A cloud of obscenity still hangs over the san francisco bay, or gettin’ schooled

Yes, it’s true. I discovered the meaning of “swearing like a sailor” many years ago when Tig and I took dinghy sailing lessons at the Cal Sailing club. Tig even earned his Junior Skipper rating. But most amazing of all was my potty mouth that was unleashed when things got going.

And so this spring, it’s time to brush up on sailing. Now if you want to throw a doozie of a bomb into a sailing forum, start a debate on the correct way to learn to sail. There are two schools of thought. The first is to learn on what you are going to sail/cruise with. That would be a bigger keelboat. That way, you learn how to manage and dock bigger boats, the systems, and the gear. The second school of thought says that the first method is foolish and dangerous. Small boats teach you how to be a better sailor because you learn the physics of the wind, water, etc deep in your bones as mistakes are magnified with a small boat — you get dunked into the drink.

So what route are we going to take? Both, I hope!

We plan on taking small boat lessons at the Community Boating, Inc., a sailing organization that serves the metropolitan Boston Community. In 2009 CB had 2,432 juniors, 3,250 adults, 417 universal access sailors, and 278 high school sailors from over 30 towns and communities in the metropolitan Boston area. See their fleet. The Adult Program of classes runs from April 1 through October 31.

As for big boats, we haven’t entirely figured out how we will get this experience. An obvious first step is to get on other people’s boats by volunteering to crew. There are also a few opportunities to charter other people’s boats with licensed captains.

As for professional sailing lessons, week-long liveaboard and sailing schools are over $2,000 per person. The expense isn’t the barrier–if we’re going to spend money on a boat, I think we should spend what it takes to learn how to sail one properly. It’s just that we can’t be efficient and take it together like zerotocruising did because someone would have to watch our kids, one of which is a baby and nursing. Here are some of the schools I looked at (I have no personal experience with these schools and therefore cannot make recommendations).

  • Bluewater Sailing school has week-long courses as well as private courses (~$5000)
  • Offshore Sailing School has the Fast Track to Cruising one-week course, including a family option, but kids must be seven years old.
  • Maryland School of Sailing and Seamanship has a week-long Caribbean sailing program where participants live aboard an Island Packet 440. For those seeking certification, up to two levels of ASA Certification (ASA 101 and 103 or ASA 103 and 104) are available.
  • San Juan Sailing has a Caribbean Learn N Cruise that is a little less expensive, but still close to $4000 per couple. The school also holds regular week long courses in the San Juan Islands.
  • Boston Sailing Center is local and has a Macro Cruising package which combines its Learn to Sail, Advanced, and Cruising Courses. It is a charter preparation and certification program. 18 hours classroom, 87 hours sailing for $2370 for one person.

Another option is to have private lessons. For example, Boatwise, LLC can send a captain over to your boat to give private lessons on how to maneuver and dock. A couple other resources:

  • Boston Sailing Center offers private lessons.
  • A local captain offers very reasonably priced sailing lessons on his Bristol 40 sloop.

Lots to think about. Any suggestions on how to learn sailing with two young children? In the meantime, Tig is going to go get some earplugs for the spring.

Image by: Paul (dex).


7 Replies to “A cloud of obscenity still hangs over the san francisco bay, or gettin’ schooled

  1. Here’s another opinion. Yeah take the dingy lessons. Dingys are fun and you really do get a fine sense of the physics by learning on them. Then I would recommend a Baisic Keelboat, Basic Cruising type package from ASA or USSailing. These courses give you the important experience of docking and also give you a chance to experience the big boat dynamics. If it’s at all possible take these classes together. Then… just go sailing. Along the way you may find areas of weakness (spinnaker sailing, offshore navigation, etc) hire a skipper, or better yet, make friends with a more experience sailor and go out on your own boat. There are even skippers who can teach you to sail as a family on your own boat.

    1. Good suggestions, Tucker. I like your idea to hire a skipper who can teach us to sail on our own (or get an experienced sailor friend); sounds like the best solution for our family.

  2. Dinghy sailing will absolutely be the best way of learning how to feel a sail boat – and getting that feel is really important for time on the water. It’s great fun and will pay dividends in terms of being able to predict sails and booms and water sense.

    However in terms of lessons readying you for big boat sailing, if you can afford a private tutor, I would. The dinghy sailing can give you the basics, an experienced skipper, as Tucker says, can personalise the experience.

    Although we’re all (including the kids) relatively experienced sailors, the training we took with an RYA instructor was invaluable (we’re in the UK), and he was able to impart really practical knowledge about being a liveaboard that we hadn’t ever contemplated, which he tailored to what we needed. And he let the kids come too – although they are too young to qualify, we felt that they needed to be part of our whole adventure, and ultimately we are all in this together.

    1. It’s good to know that there are instructors out there willing to teach the whole family. BTW Claire, I’m jealous that you already have a boat. I keep telling myself: patience. patience. patience.

  3. We’ve been trying to figure this out for our family as well. I have years of dinghy experience but my husband does not. We can both sail with our local sailing club for cheap, but are limited to dinghies there. It is great boat handling experience though and I hope to get out there quite a bit this summer again.

    Last year we decided to take ASA 101/103 together to get that big boat experience. We were able to do it as several day classes, however we’re not sure how to proceed from here because the bareboat chartering class is designed to include overnights ( several). Our child is a bit older, but we still aren’t comfortable leaving him for more than one night. I’m thinking the private instructor option could be the one we take too. Otherwise, maybe we’ll consider taking them one at a time instead of together.

    For some reason, I just keep feeling like we need to have that experience before buying. It’s in part, because I want to feel comfortable that I know what we’re after and more about what to look for.

    1. Heather, if you have a gut feeling, you should go with it. I’ll be the first to admit that we are taking the approach of jumping in with both feet instead of careful step-by-step planning. I’m curious how you will proceed and look forward to hearing about the path your family takes.

  4. For what it’s worth, we began by sailing dinghies at Community Boating then took a week-long liveaboard sailing course with Offshore Sailing School in the BVIs. We then chartered several times over a few years while we decided to buy a boat of our own and move on board. I can say that we learned a ton during the Offshore Sailing School course and it included the keelboat and cruising certs from ASA. Plus, it was a tremendous vacation! (I recommend just this time of year as my favorite time to go.)

    Maybe the good news is that you can do all of the above. Even though we moved aboard our Tayana 37 this winter, I’m still working on her refit (as you know). Depending how things go, we may sign up with Courageous Sailing this summer, if only to get out on the harbor in a Rhodes 19 or J 22. We are also thinking about engaging an instructor with experience on boats like our to help us climb the learning curve.

    Have fun!

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