Learn to sail for free!
Here's a tip a friend gave me when I started looking to buff my sailing skills prior to getting a boat of my own. It turned out to be really good advice so I'm passing it on here.
Race boats are always looking for crew, you can learn a lot about sailing crewing for free or after sail beer. You meet a lot of other sailors that way too who often own boats. Heck you could probably sail a lot without ever owning a boat if you played it right.
Even a complete beginner can fill some crew positions. A lot of the racers need movable ballast to sail properly, that means 'Rail Meat'. People who can move from rail to rail as the boat tacks. If you can scramble back and forth on a tilted deck on command you can be rail meat - and ride and learn for free from some really good sailors.
After learning to sail, I spent the next seven years crewing on racers - first as rail meat, then in every position on he boat including foredeck boss. Then I bought my own because I had the skill and confidence I needed. I still think you can learn more in a single race than any almost any two weeks on the water - IF you start out with the simple rule, "Shut up and pay attention." And you're right, I could still be sailing for free, but it gave me the irresistable need to have my own.
This is true, as I have been dreaming of sailing for a couple of years but short on cash. A couple of sailors on this web site gave me the idea to join or contact a sailing club about crewing in races. Therefore, I started emailing different sailing clubs asking them if they knew anyone that needed a newbie crew sailor. One week later, a boat owner who needed 1 more crewmember to sail in a 2-day regatta emailed me. The 1st day out, there were 15-17 kn winds sailing on a Melges 24, it was awesome to say the least and I am hooked. Now, I hook up with them every Wednesday evening. These guys are great and they are more then willing to teach since we all have to start some how and some way. I am learning every time I go out. It is AWESOME.... Mainly, not because it's free but because I am finally sailing instead of just dreaming about it.... As long as you are willing to labor they are willing to teach..
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