Carole Heller: Got the Offshore Disease

Published on September 24th, 2015

WindCheck_September_2015_web_file_page74_image1Having sailed across the Atlantic five times and delivered countless boats, expert navigator Carole Heller is a self-described sailing addict.

“I grew up in New York City in a non-sailing family,” says Carole, who lives in Fairfield, Connecticut with her husband Warren. “I went to summer camp in Vermont for many years, and when I was 12 they bought two sailboats. There was only one sailing counselor, and within two weeks I was running the second boat. My attraction to sailing was instantaneous, although I had to make my own way. I graduated from college in 1961, and a couple years later a camp friend called and said, ‘How about we buy a Lightning? We can get one for $900.’ We daysailed the Lightning out of City Island that summer, learned a lot and had some excitement. Then I met Warren and got engaged, so we sold the boat.

“Warren was in the Navy, and after we were married he got stationed in Newport. The Navy had a nice fringe benefit: For fifty cents, I could sail a Rhodes 19 for half a day. For another fifty cents, Warren could take lessons. We did lots of sailing, and it was fabulous. I saw a sign for the Newport Sail and Power Squadron, and took as many of their boating courses as I could. Those were the America’s Cup days, and a friend would get us tickets to go out on a destroyer for the races. One day, I met a couple on board and discovered something amazing – ordinary people could afford boats they could sleep on! They invited us out on their boat, and the hook sunk even deeper!

“We moved to Fairfield in 1969. Warren’s uncle gave us $1,000, and we bought a Rhodes 18. Our son Eric was three when our daughter Robin was born in 1971. I told Warren, ‘We’re using whatever we have in the bank on a boat that I can put this baby on, because I am not spending the summer on land!’ We bought a 27-foot Pearson Renegade.

“I’d taken lots of classes with the Penfield Power Squadron, including celestial navigation. I knew I wanted to go offshore, and needed a boat in which to do it. I saw a Pearson 323 at a boat show, and a month later we visited the dealer. It had what I needed to sail to Bermuda, and Sublime was delivered the following spring.

“In 1979, Warren and I and three friends sailed Sublime to Bermuda, using celestial. Eric flew down and sailed back to Connecticut with us. At age 10, he was a total sailor and could do anything on the boat. We did it again three years later, when Robin was 10. I said, ‘When we leave the dock I am your captain, not your mother.’ They’d both done well in the sailing program at Cedar Point Yacht Club, and every college application essay they wrote was about sailing to Bermuda. Those four legs were the roughest I’ve ever done, including a norther in the Stream with 25-foot waves. The book said that with a storm trysail and storm jib the boat would take care of us, and she did. Now I was really in trouble…I had offshore disease!” – WindCheck Magazine, full story

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