ASA Featured Instructor: Jennifer Wirth

By: Instructors, Schools, women on the water

Captain Jennifer Wirth of Blue Water Sailing Florida

Captain Jennifer Wirth’s bio reads like an extensive sailing log but one thing that catches our eye is this: “She spent the next six years sailing the Caribbean, living on self-caught seafood and fresh island fruit, enjoying the self-reliance and empowerment of “cruising simple.” It is in that description of who she is as a sailor that she possesses a little bit of what we all want to be. Her life has been about sailing and it continues to be from chartering to teaching.

Captain Jennifer Wirth is ASA’s Featured Instructor

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ASA: What got you into sailing?

Captain Jennifer Wirth:

I started sailing at the age of 14, when one summer my dad encouraged me to join the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center and take lessons with other kids. This was a great way to occupy my summer months and meet new friends! I ended up crewing on racing boats during the summer months, then ultimately joined the Women’s team at UW-Madison during college. My sail cruising career started soon after college when I spent 7 years cruising throughout the Bahamas and Caribbean on a 23 foot Herreshoff cutter. I later earned my USCG 100ton Master license and ASA Instructor certification, and for the last 22 years, I have been teaching full time.

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ASA: What was your most memorable student or class?
Captain Jennifer Wirth:

I have so many great students and sailing class memories! I guess the most memorable was on one morning, while at anchor on the school’s 37 foot catamaran, we woke up to discover a stowaway onboard….an 8ft Python snake was quietly curled up on the shelves in the main salon! While waiting for Fish and Wildlife to have the beast removed, the crew named him Pete, and proceeded to ad-lib a musical tribute to Pete…the crew was good natured about the whole ordeal.

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ASA: Your favorite place to sail?
Captain Jennifer Wirth:

The Bahamas is by far my favorite cruising grounds. But there are sooo many good places!

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

Captain Jennifer Wirth:

Sailing is a lifestyle, whether you cruise full time, day sail, or get out on the racecourse. The skills and knowledge of sailing can translate into everyday life experiences. There are so many facets of sailing that can apply to general life situations, from problem solving to survival skills, to spatial relationships and respect for the world around us. Anyone can learn to sail. From age 8 to 80, sailing is a sport/hobby for life.

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ASA: Why do you Sail?

Captain Jennifer Wirth:

Sailing is my passion. Sailing is empowering because of this sense of self-reliance that I feel and the confidence that I attain. My desire to be independent, to be a problem solver, to enjoy my natural environment all drive me to sail.

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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 Jennifer Wirth:

When young children learn to sail, they are often prepared for challenges in life, including the operation of other moving craft. Conversely, if an adult woman can drive a vehicle, or ride a bicycle, she can sail. Women need to know that, but they also need to know that the kinds of skills they learn when sailing can apply elsewhere, as well as the awesome feelings of empowerment and independence that come from commanding your own sailboat! Some of the most confident women I know are sailors. Local sailing clubs are a great place to get started, where one can take lessons, crew on a racing boat, participate in cruising events, and meet other women who own their own sailboats (and that’s inspiring!).

I suppose there is the stigma that if a woman that joins a club alone may be perceived as “looking for a partner”, rather than joining for the camaraderie of other sailors, male or female.
I cannot think of any other reason than just that the sport is not widely known, in general, and access to the water is limited. For those women who do sail, it takes a passionate drive and some “tough skin” to enter the male-dominated world of boating.

“My desire to be independent, to be a problem solver, to enjoy my natural environment all drive me to sail.
” – Captain Jennifer Wirth

Captain Jennifer Wirth can be found sailing at Blue Water Sailing School in Florida

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