The Sailing Life

This article is from the summer edition of Mobile Baykeeper’s print quarterly, CURRENTS. The magazine is mailed to active members who have given more than $50 in 2023. To get on the magazine’s mailing list, donate here.

by Jes Gearing

A cool breeze from the east cuts the humid May air and sailboats dot the horizon near Gaillard Island. On a wooden deck overlooking the Bay, folks mill about and catch up on news of the week. Whose boat needs repairs or exactly how large is that alligator in the harbor? Someone looking to buy a catamaran asks a younger woman if she’ll teach him how to sail it. Her reply? “Of course, let me know when!” 

It’s just another Thursday night here at the Buccaneer Yacht Club, and nothing seems out of the ordinary until you realize that those looking for advice are requesting it from one of the western shore’s most respected sailors — Adelaide Deputy, or Addy, as she’s known to friends and family, a 15-year-old high-schooler with a bounty of stories about sailing on Mobile Bay. 

A rising sophomore at Alabama School of Math and Science, Addy is a remarkable teenager — she plays and referees soccer, reads dystopian novels, excels in school, and recently earned her lifeguarding certification. Her love of sailing, however, eclipses all these interests. In 2022, she captured the title in the Hobie Youth Wave US National Championships. (The Hobie Wave is a speedy type of catamaran.) 

Although she trains several times a week, Addy had little experience racing Hobie Waves when she competed at nationals in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. She edged out the competition by using her deep knowledge of the region’s wind tendencies and the racing tactics she fine-tuned through years of lessons at the Buccaneer Yacht Club. 

Born into a sailing family, Addy was learning the craft as soon as she could walk. One of her first childhood memories involves at- tending a mother-daughter sailing camp when she was three or four years old. At the three major yacht clubs on the Bay — Buccaneer, Fairhope, and Mobile — junior racing is a big deal, with every youth sailor training individually under different coaches. For Addy and the other juniors at the Buccaneer, members of the club pitched in as coaches, with Addy’s father, John Robert, taking the lead. 

“We ran on instinct here at the Buccaneer,” Addy says. “If you did a bad tack [a maneuver where you change the direction of the bow from one side of the wind to the other], Dad would take out your rudder and you’d have to run on your sails. We were taught how to use the wind and the angles to our advantage by playing ‘tag,’ where we’d throw a buoy to another boat and sail around it and then throw it to someone else.” 

In a competitive world known for star-powered coaching and repetitive drills, this reliance on instinct and quick adaptation to environmental conditions is what Addy believes sets her apart in competition, where storms can pop up in an instant and capsizing is all too common. 

The conditions on the Bay — shallow waters, variable winds, the ever-present push and pull of the tide — are both a source of comfort and concern for someone so young. 

“Things have changed a lot since I was a kid,” she says. “There’s a lot more mud in the Bay with everything washing out from the river and the tide doesn’t go as low as it used to. Even the winds — they blow out of the south now which is something we didn’t have before.” 

But Addy’s front-row seat to the ever-changing Bay also allows her to experience the small wonders that make this place so incredi- ble: manatees nudging boats in the yacht club’s harbor; memories of catching flounder on the shore using only a Cheeto as bait; dragging her fingers through neon-green phosphorescent algae during the “Round-the-Rig Regatta,” a popular local race. 

Regarding the future, Addy doesn’t know how it will all play out. She’s only a sophomore, but that also means decisions about col- leges and careers and questions about how sailing fits into it all. For her, being on Mobile Bay is important, but this may be somewhere she leaves and then returns to down the road. 

“I don’t want to give up academics and I don’t want to give up sailing,” she says. “But more than anything, I want to be able to go out every weekend and just hop on a boat. I just want it to be my life.”


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