In the October 2015 issue of Blue Water Sailing, I wrote an article about SheSails, a Seattle-based company started and operated by two women who want to spend their days teaching other women how to love sailing as much as they do. This is how the article starts:
Meet two kick-ass women : Lisa Cole (45) and Rhonda Lyon (51). Cole is a sassy redhead with a lightening-fast tongue; Lyon is a strong-and-silent blonde who gives the unmistakable impression that she doesn’t miss a thing. They both live in Seattle, and together they are quietly redefining the way women learn to sail.
The two sailors met in 2012 at a cruiser’s party in Puget Sound, where they quickly became friends. Cole had brought her own sailboat to the meet-up, and she was noticing something important. “Women were begging to sail with me,” she says, “which made me recognize a need in the community. Women want a safe place to learn. They want to connect with other women. And they want to feel empowered.” She understood that need, because her own experience of learning to sail had been less than ideal. “I took sailing lessons through the City of Seattle,” she remembers, “and they were downright traumatic. But I knew it could be different.”
So in 2014, she left her job at Amazon and poured her energy into sailing. She worked as a crew member, taught lessons for other companies, attended sailing classes at the Royal Yachting Academy, and earned her captain’s license. “I spent 200 days on the water that year,” she remembers. “Sailing went from being a hobby to being everything. [Rhonda] Lyon and I had been talking theoretically about starting a business for a long time, and suddenly it became a reality.” They formed SheSails Seattle in late 2014, and they have been teaching women to sail ever since.
The full article can be found in the October issue of Blue Water Sailing. In the meantime, I can’t help but share these photos, which were taken for the article but ultimately not published due to space constraints. They show Lisa, Rhonda, and Vayu, their beautiful boat, who is named for the Hindu goddess of wind. Vayu is moored on Lake Union, just north of downtown Seattle, where she and her owners have lots of friends.
I met Lisa and Rhonda on a beautiful late summer day, so we did a spontaneous on-the-water interview. The boat skimmed lightly across Lake Union while they told me their story, and because the weather was perfect (and because I begged!) they gave me an impromptu sailing lesson. I’ve done just enough sailing to understand that boats can somehow be both a floating sanctuary and a high-pressure hell, but as I went through my lesson, I was startled to find that Vayu held only good feelings: we spoke in calm, constructive ways; problems were solved simply and expediently; and the two women were so confident and self-assured that I felt safe and relaxed all day. When I got home my hair smelled like water and wind, and I thought: Oh, that’s how it’s supposed to be.
All photographs are courtesy of Bryan Aulick. For more information, check out SheSails Seattle, where Lisa and Rhonda offer lessons, charters, and cruises — and be sure to mention this post to get 10% off.