Have you ever dreamed of sailing on the Chesapeake Bay—the wind in your hair and the waves lapping against the boat, as it tilts gently to one side? You can make that dream come true. You can learn to sail. Here’s how to get started.
Take a class or sail with friends
Most people, whether kids or adults, learn to sail in one of two ways. They take a class or go sailing with friends (or both). Around the Chesapeake Bay, we are lucky to have many top-notch organizations that teach basic sailing skills with fun, hands-on instruction. You’ll find these classes at sailing schools, sailing clubs, and non-profit community sailing centers. Look for organizations that offer courses affiliated with either the American Sailing Association or U.S. Sailing.
Formal instruction has many benefits, but plenty of people learn to sail without ever taking a class, by sailing as guests on “other people’s boats”. Sailors are known for generously sharing their knowledge with those who are eager to learn. If you know someone who is a good sailor, don’t be timid about asking him or her to take you sailing.
What to wear
Protect your toes by wearing closed-toe, non-slip shoes with light colored soles (so they won’t leave marks on the deck). If you plan to help steer the boat or adjust the sails, protect your hands by wearing sailing gloves. No special clothing is required; just wear clothes that are comfortable to move around in. If it’s chilly, dress in layers. Feel free to bring a small backpack with a hat, water bottle, sunscreen, sunglasses, and water-resistant jacket. The boat owner should provide you with a life jacket, but feel free to bring your own if have one.
After you’ve mastered the basics, you will want to practice. Sailors call this “time on the water,” and there’s no substitute for it. Many sailing schools and community sailing programs provide opportunities for their graduates to practice on their boats. Practice time can also be gained “crewing” aboard a boat. At every marina and sailing club, owners of boats are looking for crew members. Many welcome sailors with little or no experience.
Where to learn more
To learn more about sailing, visit the Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show April 26-28. Located in the heart of historic downtown Annapolis, the Spring Sailboat Show corrals into one place everything you need to know to start sailing. Experienced instructors from local sailing schools and community sailing programs are there to provide information about their courses. Dozens of boats are on display, and attendees may board them, just for fun. With advance registration, new sailors may participate in a First Sail Workshop, which includes a 45-min. instructional sailboat ride with certified instructors. At the show you’ll also find information about sailing vacations (no experience needed) and loads of trendy nautical apparel that looks sharp on and off the water. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about the world of sailing!