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Alone, Yet in the Company of Others

You don’t have to race aboard a foiling catamaran to enjoy sailing. Just ask 87-year-old Don Person, whose passion is ‘Pottering’.

© 2015 Goose Gossman

Few quotes are more overused by boating writers than Kenneth Graham’s famous line from The Wind in the Willows: "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." But we can think of no group to which that statement more aptly applies than Potter Yachters. In fact, "messing about" is implicit in the brand’s name, as "potter" is Brit English for "putter."

In the item we published last Wednesday on 100-year-old sailor Connie Spanier, we asked readers to tell us about other senior sailors. Jim ‘Goose’ Gossman wrote in to let us know that Potter-Yachting in the Bay Area is going strong: " We have about 80 members, with average age pushing 70. Many are in their late 70s and several in their 80s. Talk about hanging with cool role models! At 63, I have something to look forward to. The group has a dozen or so events each year to various locations.  

"Don Person, at 87, is the "Council of Elder," and my hero. He rigs, launches, and sails his Potter 15 every Wednesday in Alameda, joining  several cronies for lunch. He attends almost all PY events and overnighters (including the Messabout in the San Juans for two weeks in the fall). Always smiling, he is relaxed, nimble, and quick (sailing and thinking). He knows when and how to reef, and when to start the motor.  

At age 63, Goose Gossman is a mere pup among Bay Area Potter-Yachters.

Goose Gossman
©2015Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"Harry Gordon is 86, and has been sailing his 1967 Potter 14 since it was new! He experiments with his sailing rigs, still flies airplanes, and also smiles a lot. He built a custom-reefing lateen rig, and keeps up with the stock boats.

"Two weeks ago we had the Cruiser Challenge in Monterey, with 33 boats. The group doesn’t race much, but still enjoys a little competition. Many have trouble seeing and hearing starting signals, and following confusing race instructions, so this is our only formal race. Bud Kerner and David White (both mid 70s) took four days to sail down to the event  from Rio Vista (about 150 miles). Part of the Potter-Yachter creed is "we sail alone yet in the company of others.” This helps ensure a long and safe career on the water. Knowing one’s limitations and acceptable comfort levels is key." Words to live by. We’ll have more on West Coast sailing elders in the September issue of Latitude 38 magazine. 

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