Join Your Local Yacht Club
This is the 2012 New Years Resolution Sailing Tip
This issue’s sailing tip is a pretty simple one. It will lead to you having more valuable practical sailing experience than you’d ever imagine. And it fits nicely in with any new years resolutions you might be considering.
When I lived in Austin Texas, I raced a lot with the local sailing club there on Lake Travis, an inland small lake. And I have to admit that much of my finer technical sailing knowledge came from those many regatta races.
When a sailboat racing next to you is inching ahead moment by moment you learn quickly the importance of accurate sail trim. And talk about drilling the rules of the nautical road – wow when you’re on collision course with dozens of yachts you’ve got to know the rules.
Here’s the tip: Join a local yacht club this year.
At NauticEd we REALLY believe that practical sailing experience is one of the keys to becoming an excellent sailor (of course we’re making a big assumption that you don’t have a goal to be a crappy sailor).
A bit of History: When we designed the NauticEd sailing certifications, we consulted with dozens of sailing instructors and many of the world’s largest charter companies. With out any hesitation, they all rated practical sailing experience as a must have to becoming a competent sailor (durh). When we looked at every other global sailing certification, none required practical sailing experience as a prerequisite to gaining the certification. That’s a bit strange we thought because in this digital age, it’s easy to write an algorithm that can combine theory knowledge and practical experience (well not that easy but you get the point).
Then we looked at the scuba diving industry and the scuba certifications. We found that the theory education was excellent but practically – if you can barely swim, you’ll still end up with a certification. Still strange! The scuba magazine editorials are full of complaints about new divers banging into the protected reefs because they can’t do the most basic buoyancy control.
When it comes down to it I guess, most certifying companies are more interested in the $ than the true competency of the student. Thus we decided to set the competency bar high so that the charter companies could truly trust a experience and theory based certification.
So here’s the big “but” that people ask us all the time then.
“But … how do I get sailing experience when I don’t own a boat”.
Well… in virtually every city with a sailing waterway there is a yacht club.
- Joining a yacht club is pretty simple and relatively inexpensive for the return you’ll get. Costs range from $40 to $80 per month. And if you own a boat, many times the marina fees are less expensive than a regular marina.
- Some clubs are very racing focused some are not. I’ll maintain however that even if you’re not a racing type person, racing experience will improve your cruising sailing skills vastly. Racing is like learning a language by immersion.
- Yacht clubs are highly social and so you’re going to meet a lot of very cool and interesting people who will become your friends. Throw away the preconceived notions of the stereotype snooty stuffy yacht club and just join one and find out for yourself.
- Yacht clubs many times have a nice pool for the kids to hang out in and they will get to hang out with other yachting type kids. A vast improvement from learning life skills at the mall.
- Yacht clubs organize weekend sailing trips away. These are usually very fun flotilla events. Here you can learn a lot of overnighting and anchoring skills.
- Occasionally yacht clubs will also organize a bareboat charter sailing holiday to places like the Caribbean, Mediterranean or the pacific islands. This is a great opportunity to join in on the safety of a flotilla.
Some people think that if you don’t own a boat, then what’s the point of joining a yacht club. However, if you don’t own a boat, then you should definitely join a yacht club. Here’s a big fact. Virtually all boat owners are desperate for crew for either racing or cruising events. This is proven by the dozens of post-its on the yacht club notice board from skippers looking for crew.
So – this year, join your local yacht club. Put your name up on the notice board that you’re willing to crew. Commit to some regatta race series. Do some boat jumping to find the boat/crew/skipper that you like. Make some friends. Get lots of sailing experience and most importantly, fill out your free NauticEd electronic sailing logbook. As with above, your logbook is the single most important thing that the charter companies look at when you are trying to charter a boat.
And one more comment – years ago when I ran a large yachting membership program, the biggest reason that people dropped out was that they did not have friends to go sailing with them. A mistake that I made was that we should have promoted our boat owning members to also join a yacht club. There, they would have found plenty of new friends to go sailing with, from the exact same notice board mentioned above. If you own a boat – join your local yacht club this year.
Happy Sailing Experience!