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Helping Make a Sailor’s Dreams Come True

In the February issue of Latitude 38 we shared a letter that 22-year-old Rachel Morris wrote to renowned sailor Liz Clark. Rachel is looking for a mentor who can help her realize her dream of making a life from sailing. Liz was so impressed with Rachel’s letter and story that she sent it to us.

When 25-year-old Liz Clark solo-sailed south from Santa Barbara in 2005 aboard the Cal 40 Swell, she had little idea what lay in store beyond surfing and exploring new places. Almost 16 years later, she has become an author, motivational speaker, environmental advocate, and an inspiration to many — especially to other young women hoping to fulfill their own dreams of adventure. Liz gets lots of letters and emails from young people, but this one was so eloquent and heartfelt, she asked us if we would share it so that the author might find her perfect mentor, like Liz, who was so fortunate to find hers in Dr. Barry Schuyler. Liz is currently taking a break from cruising
to focus on her environmental activism from her land base in French Polynesia, where Swell is moored out in front.

Liz Clark, My name is Rachel Morris, I have a big dream and I am hoping you can help me make it a reality. I am sorry if this is long or if you receive many of these kinds of emails, but I have a driving feeling that I need to send this on the off chance that you can help me.

I want to sail. I want to sail so bad my stomach gets butterflies just thinking about it in my small apartment in the mountains of North Carolina. I am 22 years old and teach second grade at an alternative school in Asheville. I have recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Neuroscience and Psychology, and before July 2020, had never sailed before. But this dream has been deep in my bones, floating around my head and up in the stars for my whole life.

Rachel on boat
The lack of proper foul weather gear on the sail to Bermuda didn’t dampen Rachel’s spirit.
© 2021 Rachel Morris

My greatest role model was my great aunt, Nina Ann. She sailed all around before getting breast cancer and moving her boat to Lake Norman, NC, to receive chemotherapy. My very earliest memories are there, aboard her boat called Pure Joy. I would sit in her lap in the cockpit, wearing her red baseball hat, while she told me how she would teach me to sail once she got better. Unfortunately, cancer won the battle before that happened. She died when I was 5. I have been wearing a red baseball cap and searching for the perfect sailing mentor ever since. I rejected any typical path to learning to sail due to the deep desire for some older person to take me under their wing and teach me.

Rachel and Nina Ann
A vey young Rachel with her great aunt, Nina Ann.
© 2021 Rachel Morris

This May, with inter-generational sailing magic on my side, I got the craziest last-minute opportunity to hop on board a Swan 48 to compete in the Spirit of Bermuda Rally. My first time sailing was a mad dash to Bermuda and back, beating upwind the entire way there. Baptism by fire. I began to love fighting my way through making dinner for everyone. I got better at tacking and slowly gained confidence going forward, even in large seas. I grinned through the 48 hours we played ‘dodge squall’ and cried during my night watch when I saw bioluminescence for the first time. Being offshore was the most exhausting, exhilarating, fulfilling thing I have ever experienced.

Keep reading in February’s Latitude 38.


1 Comment

  1. Jon H. 3 years ago

    Rachel’s letter is a very compelling reason to believe that her dreams of a life of sailing will come to fruition. Sailing offshore is everything she said, but even better is an offshore night watch. May good luck and moderate winds follow her path.

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