Setting a Course for Freedom: Brooke McFarlane’s Story

Bisexual – A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree. Sometimes used interchangeably with pansexual. – Human Rights Campaign

Age/name/years on the water/location
31, Brooke McFarlane, 14 years, wherever the hook drops!

What was the first boat you ever sailed? What was the experience like?
My first date with my future spouse (Nia) was on Lake Lanier in Georgia, and we sailed a 1996 Beneteau 321. I was hooked immediately! My spouse has been sailing since they were 8-9 years old, so I had a fabulous teacher! I had zero background knowledge and had only been on a few motor boats, so the learning curve was steep. Slowly but surely I started soaking everything in like a sponge. I can remember laying on the foredeck, looking up at the beautiful sails and thinking how did I not do this sooner?! It was like I had unlocked an entire world that I didn’t even know existed. It literally changed everything about the trajectory of my life (more on that later). Even after many years of sailing the Beneteau, the sailing concepts just didn’t actually click for me until I experienced dinghy sailing. I hopped on a Sunfish, flipped it over, and really got to feel the what, how, and why of sailing.

What about your first race? What kind of boat did you sail, what was the experience like?
The first boat I raced on was a Beneteau Oceanis 37. It was a very chill race with little wind. Nia has a lot more racing experience than I do, so I’ll jot down some of her answers. Nia’s first race was on a Santana 525. It was exciting, a bit of information overload, fast paced, and a lot of fun! After that she raced on the following: J29, San Juan 24, Cal 30, Hobie 18.

What made you fall in love with sailing?
FREEDOM! The freedom to go wherever you want no matter how far away was really intriguing. The freedom to escape from society if even just for a brief moment. The freedom to strip down and dance naked in the rain (we prefer anchorages over marinas). The freedom that comes with being out on the water sailing is unmatched. Carrying your entire home with you to places unknown is thrilling. We were privileged to have the opportunity to go on many sailboat charters in the Caribbean with Nia’s family while we were still in college. We chartered boats (mostly Beneteaus and Leopard catamarans) in the BVI, St. Martin, St Kitts, Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & The Grenadines, and Grenada. My favorite charter (the one that solidified our future plans) was our honeymoon. It was just the two of us on a Beneteau 50.5 in St. Lucia. That charter allowed me to prove to myself that I could be a competent first mate/co-captain. The confidence I gained from that trip changed everything! From then on we knew we didn’t want to buy a house, but a sailboat instead.

What are you currently doing within the sport? ie teaching, cruising the world, racing etc. Tell us about your current/planned adventures.
After our honeymoon charter, we started making steps to sell our Beneteau on the lake, and purchase our first “house” – a bluewater monohull. We went to Annapolis in 2019 to boat shop and found a well cared for Hylas. The moment we stepped aboard, we knew she was the one! We currently live aboard SV Noulli, a 1987 Hylas 44. After buying Noulli, we sailed her offshore from Annapolis to Hilton Head and began outfitting her for our cruising needs. Currently, we’re in the Bahamas finishing up our second cruising season. We have plans to come back next year and who knows how far south we’ll go! We enjoy spending hurricane season at a lovely, cruiser-friendly marina in Brunswick, Georgia. I also teach a “Sailboat Basics” class and hold a weekly “Sailing Club” to young learners online. Thanks to Starlink, I’m able to continue working remotely from the boat to fund our cruising kitty.

What is/was your favorite boat to sail on, and why?
Any sailboat that’s perfectly balanced. It’s so hard to pick just one because if you know how to trim those sails just right, then any boat can be an amazing boat! I do prefer monohulls to catamarans because I have seasickness more often on catamarans. Embracing the tilt of a monohull just feels right for some reason, and I rarely get seasick. I love to sail our Hylas 44. We recently added a solent jib to our sail configuration and love our options while offshore. She surfs down waves and sails like a dream!

What is your biggest achievement in sailing? This can be anything from buying a boat, to rebuilding the engine to first major race/cruise.
My biggest achievement would probably be the time we rounded Cape Hatteras after just buying the boat. That was a trip! Another achievement would be the first time we took our boat to the Bahamas after we had lived on it stateside for 2 years. We were really patient with ourselves about being ready to push off the dock and start cruising. Its so easy to compare what other cruisers are doing, but it’s so important to stay true to yourself and go at the pace that makes you happy!

What would you like to tell inexperienced/younger sailors or someone on the fence with trying?
We see so many new sailors move aboard a boat and burn themselves out trying to get to Grenada for their first ever hurricane season, or they may try to circumnavigate immediately. If that’s your style go for it – but don’t feel discouraged if you realize slow is better for you. Enjoy every moment, and soak it all in! Learning how to sail is like drinking through a firehose, but it will get easier the more you do it. You’re going to make mistakes, forgive yourself and try to be solution-focused rather than problem-focused. Sailing on a Sunfish (or any smaller sailing dinghy) was the best thing I could’ve ever done for my understanding. You’re joining the best community out there, so don’t be shy if you ever need a hand!

Whats something you would like to impart on veteran sailors?
No question is a stupid question. Being a lifelong learner is a good thing. Don’t forget to drink lots of water, and take care of your body. No one ever regretted being patient. See you out there!

What do you like to do when ashore and not working on sailing things? ie biking, cooking, scrapbooking, gardening etc.
When I’m not sailing I spend time going to the beach with our two Jack Russell terriers, Kuda and Nori. They are basically our children, and they are the best boat dogs! I also enjoy a good book, have a wicked sweet tooth, and enjoy watching movies.

How do you identify? Anything else you would like others to know about you? Website/Facebook link to share? An interesting fact about you?
I identify as a Bisexual cisgender woman and use she/her pronouns. My beautiful wife Nia identifies as a lesbian, trans woman and uses she/her/they/them pronouns. A fun fact about me is that my parents took my family across the country in an RV to hike the Grand Canyon when I was 9 years old. That’s probably where my love of an adventurous, nomadic lifestyle began! You can follow our adventures on Instagram at @sns_sailing.

Special thanks to Rainbow Races for providing this sailor profile!

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