Karen Foster and Jim McBrayer aboard McBrayer's sailboat at the Royal Palm Yacht Basin in Dania Beach. The sailing duo, who met about four years ago as members of Sailing Singles of South Florida, fell for each other during a cruise to Key West.

Sailing singles find love through mutual interest

Boaters find commitment through serious sailing

Navigating the singles scene can be as adventurous as sailing the seven seas — one day gliding smoothly under sunny skies and the next day facing the eye of a hurricane.

Sailing Singles of South Florida has experience in dealing with both kinds of challenges.

“We’re a social and sailing club; a wholesome group of people who want to make friends, be on boats and have exciting fun,” said the club’s leader Commodore Lynette Beal.

The group launched 26 years ago when boater Nancy Wolcott placed a “single sailor” personal ad in a newspaper, and about 20 singles showed up for dinner at a Davie restaurant.

“Some single sailors and some who had never been on a boat before met at a barbecue joint on Pine Island Road. By the end of the night, everyone tossed $20 on the table and away we went,” said James Bradford, a certified boat captain and a charter member.

The original group had only four boats among its scant membership. Today, about 170 members own dozens of sailboats and powerboats that they make available for day outings, weekend escapades and cruise adventures.

Favorite group sailing destinations include Bimini, Key West and any of the Caribbean islands. Raft up parties, snorkeling and simply drifting off Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade beaches provide quick jaunts anchored closer to home.

Beal said members average about 50 years old.

“But we have fun like we’re in high school. It’s important for singles to keep active, to enjoy the water and to make new friendships,” Beal said.

Land parties and meet ups also dot the club’s calendar. At 6 p.m. most Thursdays, the group hosts a social at Flip Flops Dockside Eatery along the Intracoastal in Fort Lauderdale. General business meetings are held monthly at Universal Palms Hotel & Conference Center in Fort Lauderdale.

Beal, who joined in 2010 and has served as social director, said almost every holiday, including Halloween and Christmas is celebrated on land or water.

In December, the club featured boats including five large yachts in the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade. Club members were able to hop from one boat to the other during festivities.

When Waterfront Times was going to press, plans were in the works for a Super Bowl 50 party. Boaters are also planning a February sailboat race to Cuba where they will spend three weeks on land and sea.

Boat ownership or previous knowledge about sailing is not required to join. Only two rules apply: be interested in sailing and be single.

And be prepared for romance.

Terry Patterson, a club member for 23 years, keeps track of member-to-member marriages. So far, she's counted 67. Four happened in 2015 alone.

“It’s a smart thing for singles to join groups that offer what they like to do. You meet so many like-minded people that way,” Patterson said.

Ken and Anita Bloemker, married two years now, met via the club in 2007 when both just wanted to have fun and make friends. They began to like each other when they teamed up on a kayak trip and spent most of their time laughing. Later, when she tried her hand at sailing for the first time as a crewmember on Ken’s sailboat, she was smitten.

“He was such a excellent instructor and I had a great time. He was just a lovely man to everyone,” Anita Bloemker said.

Bradford said married couples are welcome to remain in the club as long as they were both members when they met and tied the knot. As married members, they forfeit voting privileges and the ability to serve on the board.

Jim McBrayer, who became a member about four years ago, and Karen Foster who joined in 2010, were both long time sailors with intentions of making new friends with similar interests — but they fell for each other during a cruise to Key West.

“Most of the time when you sail with other people, you learn more about the psychology of sailing than how to sail through a storm,” Foster said.

Past commodore Max Goldstein, who joined after a divorce in 2001, said sailing is one of the best ways to get to know a person. Personality and character are quickly revealed in tight quarters where everyone must work together, he said.

“The mission for a single person who joins a singles club is to make friends in a social setting and possibly, hopefully, find a life partner. But a sailboat is not a cruise ship. You can’t hide on this boat,” Goldstein said.

Learning to be a strong participant is important, Beal said, though not mandatory.

Twice annually, members can attend Sailing Orientation Sessions (SOS), to learn sailing theory, terminology, safety, lines and knots, boat etiquette and dinghy handling. Members also learn at monthly meetings and with onboard experience.

“We prepare people for where they need to be when they go sailing. For instance, if someone wants to wear high heels on the boat, they learn that’s not a good idea,” Beal said.

For more information about Sailing Singles of South Florida, visit www.sailingsingles.org or email the commodore at commodoresssf@sailingsingles.org.