I get this message below all the time from people that I know or meet. Here’s one I got this morning through my Linkedin account.
Long time no see. Grant, I’m thinking about learning to sail. Your sailing vacations all over the world have inspired me. What do I do, where do I start, can I buy you a beer some time and get some advice from you.
Here’s my reply this morning
Would be good to catch up. In the meantime – here’s my advice. Obviously I’m a little biased here but you should really start with one of my online theory classes. I’d recommend the NauticEd day skipper courses. That will give you a good solid knowledge of what you need to know when starting out on a learn to sail quest.
The next thing I would recommend is to spend ¼ million dollars on a boat – nah just kidding. Go join our local yacht club and do some racing. Almost every yacht club is begging for members to be crew on their boats. A note on their pin up board that you want to crew will attract multiple phone calls to you. Also just call their office and ask what you should do. But I guarantee that they will be more than happy to have you out there. Yacht clubs appear old and stodgy on the out side but once you get inside there are dozens of skippers that are keen to help out.
Whether or not you’re into yacht racing, racing is the absolute best way to learn fast through immersion and you can rack up the experience fast. By taking the skipper course you’ll have the theory knowledge to know what you’re doing on the boat. Now you just need to burn it into your brain with the practical sailing skills.
Log all your yacht club time in our free online logbook as it counts towards your sailing certification rank.
Another thing you can do is to go to the local sailing school. In Austin it is the Texas Sailing Academy. They teach a 2 weekend long basic introduction to sailing and will give you hands on training. Just make sure that whatever school you go to that they don’t put too many people on the boat at one time. It waters down your practical experience. Some schools do this to keep the cost down but if you’re there to learn to sail then you’re there to learn to sail not water it down with a cheap course. With Sailing courses you get what you pay for.
The other ways to gain practical sailing experience is to catch up with friends who have a sailboat. Funny enough but sailboat owners are almost desperate to have some one call them and say “would you like to come sailing with me on your boat this weekend”? But people learning to sail are always too embarrassed to ask – so sailboats tend to sit in the slip month after month. So just ask.
If your goal is to take a sailing vacation then I’d also recommend aiming to reach our Bareboat Charter Master Rank and our day skipper theory courses. Most worldwide charter companies accept our certification. Sailing vacations are the way to go. They’re relatively inexpensive and you get to go to some awesome places. As you know, every year we gather our friends and go somewhere. This year we’re chartering three boats with The Moorings South Pacific in Tonga. I was up there a few months back and wow – what an incredible place. By the time we get there next month the place is supposed to be teeming with whales.
Let me know if there is any way I can help out.