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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

As the title suggests, I'm a complete beginner with no experience but I am very keen to learn. Tomorrow I'll be visiting my local yacht club and, weather permitting, will go for a sail with one/some of the members. I'd like to make a good first impression even though I don't have much to contribute.

I also don't know what to look out for and what questions to ask to ascertain if this club is a good match for me. I want to learn to sail smaller vessels, I don't want to eventually work on a super yacht. Sometimes people assume that's my goal because I am younger and a lot of people do that after finishing school or college.
The club also does racing and while I am more interested in sailing as a hobby I'm not against trying out racing if that is where the club needs an extra hand.

Any advice regarding what shoes to wear and good etiquette onboard is also welcome, though I have read up on those things too.

Thanks in advance!
 

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S2 7.9 Bear Lake, UT
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General etiquette is white soled shoes or some type of docksiders. Whatever you do don't wear a Captain's hat. A polo shirt and some Khaki's are good yachty uniform to make a good first impression. If you join, you can then start wearing sailing t-shirts and torn shorts later on.

I have spent a lot of time in yacht clubs after racing, but never felt the need to join one. You might be better off joining a sailing club. These are usually for profit organizations that teach sailing and provide boats to rent. If you live in a bigger liberal city you might find a cool non-profit club also. There are a lot of ways to learn to sail without joining a yacht club.
 

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One more thing. Don't bring red wine or dark beer on a boat without the skippers permission. For first impression don't bring alcohol at all. For future visits good beer, wine and food is a good way to get invited back. I learned to sail in college by buying a twelve pack of beer and walking the docks with during race night asking "do you need crew?" I always found a ride.
 

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Make sure that you have appropriate clothing for the temperature and wind conditions you will encounter. It can often be significantly colder on the water than it is on land, so dressing in layers is a good idea. Avoid cotton clothes and favor synthetics and wool as wet cotton can wick heat away from you. A waterproof windbreaker and a good sun hat with a chin strap so it won't blow away, and maybe even some rain pants could be helpful depending on your location. A set of sailing gloves will help protect your hands when pulling on lines. Sun glasses and with a strap to prevent losing them are also a good idea.

If you have any inclination that you are prone to sea sickness take appropriate meds at least an hour before you get out on the water and eat mild food before you head out. Make sure that you are reasonably hydrated, but don't overdo it as opportunities to go to the bathroom may be limited. Candied ginger and ginger ale can help settle your stomach if you start to feel queasy on the water. Don't even mention alcohol until you are back at the dock, you are going sailing, not on a booze cruise.

Bring sun block, lip balm, and snacks like cliff bars that can be eaten easily and quickly if things are busy.

Spend a little time familiarizing yourself with the major lines on a boat, their names and what they do. Most important are the main and jib halyards and the main and jib/genoa sheets. Figure out what your captain wants you to do when they ask you to trim the port jib sheet or ease the main sheet. Learning to tie a cleat hitch would be good.
 

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Freedom isn't free
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Wow, our sail club is so not normal then.
Our Sailing Club is just what it sounds like. A bunch of people who sail.
Not for profit, cheap as heck to join, and some of the most down to earth folks you will ever meet.

And if you brought beer on day 1 you might become an honorary member.

Oh and if you showed up in Khaki's and a polo at our club, you might get laughed off the dock (you know unless you also held beer).
 

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I personally consider small boat sailing to be a watersport and dress accordingly. Board shorts, quick dry t shirt, sun hat, shades and some kind of shoes that wont get wrecked if they get wet.

However, its worth checking the clubs website for dress code info because lots of clubs do have codes, although that seems to be going the way of disco around me.

No special etiquette rules, have fun, be polite.
 

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Regarding Alcohol.
I have crewed with a good number of skippers who get their crews through meetup.com. One of the most vitriolic complaints I hear from them is about people who show up to go sailing and then proceed to start drinking. Most of them now make it very clear that while alcohol is welcome once the boat is back at the dock, it has no place out on the water. When I host events, I do not allow people on the crew to drink until we return to the mooring. I would not recommend going sailing with a skipper who allows his crew to drink while sailing, and if your goal is to make a good impression, I would keep the alcohol stowed until the boat has been safely put to bed.
 

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Old soul
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Fun how different "yacht clubs" are from place to place. I've been a member in three different clubs so far. In these clubs the most proper attire was probably work coveralls. DIY activity all around.

One of my past clubs had an active racing scene. Skippers were always looking for good crew. The start of each season usually had a "Learn to crew" session, which then go you on the crew list (not that you had to be on the list). Perhaps your local club has something similar.

Ettiquette? Be friendly, generous, open. Wear non-marking shoes. Maybe get sailing gloves if you have soft hands. Offer to buy a round after the race. You'll be loved.
 

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If there's only one local YC you have no choices. But if there is more than one, make a point of checking them out. Some YC's are full-blown country clubs that cater weddings, run summer camps, how sit-down restaurants (and often a mandatory dining fee, to make sure the members do patronize the restaurant), are very organized and formal.

Some are more in line with "boat club with a cheap bar", not fancy at all. Some have mandatory labor contribution, i.e. each member has to volunteer ten hours a year at SOMEthing that needs to be done.

There's quite a variety, very much the way you can choose airbnb or a five-star hotel suite.

Many of us never had any interest in racing. But going out on club races will expose you to lots of boats, lots of different ways to do things, and sooner or later, when you are just out for a sail and someone says "If we can make it to xxxx before six o'clock, they've got one slip left and we can stay overnight" and then you find that every racing skill you've learned pays off for cruising, too.(G)
 

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Wow, our sail club is so not normal then.
Our Sailing Club is just what it sounds like. A bunch of people who sail.
Not for profit, cheap as heck to join, and some of the most down to earth folks you will ever meet.

And if you brought beer on day 1 you might become an honorary member.

Oh and if you showed up in Khaki's and a polo at our club, you might get laughed off the dock (you know unless you also held beer).
This is WYC as well. Though, I don't think we would laugh in one's face if someone wore khakis and a polo to try and race.... :wink Red wine and beer wash off and the sun bleaches it out rather quickly. Just wear weather appropriate clothing, have your own gloves, rigging knife and PFD. Ask what they would like you to do on the boat. Most people start out as "Ballast Technicians".
 

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Probably first and foremost, always ask permission to step aboard any boat. You approach the gate in the life lines by the cockpit, stop, wait, and say "May I Come Aboard?
Even if it's a club boat and somebody has stepped on board ahead of you, it is good etiquette to stop and ask, particularly since you are a newbie. This shows them that you understand protocol.

Wear any soft soled, non-skid comfortable shoes. You can carry them separate from your street shoes, or just check before you step on board and wipe the soles clean and make sure that there aren't any pebbles stuck in the tread that could scratch the deck or cabin sole.

You will probably feel more comfortable if you do some reading and learn the basic parts of a sailboat. Basic orientation is helpful, (fore, aft, port, and starboard). It helps to practice thinking about port and starboard until they are as natural in your mind as left and right. It helps when a skipper calls out to you and says "Quick, could you prepare to receive a line on the starboard side?"

There is a video on Amazon Prime that I found very helpful, titled, Learning to Sail With Penny Whiting. There is another video on Amazon Prime called , Rules of the Road that deals with right-of-way rules on the water. These two videos will give you many basics and help you feel more confident moving about the boat, and understanding what people are talking about.

They will happily tell you all of the requirements for membership and the benefits. You might ask what other clubs or network of clubs they have courtesy arrangements with. Ask about whether or not they provide American Sailing Association (ASA) classes and what the cost is, or what might be included as part of membership.

Don't ever use the word "rope" around a boat. There are hundreds of feet of rope on a boat but it is only called rope when it's on a roll in the chandlery. Once it's on the boat everything is called a line or lines. Some have specific names like sheets and halyards. Researching the names for the various parts on a boat will help you with that.
 

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I will second going with the local non-profit sailing center where the focus is on Sailing and not the Bar or Lounge. The founder of ours mentioned that he realized the folly of having the bar and lounge at the first club he founded when people started complaining that somebody had to do something about the boats and people in sailing shorts with their life jackets spoiling the place. He thought it was great to see so many especially whole families there to sail while the Lounge Crowd saw them as a nuisance that had to be eliminated.

If your in the South East then ignore those Northeners and wear clothing appropriate to Southern Weather in light colors and be sure to wear briefs under your sailing shorts (I shouldn't need to explain why). Many of our members wear light colored twill shorts and a vented cotton long sleeved shirt to better deal with the sun. Its hot and the sun beats mercilessly here in the Sunshine State.

Don't wear greasy lotions either or footwear that will leave a mark. If you carry a multi-tool, etc be sure its in a case that will not leave a mark on every thing you pass by messing up cushions, lazeretts, etc. Belts that can leave marks should be avoided too along with excessive jewelry. You may be required to go and retrieve any of your fingers that you loose in the rigging due to wearing a large gaudy ring along with clean up any stains.

Synthetics that can react with body heat/sweat leaving you smelling like you've been stewing in them for several days after a few minutes in the sun should be avoided. Had one guy that did not believe in deodorant so he was usually the one left at the dock and had to sail solo. Nobody wanted him to show up for a picnic sail or event with a cookout.

If the sailing center does not provide life jackets then be sure to bring your own. If you are using sailing center/club equipment then be sure to follow the rules about cleanup and stowing them afterwards. Many will require members who take out the smaller boats to flake the sails and stow them in the facilities sail lockers along with rinse and hang to dry any of the loaner life vests that they put on. As other mentioned be sure to offer and be available to assist with these tasks even if your just the guy turning the spigot on the hose on and off and reeling it up afterwards.

Pay attention to who's around you and watch the salty talk and humor. Some loose track when its a family type mixed crowd event taking place and then find they have some apologies to make. Really just common sense.
 

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You made an insightful comment when you said "if it's a good match for me". Here on Long Island Sound there are lots of yacht clubs. Some are more formal with a fancy building, bar, restaurant, pool, tennis, etc. Others (like mine) are more low key where the members pitch in to make the thing work and keep costs down. I have been a member of my club since 1979. When I retired, the club was one of the major reasons I decided not to move. My summers revolve around the club. Fellow retired club members go out daysailing together (alternating boats) any during the week when the wind is good. Add in low key club racing, club cruises, dinners on the club porch, and you have a lot of the reasons why I feel very lucky to have found "my" yacht club.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
General etiquette is white soled shoes or some type of docksiders. Whatever you do don't wear a Captain's hat. A polo shirt and some Khaki's are good yachty uniform to make a good first impression. If you join, you can then start wearing sailing t-shirts and torn shorts later on.

I have spent a lot of time in yacht clubs after racing, but never felt the need to join one. You might be better off joining a sailing club. These are usually for profit organizations that teach sailing and provide boats to rent. If you live in a bigger liberal city you might find a cool non-profit club also. There are a lot of ways to learn to sail without joining a yacht club.
I've not been able to find any sailing clubs in my area and the sailing schools are outside of my budget at the moment. So a yacht club seemed like my best bet. If none of the yacht clubs work out for me I will probably try pacing the docks with some beers like you mentioned in your second post :)

Thanks for the tips!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Make sure that you have appropriate clothing for the temperature and wind conditions you will encounter. It can often be significantly colder on the water than it is on land, so dressing in layers is a good idea. Avoid cotton clothes and favor synthetics and wool as wet cotton can wick heat away from you. A waterproof windbreaker and a good sun hat with a chin strap so it won't blow away, and maybe even some rain pants could be helpful depending on your location. A set of sailing gloves will help protect your hands when pulling on lines. Sun glasses and with a strap to prevent losing them are also a good idea.

If you have any inclination that you are prone to sea sickness take appropriate meds at least an hour before you get out on the water and eat mild food before you head out. Make sure that you are reasonably hydrated, but don't overdo it as opportunities to go to the bathroom may be limited. Candied ginger and ginger ale can help settle your stomach if you start to feel queasy on the water. Don't even mention alcohol until you are back at the dock, you are going sailing, not on a booze cruise.

Bring sun block, lip balm, and snacks like cliff bars that can be eaten easily and quickly if things are busy.

Spend a little time familiarizing yourself with the major lines on a boat, their names and what they do. Most important are the main and jib halyards and the main and jib/genoa sheets. Figure out what your captain wants you to do when they ask you to trim the port jib sheet or ease the main sheet. Learning to tie a cleat hitch would be good.
This was very helpful, thank you so much!

Regarding seasickness meds I'm not sure what to do. I partly want to find out if I am prone to seasickness and if it wouldn't be best for me to leave the whole sailing dream altogether :) On the other hand I don't want to ruin my first attempt at sailing by barfing all over the place.

Do some people chronically take meds? Can it get better as you spend more time on the water and get used to the motion?
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Regarding Alcohol.
I have crewed with a good number of skippers who get their crews through meetup.com. One of the most vitriolic complaints I hear from them is about people who show up to go sailing and then proceed to start drinking. Most of them now make it very clear that while alcohol is welcome once the boat is back at the dock, it has no place out on the water. When I host events, I do not allow people on the crew to drink until we return to the mooring. I would not recommend going sailing with a skipper who allows his crew to drink while sailing, and if your goal is to make a good impression, I would keep the alcohol stowed until the boat has been safely put to bed.
Glad you all mentioned this about alcohol. I didn't know drinking was such a thing - which probably shows you how little I know about sailing / the sailing community!

Also glad you mentioned meetup.com, didn't even think to look there for opportunities to help out and learn on a boat. A friend of mine suggested workaway.info but there seem to be very few sailing jobs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Fun how different "yacht clubs" are from place to place. I've been a member in three different clubs so far. In these clubs the most proper attire was probably work coveralls. DIY activity all around.

One of my past clubs had an active racing scene. Skippers were always looking for good crew. The start of each season usually had a "Learn to crew" session, which then go you on the crew list (not that you had to be on the list). Perhaps your local club has something similar.
If there's only one local YC you have no choices. But if there is more than one, make a point of checking them out. Some YC's are full-blown country clubs that cater weddings, run summer camps, how sit-down restaurants (and often a mandatory dining fee, to make sure the members do patronize the restaurant), are very organized and formal.

Some are more in line with "boat club with a cheap bar", not fancy at all. Some have mandatory labor contribution, i.e. each member has to volunteer ten hours a year at SOMEthing that needs to be done.

There's quite a variety, very much the way you can choose airbnb or a five-star hotel suite.
There are a handful within reasonable distance of me and as far as I can tell from their websites there is indeed a lot of variety like you both have mentioned, ranging from the country club types to the glorified bars.

In all honesty I can't see myself spending much time at a bar or lounge if the yacht club has one. I just want to get a feel for sailing and learn the basics and spend some time on the water. I would never even have thought to join a yacht club had I not heard that some of them offer lessons.

Thank you both for your thoughts!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Probably first and foremost, always ask permission to step aboard any boat. You approach the gate in the life lines by the cockpit, stop, wait, and say "May I Come Aboard?
Even if it's a club boat and somebody has stepped on board ahead of you, it is good etiquette to stop and ask, particularly since you are a newbie. This shows them that you understand protocol.

Wear any soft soled, non-skid comfortable shoes. You can carry them separate from your street shoes, or just check before you step on board and wipe the soles clean and make sure that there aren't any pebbles stuck in the tread that could scratch the deck or cabin sole.

You will probably feel more comfortable if you do some reading and learn the basic parts of a sailboat. Basic orientation is helpful, (fore, aft, port, and starboard). It helps to practice thinking about port and starboard until they are as natural in your mind as left and right. It helps when a skipper calls out to you and says "Quick, could you prepare to receive a line on the starboard side?"

There is a video on Amazon Prime that I found very helpful, titled, Learning to Sail With Penny Whiting. There is another video on Amazon Prime called , Rules of the Road that deals with right-of-way rules on the water. These two videos will give you many basics and help you feel more confident moving about the boat, and understanding what people are talking about.

They will happily tell you all of the requirements for membership and the benefits. You might ask what other clubs or network of clubs they have courtesy arrangements with. Ask about whether or not they provide American Sailing Association (ASA) classes and what the cost is, or what might be included as part of membership.

Don't ever use the word "rope" around a boat. There are hundreds of feet of rope on a boat but it is only called rope when it's on a roll in the chandlery. Once it's on the boat everything is called a line or lines. Some have specific names like sheets and halyards. Researching the names for the various parts on a boat will help you with that.
Thanks so much for your thorough answer! I will be strictly speaking of port, starboard, lines, sheets and halyards in preparation for my first sail. From now on I am starboard-handed and not right-handed :)
 
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