I live in Texas, on the Gulf Coast and I just recently turned 18. I have acquired a growing fascination with sailboats and I would love to learn how to sail, but I don't even know where to start or who to talk to. I visited your website and it was very informative, but I would really appreciate it if you could give me any more information or tips on how to go about learning how to sail. As far as schools go, if you could reccomend some that would be great too. The only draw-back is that I don't have much money, but the money I do have I am willing to spend because this is my dream. Can you help?
Dan Dickison responds:
Thanks for your message. We'd be happy to help you find a way to learn to sail. Depending upon where you live, there may be organizations there that can offer you courses in basic sailing skills, which is really a good way to go. But if you live in an area where there aren't any courses or it's inconvenient to get to them, there are alternative approaches. I'm not particularly familiar with the courses that might be available on the Gulf Coast in Texas, but if you're in the Corpus Christi or Galveston areas, you should find numerous classes available.
Sometimes you can find a qualified individual who can teach you the basics, or you can find a group of sailors that race and you can join their crew to begin picking up information through them or on your own. The last option is to teach yourself, but this is often the most difficult way, depending upon your skills, your background, and your personality.
Also, if you're willing to invest a little more time and money into the project, you can travel to locations that have established sailing schools; Florida, New York, Chicago, or Newport, RI come to mind. In each of these locations you'll find branches of the Offshore Sailing School. Of course Offshore isn't the only commercial entity in the game that can provide sailing instruction, there are lots of firms to choose from should you opt to go this route.
To start researching the possibilities, log on to US SAILING's website (www.ussailing.org) and see what classes they have to offer in your area. You can also check with the American Sailing Association (www.american-sailing.com). From Rockwall to Corpus Christi that organziation has 10 affilitiated schools in Texas. If neither of those sources work, then get in touch with local yacht clubs or other sailing organizations. There's also a fairly useful website for Texas-based sailors (www.sailtexas.com), which will link you with area yacht clubs and businesses. And, you can get in touch with the folks that run Sail Texas to see if they have some recommendations for you as well.
After you 've done some research, you'll get a better idea about the costs involved and I think you'll see that learning how to sail isn't as expensive as you might think, it just sounds expensive.
With some of the basics under your belt by way of a class or two, I'd encourage you to figure out a way to buy a small boat or get access to one so that you can continue sailing (and continue your sailing education). Where we live there's a community sailing association and all you have to do is to join the association for a nominal fee each year and you have access to their boats. You might be able to find some such organization around your area.
Also, don't forget to check out a number of good intructional books for sailors, among them US SAILING's Start Sailing Right, John Rousmaniere's The Annapolis Book of Seamanship (roughly the first third of that text explains the basics), and Steve Colgate's book, "Colgate's Basic Sailing."
Here's wishing you the best of luck with your quest to get involved in sailing. Don't forget to have a look at all the articles that we have here at SailNet, there's a wealth of information that will become more and more useful to you once you get to be a more knowledgeable sailor. And even before that, you'll want to have a look at a number of the pieces in our Learning to Sail