Hi Terry - My wife is blonde, not left handed and approaching the half-century mark. She just started learning how to sail the AI after spending time on a Hobie Outback Kayak for a few years. ... while I've been sailing small craft practically my whole life, she had never handled a sailboat by herself before but she is quite comfortable on the water (we are both certified and experienced SCUBA divers).
I purchased a second AI for her a few months ago and we have both been out together now 3 times in light to moderate winds and all three times were very positive experiences for her.
She gets overwhelmed easily processing large amounts of (new) information (I'm NOT going to say thats a blonde thing
) so I showed her the very basics of furling/unfurling the sail and we set off with me doing most of the set up to the rig ready. The first sail, even with light winds I only had her let out about half the sail - plenty to get the boat moving and get a feel for being under power. With me close by and coaching her to "feel" for the wind she caught on to tacking and setting the sail for max power quite easily. I had her furl / unfurl the sail at least a dozen times as this is something you have to get used to doing and can be a bit challenging when under good power the first couple of times. Its all just managing your lines and there are only two .. well really one if you tie the two ends together !! (which you should)
The next trip out I assisted her setting the boat up explaining each step ... and we were off again for a great 4 hr sail including a stop on a small island for lunch. She became quite comfortable on the AI and we weren't -><- this close together like the first sail ...
The next trip out she was on her own - I helped carry the equipment for setup, but she had to put it together and get it all right for launch ... and get herself launched successfully. With coaching and instruction she did great. I had her sail a 4 mile triangle circuit with a beaching at one point so this time it wasn't just "where ever the winds take me" and she had to plan her tacks and point of sail accordingly .. a bit of a challenge, but since she had gotten used to the boat the previous two timex out it wasn't too much to ad to the job list.
I've taught quite a few people how to sail small craft over the years and i have to say - by FAR - the Hobie Adventure Island is about the easiest boat to learn on for two main reasons: 1) its almost impossible to flip so that scare factor when the wind grabs you is gone .. and 2) it is VERY easy to de-power by furling - either completely, or just enough so you don't feel like you're out of control. It is really like having a throttle and you set how fast/slow you want to go and adjust this to your comfort level.
We are taking a Hobie Island camping/sailing vacation the last 2 weeks in September and will be traveling ~1,400 from Long Island up through New England visiting several large lakes for a few days each as well as Acadia Nation Park. All will be day sailing from campsites / friends' homes with other non-sailing activities as well to break it up
... The most exciting thing for me right now is how much she is looking foward to the trip !!