Mental health and sailing Apalachee Bay

The semester and academic year are finally over. This was a good enough reason to take advantage of fair winds and spend a mental health day sailing Apalachee Bay. So we reserved the Apalachee Bay Yacht Club’s 22 Capri, Maxie, and set out.

The forecast had called for rain in the afternoon, making an outing a bit risky. We ended up having blissfully sunny skies with a steady 5-8 knot breeze that kept the Florida heat at bay.

I continue to learn with each outing. More accurately, I am realizing that sailing (and boating) is a continuous learning process. Every element of each day is different, and our boats respond differently to each element.

A glorious sailing day is good for the soul

On this day, we faced a steady breeze, unusually high tides (nearly two feet over our typical low tide), and southeasterly winds. This gave my crew and I a few opportunities to experiment with setting the main sail and jib in different configurations.

The weather was stunning. A clear sky allowed us to gaze miles to the horizon. The temperatures hovered in the mid-80s Fahrenheit (about 29.4 Celsius), but we were comfortable with the steady breeze. We experienced a few somewhat stronger gusts at times that picked up our speed. The day, however, allowed us to take in the peace and quiet of a beautiful day. In short, our day sail provided a perfect mental health day.

The video below is a great example of how we could simply hear the boat glide easily and peacefully through the water. The protected location of Apalachee Bay contributed to this bucolic marine setting.

Our experience today was very different from several previous outings which were characterized by stiff winds which tested Maxie‘s design limits. In one case, we called off a race and returned to the harbor.

Threading the needle under sail

The conditions also presented me with an opportunity try something for the first time as skipper: sailing without motor assist back to Maxie‘s slip at the Apalachee Bay Yacht Club. We would travel from the main part of the bay into the marked channel, through the notorious “doughnut,” and back to the slip

The doughnut is a shoal that bisects the channel leading out from the canal where the yacht club (and Maxie‘s slip) is located. Boats have a narrow pathway to traverse. In a previous outing, we returned on a falling tide and ran aground while trying to give a pontoon boat on the way out enough room to pass. Fortunately, the ground is mud, and backing into clear water was easy with our outboard motor.

To get back to the Yacht Club slip under wind power, we would have to zig zag (tack and jibe) in northerly and easterly directions.

Today, a steady southerly breeze meant we entered the doughnut while running with the wind (the wind coming at our backs). We would have to jibe (turn with the stern of the boat going through the wind) so that the wind would come across our starboard beam as we sailed through the doughnut.

As we entered the doughnut, our northeasterly direction, combined with the land peninsula that protects the channel, took some of the speed off our boat. Jibing is a very dangerous maneuver because the boom typically moves violently and unpredictably as the wind catches the mainsail. In the video below, you can hear the wrenching noise from the boom – the metal bar holding the bottom of the mainsail – as the sails adjust to the shifting wind.

The higher than usual tide gave us plenty of room to maneuver. Thus, even if another boat passed us we would have been able to avoid them easily.

Coasting into home

Attentive watchers of the two video clips of us sailing through the doughnut might hear the faint sound of a motor in the background. As a safety precaution, we started the outboard motor to ensure we had enough headway to maneuver. If we lost the wind or started drifting to close to other boats or the side of the canal, the motor would allow us to make a quick adjustment. The motor, however, was in neutral the entire time.

Once through the doughnut we continued to take advantage of the breeze to take us into the canal. The video below (and above) is real time, so we were entering the canal at a faster clip than sailing past the doughnut.

To cheers for mental health, sailing, and Apalachee Bay!

The 22 Capri is turning out to be a great boat for learning, fine tuning my sailing skills, and protecting my mental health. My friend Sondra Lee, who will soon be sailing full-time around the America’s with her husband Jimmy, has a great recent article on the joy of sailing this boat on their blog “In the Lee.”

We left Maxie nestled snugly and safely in her slip at the Apalachee Bay Yacht Club around 4:30 pm. This was a great time to take a few minutes and meditate on the joy of sailing and being in nature.

Author: SR Staley
SR Staley has one more than 11 literary awards for his fiction and nonfiction writing. He is on the full-time faculty of the College and Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University as well as a film critic and research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California. His award-winning Pirate of Panther Bay series ( has won awards in historical fiction, mainstream & literary fiction, young adult fiction, and reached the finals in women's fiction. His most recent book is "The Beatles and Economics: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and the Making of a Cultural Revolution" due out in April 2020 (Routledge).