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Women at the Helm: Capt. Nanette Grantham

When Nanette Grantham was four she began water skiing; as she grew her dream did also, she wanted to go to Cyprus Gardens and do “fancy” skiing with her brother. Born in Pontiac, Michigan, Nan began ice boating at ten on Walden Lake, just north of Detroit, where her father worked for Pontiac Motors. After graduation from Northern Michigan University, Nan married a sailor and bought a 14’ sailboat, racing it in one design racing near their home in Tampa, Florida. The couple divorced but remain good friends.

In 1984 Nan bought a 1975 Morgan 25’, XtaSea and raced as a member of the Women’s Yacht Racing Association and the St Petersburg Sailing Association. Even though she was the Race Committee Chairperson for WYRA, she continued racing on XtaSea until 1993. “Between WRYA, St. Pete’s Sailing Association and club regattas, I raced 3 weekends in a month. Since my 9hp outboard never worked, I had to sail XtaSea into the slip at the Marina with my son, Bret, who was 10 years old. As a single parent, it was rewarding to spend quality time with him, cruising and winning some races.”

“After having been laid off from a large insurance company in 1991, I went to work as a sailing instructor for Annapolis Sailing School. I stayed there for six months before working again within the insurance industry. Then in 1992 Hurricane Andrew hit Florida – my employer didn’t need a Marketing Representative, so I took off in XtaSea and spent five months sailing the west coast of Florida from St Petersburg to The Keys. This was a terrific experience and was really important in my life. I gained so much knowledge from being on my own – having to set two anchors, changing headsails while I was under sail with no auto pilot and dealing with the fact I was the only female skipper when entering an anchorage.”

“My goal for 25 years was to bring my boat to the Caribbean and retire here before I was too old to enjoy it. I believe that if you really, really want to do something you can do it. In ’98 I took a financially rewarding one year contract, with CNA Insurance Company in Chicago that gave me the opportunity to follow my dream. So in ’98 I sold XtaSea and bought Mai Dire Ma, a 37′ O’Day, which in Italian means Never Say Never. I sailed to the BVI in 2000, checking in at Jost Van Dyke.” In Tortola Nan received her trade license for West Indies Sailing School where she is a certified sailing instructor for both ASA and US Sailing.

“Now in 2006 my dream is realized. I teach about 20+ weeks a year and then return to my house in Tampa during hurricane season to do general maintenance – the rest of the time I live in the BVI. My most favorite times in the Caribbean are lying in my aft cabin on one of our lovely breezy nights – with a good book and knowing that Mai Dire Mai has been taking care of me all of these years. I give her a little pat and thank the winds for my good fortune.”

I think that our readers will agree – that anyone who loves the wind, sailing and the Caribbean to that extent cannot help but be a great instructor. Nan, I feel your students are very lucky. You can contact Nan at captnan@hotmail.com or phone 1-284-499-1993.

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