Clipper Race: story from one of our students who did it.

We previously reported on the tragic death of two sailors in the current, ongoing Clipper Race. This long, multi-stage race around the world is unique. It’s one-design racing with a fleet of a dozen 70-foot sailing yachts. They look a little like scaled up versions of our 21-foot Beneteau sloops, but most of what they have in common with our little guys is twin rudders.

Most serious distance ocean racing events use boats with twin rudders, including the Mini-Transat, with 6.5 meter boats singlehanded across the Atlantic! However, almost all other boats use a single rudder. Twin rudders are best for these long races, and also best for learning. (For more on how that works, and why ASA decided that the twin-rudder design we’ve been using since 1998 was their idea of the ultimate learning machine, see more on our web site.)

The fleet has departed Seattle, having completed a grueling leg from China, and is en route to New York by way of the Panama Canal.

A student from our school, Fabio Peixoto, sailed in a prior Clipper race. We asked if he’d share his experience and perspective, and here’s what he had to say…

“The Clipper race is considered the longest sailing race around the world. It is not only that, but it is also the only sailing race around the world open to amateurs! Everyone in the boat is a paying passenger, except the skipper. This feature makes it a very unique race and it gives the opportunity to amateur sailors like me to have an experience as close as possible to the Volvo ocean race.

The Clipper race stops in many ports, including New York City. When I learned about it I decided to check. This was back in 2010. I contacted them through their website and had a face-to-face interview with the sailing director when the boats arrived. The interview went well; I think they just want to make sure the candidate is not insane, and I decided to go ahead and book my first few training sessions.

Everyone can sign up for the race, from complete novice to Olympian sailors and everyone has to go through the same training process; a 4 level training session, around 32 days total. You can split the sessions anyway you want. I did the first 2 levels in 2 weeks in November 2010. The third session was in April 2011 and the 4th session in June. The race started on July 31st, 2011.

The training happens in the Solent, south of England. It is very professional, intense training. The instructors are old race skippers or new ones in training. We go out in any condition – no wind or gale force wind. We should because during the race we will have to face whatever Mother Nature throws at us. A lot of novices who sign up with romantic views of sailing give up after the first level. Sailing is wonderful, but it has its rough patches. But most people who are sailors know what to expect and have a great time! It is awesome to train in those big, racing boats under any condition. You feel like a professional!

I signed up for the first half of the race. It would be a little over 4 months of racing, from July 31st to December 13th 2011. We started in Portsmouth, England and had our first stop in Madeira Island. Then we stopped in Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Geraldton, Australia, Tuaranga, New Zealand and Gold Coast, Australia, where it was my last stop. The race continued to China, crossed the Pacific to San Francisco, crossed the Panama canal, and sailed to New York, before crossing the Atlantic again and finishing in England. The complete race takes one year. Half the boat is booked for circumnavigators and half to leggers.

I can tell you that the race was an amazing experience! I have nothing but praise to the Clipper race! It is a very well run race, and they are very professional. I have sailed through squalls, gales and storm force winds. I have also seen amazing marine life, two lunar rainbows and, I believe, a green flash. I highly recommend the race to sailors who want to gain offshore experience. Offshore sailing is one of the last true adventures in the world!

The current Clipper race is their 20th edition. There have been many injuries before, including during my race. It is inevitable given the conditions that we sail; broken ribs, broken legs, concussion, etc. However they have never had a fatality in all those years. Unfortunately it seems they ran out of luck; there has been already two deaths in this race. Coincidence or not, in the same boat, Ichor Coal.

The first casualty happened right on the beginning of the race, on their way to Rio. It is still not clear the reason, but it seems that right after a reefing procedure, Andrew Ashman was hit by the main sheet or the boom and fell unconscious. They tried to resuscitate him in vain. The boat was diverted to Porto in Portugal to drop off the body.

This was the first death in 20 years and the conditions seemed to indicate an unfortunate causality. However, on April 1st 2016 another sailor on the same boat, Sarah Young, fell overboard in the Pacific during rough conditions. She was not tethered when a big wave washed her overboard. After one hour of searching, she was found. Unfortunately she had already died of hypothermia and/or drowning. Due to the distance to land, a decision was made to have a sea burial.

The first death seemed to be an unfortunate case but the second one shocked me. Specially because I went almost overboard in very rough seas in the Southern ocean. It was 2 AM and we were going through a gale with gust to 60 knots. I had just finished driving for one hour when the skipper took over. I was sitting next to him and then I decided to go down in the cabin to have some water. As soon as I unclipped to go under the traveler, a huge wave hit the boat. I felt this very strong water pushing on my back. My left hand was holding the binnacle and I wasn’t letting it go for nothing! The only thing I was thinking was “F****, I am not clipped in!” Fortunately I was able to hold myself and the only damage was a little bleeding on my nose from hitting the skipper’s leg and a bit of a twist to the binnacle frame. If I went overboard at 2 AM under those conditions, it would be very hard to find me. And even if they’ve found me, bringing me back into the boat with that sea state would be extremely difficult!

Even after these two tragedies, I still have trust in the Clipper race. Their training program is excellent and there is a big focus on safety! We are reminded of clipping-in all the time, not only during training, but also during the race. Andrew’s death seems to have been bad luck, but Sarah’s could have been prevented if she was tethered to the boat. I do not know if it was her fault of if she was in the process of changing jack lines, like in my situation in the Southern ocean. I just know that accidents happen, especially in extreme sports like offshore racing. I hope that the rest of the race goes smoothly and I wish the best to all racers! There is no adventure without risks.

Fabio Peixoto

America’s Cup Comes to New York

As part of the training, hype and qualifying for the 35th America’s Cup, they’re taking their act on the road and that road leads to New York.

The America’s Cup is considered the oldest sporting event in the world, dating back to the 1850’s.  It’s a match race, meaning that two boats duke it out on a course and have only each other to contend with.  (There will be fleet racing, or rounds of match races, in preliminaries but the finals are one on one.)

City Island, the home of your friendly neighborhood Sailing Center, has a storied history of involvement in the America’s Cup going back to 1870!  Many, if not most, Cup boats were built, serviced and stored, or outfitted with sails here on City Island.  The US won the inaugural event, and held onto the Cup until 1983 when we first lost it – after the previous 5 successful defenders were built on City Island!  While Newport, RI seems to be more commonly associated with it due to notoriety/infamy/etc, City Island was more like the consistent, silent partner over most of the Cup’s history.  Sadly, all that’s left is memorabilia on display at the City Island Nautical Museum.

We won the Cup back, and lost it.  Maybe a few times.  But we surely took it back in style in 2013, when the Oracle team reversed a 8-1 deficit in one of the most spectacular comebacks in the history of sports.

ah cup shot
The Cup (or Auld Mug as it’s known) on temporary display downtown in Manhattan. That’s one of our students standing alongside – Adam Holmes, who learned to sail in Canada but came to us with some of his buddies from up North to do 103 and 104.  Then, they did their own bareboat charter in the Virgin Islands!

This weekend sees racing off lower Manhattan.  For those who can’t get on a boat in the viewing area, or a high enough perch to look down on it, not a drama.  You can watch a lot of it on cable and through the America’s Cup app on mobile.

For more info on City Island’s history with the cup, see the City Island Nautical Museum’s page on it here:

ps: the Museum, which is open on weekends, is well worth a visit.

For more info on this weekend’s Cup events and viewing options, go straight to the source.  You can see which networks are carrying it, and how to get the America’s Cup app and watch even more content live with that…

Crew Needed: depart New York April 10 for Norfolk and onward

Very experienced delivery captain with high level USCG masters license needs one experienced crew.  Vessel is a Maine Cat 38, Hull #1.  Travel and expenses covered.

Departing New York this Sunday, April 10, for Norfolk, Virginia.  From there, moving on to Cape Fear, and possibly down to Cape Canaveral from there.

Captain holds 500 GT Masters License and has significant near-coastal/ocean experience.

Minimum qualifications for this crew position:

ASA 104 (Bareboat) Certification or equivalent training, PLUS:

At least one ocean passage, or several multi-day charter trips.

If you meet or exceed these requirements, are available, and are seriously interested, message us with your experience and contact info ASAP.


One sailor lost; another is found…

Instead of grappling with very uncooperative weather for spring prep, we’ll take a moment to share some sailing news. We have news both sad and glad.

Very sadly, a sailor died in the Clipper Around the World Race. Sarah Young, of Great Britain, was swept overboard. The yacht was approaching the international date line in the Pacific at approximately 39 degrees North by 160 degrees East. Ms. Young had just reefed the mainsail (reducing how much of that sail was deployed to depower). The winds were approximately 35-40 knots, which is gale force. Apparently, Ms. Young was not tethered to the yacht, and after being swept off her feet by a wave, was carried overboard. She was recovered later but never regained consciousness.

According to an on-line article by The Telegraph, a Clipper Race source stated the following:

“We have no idea why Sarah did not tether herself. It’s something that’s drummed into every crew member from the start: ‘Always tether yourself’.

“It’s just standard practice, like putting on your life jacket. We’re investigating, but only she knows why she didn’t.”

(Here’s a link to that entire article)

It is customary to tether oneself securely to the vessel when not down below if the conditions are adverse – stormy, poor visibility, short or single-handed, etc.  In this case, with gale force winds which, if sustained, would have resulted in seas of between 15 and 20 feet, conditions were not to be trifled with.  Apparently, Ms. Young had just reefed the vessel’s mainsail as described earlier, and had then been tidying up the cockpit area.

Securing oneself to the boat with a safety harness and tether, which run to a device called a jack line along the deck of the boat, does not guarantee one’s safety either.  People have gone overboard and broken free from the connections, and people have stayed connected but drowned or died from blunt trauma.  But these are extremely rare occurrences, and the tethering systems save lives.  I’ve been known to occasionally go sailing alone at night.  I tend to tie myself to the boat, just in case – even on calm evenings with warm water.  (I should always do it when alone, but admit to occasional bouts of complacency.)  It doesn’t take much to get into a lot of trouble very quickly.

Ms. Young was an entrepreneur, with a business that catered to adventures for well-heeled clientele. She was also quite the adventurer herself apparently, having done exotic and extreme adventure excursions in many locations.

This is the second fatality in this race event over its 20-year lifespan, with ten events over that time. Over 4,000 amateur crew have trained and participated over this time.  What’s a little scary, or perhaps just a testament to the random nature of odds and statistics, is that the other fatality was on the same boat, in the same race – just an earlier leg.  In September, on the first leg of the current event (from Portugal to Brazil), Andrew Ashman was fatally injured when struck by the mainsheet and possibly also the boom.  He was engaged in reefing the mainsail – the same task Ms. Young had just finished before being swept overboard.

(Before anyone starts thinking that reefing must be dangerous, there’s nothing inherently dangerous about it.  Ms. Young was done reefing before her accident.  It’s not clear how Mr. Ashman was injured while doing it.)

On a glad note, a sailor missing at sea for two months was found and recovered in good health. Louis Jordan, 37, departed Conway, South Carolina in January on his sailboat to go fishing in the Gulf Stream. He encountered rough weather and his vessel was was dismasted and otherwise disabled after being rolled and capsized. He survived on stored food on board supplemented by fish he was able to scoop up in a net. His main concern was lack of water – his supply was running low and rain was scarce.

He was rescued about 200 miles off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina 66 days later. He had spotted a large vessel and tried to signal it to no avail, but after resorting to simply waving his arms back and forth, he was in turn spotted and rescued.

The open ocean is a harsh and unforgiving environment. She taketh away, but sometimes giveth back.

new Coastal Nav course this weekend

Spring Sailing?  Unless the declining weather trend quickly reverses, we’re canceling our first Start Sailing schedule of the season and going into navigation mode instead.

Join us this weekend, April 9 & 10, on the Upper West Side for our fun and comprehensive Start Navigating course.

  • no experience or prerequisites necessary
  • join as a newbie or do a 1 or 2-day refresher (reduced rates)
  • soup to nuts: from chart and buoy basics to advanced coastal nav
  • extensive realistic practice problems
  • 9:30 to 5:30 with breaks
  • all materials and hi-quality tools included
  • leads to ASA 105 Coastal Navigation certification

We use our own text book, authored by the Sailing Center’s director, Captain Stephen Glenn Card.  If you like, we’ll send you a PDF in advance although it’s not necessary.  We teach the course as if you have no experience or knowledge, and you can use the book for review afterward.

Want more info?

See our Start Navigating page or hit us up!

New Boat Owners, Part III

(nb: please excuse the somewhat awkward formatting of this post – it was copied and pasted from our eNews and it is doing exactly and only what it seems to want to.)
In our e-News, Tidings, we’ve been doing a series on newbie sailors and their new boats.  Each season, we get a sailor or two who learns to sail with us and then goes on to buy a boat within a few years.  2015 was exceptional: three newbies bought their first boats the same season they learned!  It’s not something we recommend generally, but you can decide for yourself if this is for you.  We can help.  Advise is free.
Part III features Jason, who wasn’t one of the newbie sailors from 2015.  He was a lifelong sailor.  But he took our Coastal Nav (105) course last spring, is signed up for Bareboat 104, and wound up with a boat.  So, here he is.
(This is excerpted from the latest Tidings.  Want to get the whole thing whenever it comes out?  Use the link on any post and page on this site to sign up.)

Last time, we brought you Cosmo and his Allied Seawind.  This time up, it’s Jason, who went with a very popular pocket cruiser.  Jason took our Coastal Navigation course last spring.  Now, he gone went and pulled the trigger on boat ownership.  Take it way, J…
Schematic of the Pacific Seacraft Dana, the largest little 24-footer you’ll ever encounter.
Q: What made you start thinking seriously about boat ownership?  When?


A: I have been thinking about boat ownership since my father took me on my first cruise when I was 13. The sailing bug hit me hard and I spent every summer on the water working for cruise companies and yacht clubs just to get aboard a boat to go sailing. It didn’t become a serious possibility until 3 years ago when I was finally debt-free and set saving for a boat as a 40th birthday present to myself as my next financial goal. I considered alternatives including joining a club and doing a timeshare like Sailtime. I decided that boat ownership was the way to go after being a member of a club and being frustrated that it was impossible to use the boats for cruising, difficult to arrange to take friends and being bound by policies and procedures that didn’t match the way that I like to sail. A sail timeshare didn’t offer many advantages other than having a little more flexibility in being able to cruise. I still didn’t have my choice of boat and to sail a lot was twice as much as the yearly payments that I’m making on my own boat.

(ed. note: unlike most sailing clubs, NY Sailing Center does have cruisable boats in its fleet and they are available for qualified members to take on short cruises.)

What did you envision doing with/on your new obsession?

I am planning on spending the summer sailing, wandering up and down the east coast as time, tide and wind allows. I am lucky to have a lot of time off in the summer so I plan on being on my boat in some capacity from early May to late August. I will also be doing a lot of maintenance. I have never been on a boat very long before one system or another goes haywire so I also see many curses, frustrations, and a lot of time spent in uncomfortable positions in my future.

When did you take the plunge, and what did you wind up adopting?
I finally had enough saved up for a significant down payment just a few months ago. This was at about the same time that I realized that a smaller vessel was not only less expensive to purchase but less expensive to maintain, upgrade, dock, moor, and store. I had long admired the Pacific Seacraft 37 as the boat that had enough performance for casual day sailing but could one day satisfy my bluewater aspirations. I settled on another Crealock design, the Dana 24 because she is much shorter but still has the cruising chops of the 37. With the money I saved on the purchase and 13 fewer feet of slip space, I have more seed money in the cruising kitty and can treat her to the upgrades she deserves.
Know what you’re going to use a boat for beFORE you start shopping for one.  Could be all you need is one of these.  (Rental dories at City Island awaiting the fishing season.)
How has that worked out for you so far?  What have you managed to do?
It has been great so far. She came fully equipped with only 150 hours on the engine so the only work that I have done has been cosmetic. I changed out all of the interior cushions that were original to the boat and painted the bottom. My next order of business is to get her shipped from Rhode Island where I bought her and bring her to New Jersey where I have a slip.
What was the best experience you had so far?  What was the worst?
The best experience was definitely the sea trial since that has been the only time that I’ve had her on the water. She performed magnificently and I couldn’t believe that I was finally at the helm of my very own sailboat. The worst has been dealing with New Jersey to register her in the state. Fortunately, I am working with an amazing document company that is helping to guide me.
Any changes to what you originally envisioned doing with her?  If so, why?
So far everything is happening according to plan. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, done a lot of research and gotten a lot of advice from those who are more experienced than I. Winds and currents change and I’m sure there will be changes to my course but I hope to enjoy the journey as it comes.
Any advice you’d offer up to others thinking of joining the ranks?
Get help. Professionals will make the process better. I relied on everybody who was involved with the transaction and asked all of them for advice in their area of expertise. My broker was an incredible quarterback for the whole process. The surveyor had spent a life on the water cruising, racing and working in the merchant marine and offered great suggestions about upgrades and simple tips for maintenance and upgrades. The document company handled the financial transaction and registering the vessel with the Coast Guard and are still invaluable in helping me navigate all of the bureaucracy and paperwork involved with boat ownership.
Anything else you’d like to add?
When people tell you to plan on spending some 20-30% of the boats purchase price on extra stuff, that might be conservative especially if you hire outside help. Whether you DIY or not, there’s still insurance, surveying, slip fees, materials, delivery and many other costs that just add up.
This could be you!  It’s not Jason – didn’t get a pic of his Dana by cyber press time…  but his is further down on this post.
Thanks, Jason!
If that sold you on getting your own boat, feel free to hit us up for some quick, casual advice.
If that made you say, “no way,” then sign up for our Sailing Club by March 31 and get any course you like for free!
And, here’s Jason’s actual real-life Pac Seacraft Dana…
jason dana

work for sail!

We need some volunteers this weekend to help prep the fleet.  Come meet us; meet some other sailors or potential newbies.  Get some fresh air by the water.  You might even get out ON the water to help out on boats already floating in the proverbial moat.

two & a half
Wednesday afternoon was T-shirt friendly as we patrolled the fleet.

Help us out, and we’ll return the favor by taking or sending you sailing this season!

You can help out even if you don’t have specific skills to contribute.  We need help with things like…

  • Scraping old paint off boat bottoms
  • Polishing sides of boats & painting bottoms
  • Cleaning boats, tidying & organizing
  • Removal of interior fabric to prep for painting
  • Carrying and moving things ashore and on the water.

If you have some skills, we might have you doing more marine-specific things.

Hit us up if you’re interested!

Thinking of teaching?

We have some clinics for you.  Join us to earn your initial ASA Instructor Certification, and/or advance to the next level!

  • Saturday and Sunday, 4/16 & 17: Basic Keelboat Instructor Clinic
  • Monday and Tuesday, 4/18 & 19: Basic Coastal Cruising, Coastal Navigation, and Bareboat Cruising Instructor clinics

You don’t have to be the best sailor on the Sound to teach.  You have to be pretty solid, of course, but almost more important is how you relate to people, and your ability to turn them into something you are but they’re not – sailors.

These clinics are to assess your sailing and teaching ability, your overall knowledge, provide feedback and instruction, and give you the creds you need to officially certify students after you’ve turned them into sailors.  You’ll be challenged as well as trained.

The Sailing Center is the host for these clinics.  We did the same thing last spring and have participated in others in the past.  It’s something we’ve meant to make a routine of, so here we go.  Having a variety of sailboat classes in our fleet and a versatile location, we’re in an ideal position to host IQC’s.

The clinics & fees

  • Basic Keelboat, BKBI – 201:  $295
  • Basic Coastal Cruising/Coastal Navigation, BCCI/CONI 203-205: $195
  • Coastal Navigation CONI – 205 exam retake if needed: $75
  • Bareboat Cruising, BBCI – 204: $195
  • Instructor Dues (annual): $79

New instructors can opt to just do Basic Keelboat over the weekend.  Sailors with sufficient experience to be candidates for the higher levels can add those as well.  Of course, anyone with 201 can skip that and register for the higher level clinics.

Questions?  Contact us, or see the ASA clinic page.

Ready to register?  That goes straight to ASA.

And, please spread the word about the clinics!

new clinic: Knot Tying

not a knot
That’s not a knot; that’s a might-knot at best and maybe a not-a-knot.  Let’s learn how to not be like that…

We’ve been threatening to run this clinic for awhile, and with the sailing season surprisingly close by despite this weekend’s cold snap, time to snap some knots closed.

This 2 1/2-hour clinic is held in Manhattan on a weeknight or on a weekend morning or afternoon.  We’ll supply rope, a cleat on a board, and coffee.  You just show up, drink the coffee (optional), and keep the rope and cleat board.

You can see the step-by-step instructions on tying any of these anywhere.  We’ll show you the details on forming these knots and hitches, and how to properly close them, which really has to be done in person.  Of course, we’ll talk about what these knots are good for.

Here’s what we’ll tie:

  • Figure 8
  • Stevedore (‘stē′vĭ-dôr′)
  • Bowline
  • Rolling hitch
  • Square/reef
  • cleat hitch
  • sheet bend
  • ? (that’s probably enough for one session, but who knows…)

And, if there’s any interest, we’ll cover one fishing knot that does it all – the Uni Knot.

Tuition: $55

Location: Upper West Side

Upcoming Schedules:

  • Wednesday, February 24, 7pm (or earlier if all enrolled can manage).
  • Saturday, February 27, 2pm
  • what?  these dates don’t work for you?  let us know what does.

Have questions about this?  Want to enroll?  Hit us up.

That’s better – two knots going on here.  Shot taken in the rain, hence fuzziness.  Want a $25 gift certificate good toward anything we offer? Name the knots in a message from our contact page!

“So you’re thinking of learning to sail…”

…and you’re probably wondering if this is for you, and who can learn to sail.  And what you can expect to be able to do afterward.  All that good stuff.

Any reasonably coordinated adult can learn to sail.  It’s that simple.  You don’t have to be an athlete.  You don’t need the balance of a gymnast.  You don’t need an advanced degree in math or physics.  (It’s perfectly okay if you suck at them.)

All you really need is a desire to learn.  We’ll do the rest.

“But what’s sailing like?  I’ve never done it.  I have no idea what to expect.”

Well, I’ve been there, albeit with another sport – snowboarding.  I tried that later in life after not skiing since I was a little boy.  I soon became an instructor.  Those experiences inspired me to write this page for you.  And I have a story for you about that further down that puts it all into perspective, but first things first…

Sailing is a very multi-faceted activity and sport.  There are so many ways you can play.  The main thing to know is that it’s very safe.  Are there risks?  Sure.  But most of the risk is reserved for more extreme elements of the sport – certain kinds of racing, ocean passages, etc.  When sailing near shore, and not taking senseless chances, most risk is mitigated and it’s an amazingly safe activity.

So, what’s sailing like?

Instead of me talking about it, why not look at a couple of video clips on our YouTube Channel.  Watch our students in action.  See what you will be doing in our 3-day learn to sail course (or, for that matter, and lots of details aside, any similarly situated learn-to-sail course).

See some clips

There are lots of kinds of sailboats and ways to play on them.  There are small sailing dinghies – little bathtubs 8-10 feet long that small kids start on, and flat, tricked out, teen-length speed racing platforms for kids of all ages (including seniors who are young at heart) .  Dinghies flip over all the time, and that can be part of the fun!

There are keelboats.  These don’t flip over in normal use.  They have heavy fins on the bottom called,.. you guessed it… keels.  These range from small ‘day sailors’ that have bench seats and no real inside to speak of to large, liveable, floating apartments (houses, in fact, compared to some smaller NYC hovels).  These can be comfortably cruised on or even lived on.  How big are we talking?  You’ll learn to sail on something 20-24 feet typically, and when you’re ready for your first cruise in the Caribbean, you will likely be aboard something 35 to 45 feet long.  These will have several individual cabins, with large beds (berths), some windows, fans, and a little storage for whatever you flew down with.  On these cruisers, you can explore a coast or chain of islands for a week or two and be perfectly content.  People usually sail to a new destination each day in a leisurely fashion, allowing plenty of time to explore once ashore.

There are multihulls, usually catamarans, which are basically two very narrow boats spaced apart with connecting bars or what have you.  They can be small ‘beach cats’ with what are basically trampolines in between – wet, wild, and fun.  Ever heard of  Hobie Cat?  Hobie Alter was the man.  Then, there are cruising cats.  These are much more substantial, and can’t really be sailed up onto a beach and pushed off again.  The bodies are not as wide as on a single-bodied cruiser, but there’s less stuff to put in each one, so they’re actually roomier, and more private.  Four corners; four cabins.  The main congregating area is up in a main salon in between the bodies, and the kitchen is there too.  Can party hardy there and not wake up those who went to sleep.  They don’t sail as well as a single-bodied boat, but who cares?  They’re often a little faster and quite versatile.  Catamarans don’t lean to the side easily, because each hull resists leaning to its side due to buoyancy.  But, when the forces get strong enough for one hull to lift up, look out- if you don’t get it back down fast, you can flip over – and once a cruising cat flips over, it stays over.  Beach cats are hard to right (flip back up), but it’s doable without assistance.  Cruising cats actually have escape hatches on the bottom of the hulls in case you’re offshore in bad weather and actually do flip one.  Not usually much of a concern kickin it in the Carib.

All the boats described here can be raced, from round-the-buoys kids’ dinghies on up to round-the-world monohulls and America’s Cup cats.  Racing entails more risk of getting hit with equipment, or getting knocked or falling overboard, but even then, most of these incidents end relatively well.  But, the longer the distance of the race, especially when doing it at night, the more risk is entailed, and there are occasional fatalities.  But given the amount of people who race, and the frequency, the number of serious injuries and fatalities is really quite low.  (In my humble opinion, most fatalities are due to poor judgment by the participants rather than the inherent risk.)

“So, how does this apply to me?  What will my first sailing experiences be like when learning?”

If you didn’t look at those video clips, here’s what to expect.

You’ll learn to walk around the boat safely.  It’s a lot like riding a bus or train.  One hand for you, one hand to grab something when needed.

You’ll sit a bit as you steer the boat with a long stick called a tiller.  Push one way, pull the other.  A lot like rowing gently with one hand, but without all the effort.

You’ll sit a bit as you trim the sails, or pull in/ease out to set them correctly to the boat and the wind.  That’s a little more work than steering, but don’t worry.  You can do it.  (Yes, I know we don’t know you.)

You’ll cross the cockpit from one bench seat to the other as we cross the wind or rotate tasks and positions in the boat.  If you can stand up and sit down, sometimes in a slight crouching stance, you’re good to go.

You’ll go forward to the front of the boat to grab the mooring stick to secure the boat, or let it go when getting underway.  Back to bus & train riding.

What else to expect…

Do not expect to wind up in the water.  You won’t.  You should know how to swim, but we even have students who can’t.  All students wear life jackets (PFD’s) at all times while aboard.  Can’t swim?  Yours goes on before you even get to the pier.  (Don’t get alarmed; the boats don’t flip over; you’re not going in the water.

Expect the boat to lean to the side, or heel, in response to the wind.  This is natural.  You’ll learn how much to accept and what to do when there’s more heeling than needed.  The boat won’t flip over.  It might feel like it to you the first time it happens, but it won’t.  After a little time, your mind and body will both accept this.  By the end of the third day, you might catch yourself trying to flip the boat over to prove us wrong.  Bring it!

Think you can handle all that?

(We knew you could.)  Then look at our Start Sailing page (learn to sail/Basic Keelboat, ASA 101) for more info on the course and how to sign up!

Not convinced?  Told you to check out some clips!  Here they are.

Questions?  Just ask.

Allow me to share a story that helps put it in perspective for you…

I skied as a little boy.  I remember almost nothing of it – I have a few snapshot images in my head, and one sound bite.  Also, one ‘video.’  That was a lesson that ended up with me bailing out of a kids group because I didn’t like the way the trail looked.  One kid after another went down and around the bend, but I took one look and decided there was no way I was going.  It looked wrong.  (For those who ski/ride, it was just a double fall line, but it looked impossibly dangerous to me.  Trail is going left, but sloping right?  Nothing to bank off of?  Not happening…)

Anywho, after becoming so resistant to misguided attempts to get me to go, and basically caterwauling, they finally sent me with a less advanced group.  I remember following the others through an easy glade, sniveling to myself, “this is EASY.”

Soon after that, my parents sold their ski house at Hunter Mountain and we took only one more trip.  Skiing just sort of stopped.  From time to time as a younger adult, I’d consider trying again, but after well publicized stories of celebrity skiing deaths (Sonny Bono; one of the Kennedy’s), and meeting people who’d been hurt skiing or knew others who had been, I was always fearful.  I chose not to go.

I eventually decided to try, and chose snowboarding.  I had a hard time with it, but had my moments.   I loved it and stuck with it, to the point that after one full season (and two lessons at the end of the previous one), I applied to become an instructor.

I was no pro snowboarder, nor an amazingly talented prodigy.  I felt I’d come a long way in a short time, but wanted to teach as much to ramp up my own progression as anything else.  One of my main motivations was to prove my hypothesis that I could teach others to snowboard better than I’d been taught.

So, I chose one of the more inviting mountains, whose philosophy was along the lines of… “You don’t have to be the best skier or snowboarder on the mountain to teach.  You have to be good with people.”  I started filling out their application on line, being very modest in how I represented myself.  (Intermediate, mostly blue terrain, no park, etc.)  About half way through, I got a phone call from a former client who said he took our course about three years ago.  He had bought a boat, and was thinking about keeping it at City Island (where the Sailing Center is located).  We chatted about the boat and his options for storing it for awhile, and eventually, I realized I didn’t know who I was talking to.  So, I asked, and he told me his name.

I remembered him.  He and his adult son were snowboard instructors!  I distinctly remembered them, because after they finished the course, they were so happy with it that they offered for me to come try snowboarding any time.  And at the time, I was like, no f-ing WAY I’m doing that.  I saw it as some daredevelish thing that wasn’t for adults, and wondered why they were doing it.  Of course, I had never done it nor seen it live so what did I know.

So, I said to the client, Robert, “You’ll never guess what you caught me in the middle of when you called.”  “What?” “I’m filling out the application on line to teach snowboarding at Okemo!”

“They’ll hire you in a hearbeat.”

“? But, but…”

And I gave him every reason why I thought they shoudn’t/wouldn’t hire me.  And he had an answer to every one.  And, he was right.

If I could learn to snowboard at the age I did, and be able to teach after basically one full season, then just about anyone can learn to sail.  Straight up.  When I flat out refused to try when invited, part of that was because I had misconceptions about what was involved, and what you could do in snowboarding.  It’s not all about inverted aerials in the halfpipe, or dropping off cliffs, or doing death defying stunts sliding off rails or through trees.  It’s also about mellow cruising down basic trails, gliding along slowly and in control, with little risk to yourself or anyone else.  The reason I tried it in the first place was that friends who were aware of my potential interest advised that I didn’t have to ever be out of control and go fast enough to get hurt.  I could take a lesson, stay on the bunny (beginner) slopes or greens, and just choose to stay in control at all times.  And they were right.  So I tried it, fell in love, and have not looked back.  Of course, now I dabble in most of the daredevil stuff, but I choose it carefully.  Halfpipe? Love it, but if I ever get good enough to reach the top, I’ll stop before I leave the pipe and risk landing on the edge.  Park?  I’ll do a straight glide over easy boxes and that’s it.  Jumps?  The smallest they have.  Moguls and trees?  I’ve put in the work and gotten there, and tolerate moguls – sometimes I even do okay.  I’m pretty good in trees!  Cliffs?  Still working on that, but I did take a lesson at Revelstoke, B.C. for that and (barely) got started with it.

You want to know what’s involved in learning, and then doing it on your own afterward.  You want to know the risks, and how to mitigate them.  You just want to know what to expect.  So there it was.

Questions?  Just ask.