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A Little Advice for Beginners and Would-Be Sailors

Photo courtesy of Sail Solomons

Photo courtesy of Sail Solomons

Sailing seems a little intimidating to some people, and we can understand why. They may think all sailors are members of yacht clubs, own sleek racing or cruising boats, or have extensive skills and training. To master the sport, those things can be helpful, but none of them are necessary to give sailing a try. Here we’ve compiled some suggestions from new sailors whom we’ve profiled. Then we filled in the gaps with words of wisdom from some of our veteran sailing friends.

Attitude is Key
If you have the desire, don’t regret not trying. Like anything new, you may feel awkward at first, but stick with it. With some time on the water, you’ll quickly get your sea legs and begin picking up basic terminology. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Most sailors love to share their knowledge. You’ll be surprised how many experienced sailors enjoy having new sailors who are eager to learn on their boats. If you enjoy other outdoor sports, we think you’ll find sailing is a great way to combine getting outside with physical and mental challenges, all while spending time with friends.

Finding the Right Fit
Try racing and cruising. New sailors who try both are sometimes surprised by which they prefer. When you’re looking for a crew to join, ask your sailing friends for advice on which boats and skippers enjoy training new sailors. If your first boat isn’t a good fit, don’t take it personally. Sometimes a boat owner is searching strategically for crew based on size, strength, or personality. Boats, skippers, and crews have different temperaments. Find one that fits you.

Ways to get started
Take a class at a sailing school that’s American Sailing Association (ASA) or U.S. Sailing sanctioned.
When your friends with boats invite you to go for a sail, say ‘yes’ and arrive with a twelve pack or other beverage of choice. Then soak up all the sailing time and knowledge you can.
Sign up for the First Sail Workshops offered during the spring and fall sailboat shows in Annapolis. You’ll get a low cost introduction to sailing on a Beneteau First 22.
Find a sailing club and explore membership options. Don’t be discouraged if it seems pricey at first blush; just go down and introduce yourself as someone who wants to try out sailing. Most often they’ll make it so you can get on a boat and see if you want to pursue further learning. It’s an easy, non-committal way to see if sailing something you enjoy doing.
Look into working at the fall sailboat show in Annapolis, where you might just hook up as crew on cruising boats sailing south.
Connect with your local community sailing program. These organizations offer lessons and access to boats at reasonable rates. Check out D.C. Sail, Annapolis Community Boating, the Downtown Sailing Center (Baltimore), and Sail Nauticus (Norfolk).

Be prepared to:
Show up in athletic clothes and non-skid shoes.
Learn something different on each boat and from each coach.
Trim sails, steer the boat, use proper sailing terms, prep the boat before leaving the dock, and clean up and stow gear upon return.
Spend a little money, but not break the bank. Some sailors have a shoestring budget, others spend big bucks. Cost should not prevent you from trying.
Form wonderful friendships and create lasting memories.

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