Sail Away in Sheepshead Bay!

Our first class there taught them how to sail a boat in Brooklyn – or anywhere else.

Our first Brooklyn schedule is basically in the books. We did days 1 & 2 (out of 3) at our new location in Sheepshead Bay hosted by the Miramar Yacht Club.

So..? How did it go?..

In that pic: the lucky first three students at our new Brooklyn location in Sheepshead Bay. That’s the Marine Park Bridge in the left background connecting Flatbush Avenue to the Rockaways, and Breezy Point behind the sailors.

Exceeded our expectations. Not by much, as they were rather high based on due diligence, it not being our first rodeo, etc. Probably just the weather: as that’s so unpredictable these days, we were pleasantly surprised at the pleasant weather. This area gets a more reliable afternoon sea breeze than anywhere else around here – definitely a check going in the ‘PRO’ column. It was dead in Western LI Sound on Saturday afternoon, so our 103 course in progress there reverted to maneuvering under power. No need for motors at the Gateway to the Atlantic, however. There was even a Pearson 30 sailing out under main alone. Impressive.

In that pic: a Pearson 30 in the background, which sailed out of the Bay under main alone. In the foreground is the Amanda Rose, the Ensign sloop we were aboard for the course.

The ‘CON?’ The super-close deli/food mart is a bit slow for banging out the lunch orders. So we learned we’ll have to call those in, cross the street, and pick them up. Coffee? Decent (by our Dockmaster’s rather high standards). Quesadillas? Great. Overall, lunch experience def not a deal breaker. We have yet to explore what else there is to try around here. (BYO always possible.)

The Bay is super protected, so there are never large motorboat wakes rocking the boats when boarding, rigging, departing, or returning to the mooring. We came and went numerous times each day, often just for practice. We had a few small wakes over the course of the weekend; nothing that interfered with anything.

Getting out from the Bay to Rockaway Inlet, the large, wide body of water around the corner? It was anywhere from very manageable to easy at all times. I expected to have trouble sometimes with beginning students. It was more or less as it is everywhere: see if there’s a direction you prefer or maybe need, to start in. (Often there is none.) Check whether there’s a gust of breeze approaching. Hoist sails. Check for boat traffic. Time the wind, and let go the rope!

Next: short sail around the corner, along the east end of Coney Island, to get to open water. That is tight sometimes, but everyone is doing it. If the wind is coming from where you’re going, you must zig-zag to get there. (There’s your first sailing lesson!) Not a problem if the waterway is wide open. This channel is a bit tight, so one must focus on the sailing and also look for other boat traffic. Most of that is sailboats, so they all get it. Most of the rest? The fishing fleet, which come and go twice a day typically, so they’re used to it and going slow and steady. It works out.

VIDEO CLIP: CLICK TO PLAY. An Ensign sloop sailing out of Sheepshead Bay, off Kingsborough Community College.

More than half the time, the wind allows sailors coming around the corner from Sheepshead Bay to aim straight where they want to go and just, well… go. And, it if it’s a zig-zag getting out (the direction that more often requires it), coming back after sailing is the easy part. Straight! The prevailing sea breeze from the south allows for easy returns, and also for easy approaches to the mooring when done.

How about the sailing once outside? Superb! It’s very roomy in the Inlet, which feels more like a bay. We don’t have to leave Rockaway Inlet to do any training for learn-to-sail/101, and even to just cruise and enjoy a bit, it’s hard to leave this playpen. There are several options awaiting, however, for variety and for longer-distance sails in our cruising courses and for Sailing Club members who want to get off the leash and roam.

The boat we’re teaching on down there? Awesome! The Pearson Ensign, designed in 1962 and still going strong today. In fact, it’s resurgent. The Miramar YC has around 20 of them in the fleet, as well as any number of other sailboat designs members keep there. We’re using a Club-owned boat and have other member-owned boats on standby that they’ve volunteered.

VIDEO CLIP: CLICK TO PLAY. Watching a nice ketch with wood masts returning to Sheepshead Bay as we continue to practice and play aboard our Ensign.

The Ensign has been a popular day sailor and racing class since its inception. The Class Association has licensed new builders in the last decade or so, which is rare for a design of this vintage. Carl Alberg, the venerable naval architect who thought it up, got it right. The boat sails very well across the wind spectrum, is super roomy and comfortable, and very stable due to its full keel. It’s an excellent choice for this area, which includes Breezy Point. The name is appropriate. Each time we’ve sailed here, there were always other Ensigns sailing in and out of the Bay. Always sailing; never motoring, although some of the boats do have engines.

No dolphin or whale sightings this weekend. We did see gamefish busting up bait on the surface with terns diving on the bait from above. Only a matter of time before we see full-on feeding frenzies (blitzes) and some dolphins. Whales are less common to see, so that might require a day trip on the Tartan 10 for our Start Cruising course when the timing is right.

So far, so good! It’s a hospitable environment, both at the Miramar Yacht Club who are gracious and enthusiastic hosts (who actually go sailing too), and on the water. It feels like we’re out in the Hamptons are on the Cape. Yet, there it is, behind us and the trees along the beaches: the NYC skyline, reminding us how short a distance we are from home despite feeling a thousand miles away.

In that pic: a C&C sailboat off Plumb Beach, just outside Sheepshead Bay, competing with the skyline for our attention. It won. Plumb Beach is part of Gateway National Recreation Area, and we saw kiteboarders doing there thing there!

Come join us in Brooklyn! We can teach you to sail in a few days. Then, you can join Miramar Yacht Club and sail the same type of boat you just learned on as well as meeting members of the Club with other boats – and who knows how many might invite you sailing on their boats?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.