Sailing gave boater confidence to leave comfort zone

Meet Glenn Patron, 79, a retired small business owner based in Coconut Grove. He’s on his sixth sailboat, a Hunter 35 sloop named Island Princess. “Hokey,” but the boat came with the name, he says.

His take on sailing: “It changed my life... It gave me enough self-confidence and wisdom to keep reaching farther and beyond my old goals.”

How did you first get involved in boating?
I was a sickly, nerdy kid who only read and dreamed about living a life of adventure. When I was 13, I begged my father to buy me a sailboat. He bought me a Blue Jay but with the stipulation that it would be stored in our backyard until my grades improved. After a year of poor grades, I built a wooden cradle for the hull and found a way to mount it on stacks of old car tires so, when I raised the sails the boat would heel as though it was on the water. That was the start. My grades did not improve and, after two years, he sold it. But by then I had a basic understanding of rigging and sail handling.

Where have you traveled with your boat?
All the Caribbean, the East Coast of the U.S., Portugal Transatlantic, Spain and the western Mediterranean on a 56'-ketch. Learning to sail put me in a position to travel to exotic places and learn the skills necessary to be self-sufficient, so that my wife Gale and I could spend 25 years cruising. Gale, who grew up sailing, has been my teacher, my crew and my sailing muse.”

Which destination do you most enjoy and why?
Mallorca, one of Spain’s Balearic Islands. It’s a sailor’s paradise and has everything you could want (aside from the snow) on land.

What are your must-have items on board?
Reading matter and ice.

Describe your biggest challenge on the water:
Learning to keep everything on the boat working.

What would be your dream boat?
My answer would have been different at various periods in the past. However, today my dream boat is a mass-produced 35-foot that is easy to handle and fix, and yet is a comfortable weekender. Advice to new boaters? Keep trying. Keep learning.