I’m happy to report that my 2018 “Learning to Sail” project has kicked off. Developing the skills to operate a sailboat is the first step to a number of items that I added to my bucket list last year. In fact, when I built the bucket list there were enough sailing goals that “sailing” warranted its own category. My biggest obstacle?… I don’t have access to a sailboat.
A Little Background on My Sailing Obsession
I have been fascinated by boats since I was a kid growing up near Lake Coeur d’ Alene. My mom’s aunt and uncle had a cabin on Bennett Bay and as a child I spent a lot of time there. It was impossible to avoid falling in love with boats. I like all kinds and have many fond memories with friends and family on rowboats, canoes, powerboats and ferries. That said, in the universe of boats there is nothing more elegant than a vessel moving across the water by wind power.
Here is a quick list of my sailing destination goals. In terms of timing, this isn’t something that I think that I need to finish right away. If this takes me well into retirement that’s fine, but I do want to get started.
First I need to build some skills and then the plan is to start local (Seattle Area – Puget Sound, San Juan Island whale watching, etc.) When I build up some competency, the next step is to work my way to a more global scope using an “Air BNB” for sailboat service like Sunsail.
Here are my sailing bucket list goals as they stand in Feb 2018:
- Sail in Puget Sound in boat I am operating
- Sail a boat of any size (sailboat, kayak, canoe) through Ballard Locks
- Spot a whale with kids in boat that I am operating
- Alaska inside passage (check out the video below)
- Bahama Islands sail
- Golden Gate Bridge sail
- Panama Canal sail
- Mediterranean Coast sail
Ok, ok… these are pretty audacious goals for a beginner. I’m dreaming big but you can watch this video to see an example of what is giving me the bug:
Anyhow… The first step toward achieving these goals building the skills to operate and navigate safely.
Learning to Sail: Getting Cost Effective Access to Boats
I’m a sailing beginner, but I think that I have a little head start. Over the course of my biotech career I have built some experience troubleshooting electronic and piping systems. In my six years working with Placer County Mountain Rescue I became pretty comfortable with rope systems, knots, pulleys and putting it all together to use mechanical advantage to get things done. I have also used a lot of maps, radios and GPS systems in land navigation. I’m hoping that these skills are all transferable into my new hobby. The biggest problem that I have had with sailing up until now is how to start. I have not had a good opportunity to pull all of this stuff together on an actual boat.
As you might imagine, I want to evaluate my abilities and practice in a controlled condition to figure out what I know and what I don’t know. I also want to do this in a way that doesn’t result in a Coast Guard incident.
So in terms of sailboat access I don’t have one and I don’t know anybody else who does. I have looked into buying a boat through Craigslist and dealerships but I have no idea what I need or how much I should be paying. As for supporting a boat financially, I want to sail but am not so much looking forward to repairs, maintenance and storage challenges. While researching these problems I discovered Windworks Sailing in Ballard, WA…
This weekend I attended the 2018 Windworks Sailing open house. Windworks has an office and classroom in Shilshole Marina. They use this space to offer classes and a fleet of boats that you can charter to build your skills. The club fees are less than a marina slip and the charter fees less than a boat payment. For me, this was the perfect thing: Opportunities to learn from people who know what they are doing and access to a fleet of boats to build the skills.
SIDE NOTE: This is an unsolicited post. I don’t have any kind of affiliate or advertising relationship with Windworks.
Getting Started & Next Steps
Now that I have taken the membership step I can check off my “Sailboat Access” bucket list item. The next step in the adventure is to work on the “Learning to Sail” component of the plan. I’m planning to take my first class: Basic Keelboat (BK), which kicks off in March. Once I’m finished with the BK series I’ll be certified to skipper boats up to 24 feet and if I pace myself and time the classes right I should be ready to go in early summer.
More to come on this topic…. Can’t wait to get started.