try to start the outboard first!” And another, “Oh me next, I’ve never gotten to try that.”

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ASA: Your favorite place to sail?
Captain Laurel Seaborn:

My favorite place to sail is where I am now, the adventure I’m having today (or perhaps the one I’m planning next)! I admit I do get nostalgic for home waters and that landscape, but I don’t miss the cold grey rain while here in the Florida Keys sunshine. Warm waters and breezes definitely win my heart.

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

Captain Laurel Seaborn:

People need to know that it is not just the luxury lifestyles that can afford sailing, there is definitely more than the fancy yachts that will get you out on the water at most any price point. Most importantly any splurge in budget is best spent on the safety items. If you can’t find a friend to introduce you to how to sail, definitely take some lessons as part of keeping you safe while being part of an amazing sport!

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ASA: Why do you Sail?

Captain Laurel Seaborn:

I find sailing to be both a “meditation” and an adventure. The centered focus on catching the wind, creates what feels to me like a moving meditation. And then in those moments when the environment becomes less benign, sailing becomes far more of an adventure, testing the limits of my ability to think and act quickly to ensure survival. And such a sense of accomplishment at getting through the challenges.

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ASA: How do we attract more women to sailing?
Are there obstacles to sailing for women that are not widely known?

Captain Laurel Seaborn:

The more we can be inclusive and have women as the experts on REGULAR panels that talk about sailing skills/challenges, not just for specialized women’s topics, the more women will feel they are part of the sport. My friend recently attended an online Safety at Sea seminar, and it was all white men on the panel. Not a single woman skipper telling her story of how she handled a disaster at sea. They did not include discussions on women’s health concerns, nor our different center of gravity and how that impacts MOB drills. Plus, just the fact that so often it is still referred to as “Man Overboard” as if women cannot fall off a boat. All these things add up to a broad message that women do not belong on sailboats which can be intimidating to someone who is just getting interested in the sport. The flip side of that is having women-only classes available, to have a safe space for women to learn!

Women who are already in the sport usually have an idea of the problems we face. Unfortunately, one of the obstacles remains sexist and exclusive language or concepts that men use in the sport. I find the common misconception that we do not have enough strength can be overcome by “working smarter, not harder.” Crank that winch handle!
If women are referred to as eye-candy or rail-meat, instead of being allowed to participate in the skills needed to sail or dock a boat, they will continue to feel incapable and fear the challenges.
Until these attitudes change, the problems will continue where women feel harassed and denied access .

“…in those moments when the environment becomes less benign, sailing becomes far more of an adventure, testing the limits of my ability to think and act quickly to ensure survival.
” – Captain Laurel Seaborn

Captain Laurel Seaborn can be found sailing at American Sailing Academy Key Largo