Sailor Interview: Ashley Schaffert Laderer
Name: Ashley Schaffert Laderer
Boat Type (what type of boat are you looking at purchasing?): Something between 25-30 ft. Ideally, a Catalina, O'Day or Ericson.
Home Port: Buffalo, NY
Current Location: Buffalo, NY
How long have you been interested in boating?: Oh man, it's been years. I've always been drawn to the water in one way or another. After I graduated college in 2010, I worked as a dayworker on yachts in Florida for a couple of months before moving to Boston with my boyfriend (now husband) after he accepted a job there. Once we moved to Boston, I worked as a photographer on the New England Aquarium Whale Watch boat. Although I was primarily taking photos, I was still part of the crew and took part in all of the training aspects. All of my friends and coworkers were into boating so it's something I spent a lot of time doing in my free time as well.
How did you get started sailing?: I had friends in Boston that were into sailing and that's when I first got my taste of it. However, I didn't spend enough time doing it to really learn and absorb that knowledge so I fell out of it for a while. Once we moved back to Buffalo, I really wanted to get into sailing photography. I discovered the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club and met with the commodore about photographing the races. We got to talking about sailing and how I wanted to learn more and she brought me on her boat as a crew member for Tuesday night racing. We have an all-female crew and race on a beautiful J33. This summer will be my third year with the club.
What brought you to the decision to begin shopping for a boat?: All of my sailing knowledge and experience thus far has come from racing. It's been a great learning experience but also, at times, a chaotic one. There isn't always time to learn, especially when you are in the middle of a race. The Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club has a "Discover Buffalo Sailing" program for people who want to learn to sail. I went through that program (since it is not in a race setting) and it was wonderful. But there are still things I lack experience on. I don't have a lot of experience at the helm, or any knowledge on navigation or sailboat maintenance. Having my own boat will allow me to cruise and learn more at my own pace without the pressure of racing. Plus, I have such a passion for sailing in general (not just racing) that it makes sense that the next step would be to have a boat I can call my own.
What are your plans once you have a boat?: I will likely purchase a boat that may or may not need a bit of TLC, so the plan is to learn as much as I can about the boat and it's workings. We will casually cruise around Lake Erie and be "weekend liveaboards" (if that's a thing) once we buy, but I really want to be able to have a boat to bring our future kids on and teach them about sailing....to be a family activity. I also think it would be awesome to eventually sail to other ports along the Great Lakes as well. Baby steps.
What are your three favorite aspects of boating?: The biggest reason is being on the water. I've been a water baby my whole life. Before getting into boating/sailing, I was a competitive swimmer for 10 years...all the way through college. I also love the challenge of sailing. A lot of people ask me "Why sailing? Why not just get a power boat?" Sailing is so much more than just turning a key and I love that. Lastly, the feeling that sailing gives me is great. Every time I step on a boat, my anxiety falls away. It's like being transported into another world for a while.
What are your three least favorite aspects of boating?: HAHA, I don't think I can think of three things just yet, but I will say that as much as I said I love the challenge of sailing, it's also overwhelming at times, especially when you are trying to learn a lot quickly. Since I mostly race, one thing that has frustrated me is sail trim. I know the basics, but in racing it's more intense, technical and down to the inch. (Maybe it's like that in cruising too...I don't know.) I'm definitely learning, but sometimes it drives me nuts.
What are the most useful pieces of advice you have received?: Patience. Sometimes I am pretty hard on myself because I race with way more experienced people. I never want to feel like I am letting the crew down in a race. But the people I sail with are amazing and are quick to remind me that this is something that takes years to perfect. There is always something to learn, no matter how experienced you are. It's easy to get caught up with other people are doing or how much they know. You have to treat even the small things as victories and trust that with time you will advance.
What misconceptions do people have about your lifestyle/decision to buy a boat?: For non-sailors, the idea of having a boat seems frivolous, but we all have our passions. Some people are into cars or frequent travel, etc. Yes, buying a boat and the upkeep can be financially demanding, but if you love it, budget correctly, and are willing to put the time in, it's definitely worth it and certainly not a waste.
What has been your most difficult obstacle?: As far as buying a boat, the biggest obstacle is the financial aspect. With the budget I have in mind, a lot of people ask me why I haven't bought one yet, since to them it seems doable now. But we do not live aboard, nor do we plan to. I am a freelance photographer and my husband and I own a house. My husband and family are very supportive of the idea of owning a boat, but between a mortgage and car payments and everything else, it takes a bit longer to save. It's definitely the next step and will likely happen within the next few years, but I want to take my time and learn a bit more.
What has been your most empowering moment along your learning journey?: This past season, I stepped into the trimming role (aside from foredeck), which has been frustrating, but also very rewarding to learn. To get that "you did a great job" from your skipper after a race is very validating to your progress. Plus, getting to know more people in the club has opened up more opportunities. This coming summer I will hopefully be helping out with boat deliveries, which will allow me to learn more about the cruising side of sailing. It hasn't happened yet but I am very excited about it and will likely feel pretty empowered after that.
What advice do you have for people going through the same process?: The same advice that has been given to me, patience. Patience not only in learning to sail, but in the boat buying process as well. Ask for help/advice and learn as much as you can. I have a friend who is a fellow sailor and yacht broker who recently walked me through the marina to look at all of the boats currently for sale. He showed me all sorts of things to look for when buying a boat...things I would have never have known about. Don't jump at something just because it's a good deal. Be patient and find the boat that is right for you.
How can we follow along?: You can find my blog and photography portfolio at www.morninggloryblogger.com