“The beauty of community sailing centers is that we provide a way to sail,” said Traci Mead, Managing Director of DC Sail. “It’s very affordable and you don’t have to have your own boat.”
These organizations get people on the water while teaching students of all ages about watercraft, safety, science, and environmental conservation. Their programs are open to the public, and by emphasizing equity, they bring the benefits of sailing to people who have historically been excluded from water-based recreation.
The nonprofit US Sailing provides leadership, national standards and education for the sport, including accreditation and support for community sailing centers. Although the exact number is difficult to estimate, more than 130 of US Sailing’s member organizations have self-identified as community sailing centers, and 42 of those are accredited. There are probably a few hundred in total across the country.
A community sailing center has been offering affordable, accessible sailing since 1946. Community Boating Inc. (CBI) in Boston is the nation’s oldest public sailing organization with a fleet of more than 120 sailboats. Its programs teach people of all abilities to sail, paddle and windsurf the Charles River — and encourage volunteerism. As nonprofit organizations, centers rely on community engagement, program revenue, and donations to support operations.
An unforgettable sailing trip on the San Blas Islands in Panama
Many CBI-like centers opened in the 1980s and 1990s as community members created alternatives to expensive boat owners and yacht clubs. Today, many courses and activities offer courses along even the most spectacular urban settings in the country; If you’ve ever dreamed of admiring the New York skyline from a sailboat, Hudson River Community Sailing offers access from Chelsea and Inwood. Centers allow participants to learn and explore all types of waterways, including large and small lakes, rivers, bays and shorelines. According to US Sailing, they are an increasingly popular way to give the public access to the water.
“Community sailing is a big part of the future of sailing,” said Jen Guimaraes, youth education manager at US Sailing. “It gives so many more people the opportunity to try it.”
Community Sailing New Orleans (CSNO) is one such newcomer. The center began its programming in 2021 and expects to serve about 1,200 adults and children that year. To create a more accessible waterfront West End after Katrina, everything was built with a view to removing economic, physical and social barriers to sailing.
CSNO’s cornerstone programs, many of which are free, include sailing and nautical courses for younger children and high school students, adaptive sailing for those with disabilities, and instruction for veterans and military members. The center also offers adult sailing courses, women’s clinics, boat rentals and society sailing.
“You would be surprised how many people have lived their entire lives here but never enjoyed Lake Pontchartrain,” said Khari Parrish, CSNO’s operations director. “I’m excited to help people in New Orleans get on the water and experience their city from a different perspective.”
In Washington, DC Sail operates from two marinas and hosts youth and adult programs. On the docks at Diamond Teague Park, Summer Kids Set Sail day camps for 7-15 year olds range from safety training on the dock to rigging and hands-on instruction aboard the center’s forgiving 18-foot dinghies.
The organization also provides more than $20,000 in scholarships each year and participates in US Sailing’s donor-funded Siebel Sailors program, a no-cost opportunity that has taught approximately 1,500 children across the country to learn how to sail and how to continue .
“Our goal is to get as many kids out on the water as possible and learn about safety and the importance of our waterways and the human impact on them,” Mead said.
Like other centers, DC Sail dives deep and helps students build their skills and confidence. Its vibrant high school racing program has promoted young sailors to national competitions.
Adult offerings include refresher courses, sailing and racing courses. Participants come to the organization for a variety of reasons: some sailed during childhood summer camps and want to take formal courses, others have sailing destinations on their bucket list. Some Washingtonians take weekend lessons, but they sail the Chesapeake Bay. Still others plan charter flights to more distant locations and learn the basics so they can better relate to their captain.
The 65-foot schooner American Spirit, docked at Gangplank Marina at the Wharf, is a fundraising resource and an opportunity for the public to participate in sailing, private charters and events.
Community Sailing Centers can be both waypoints and final destinations on any voyage. For example, some participants might get their small boat certification and then go elsewhere for cruising courses that allow them to travel and charter their own boat. And earning your small boat certification equips you with the knowledge to search for boat rentals at other facilities during your trip, so you can explore new waterways.
In the Greek Islands, a slow travel sailing odyssey to the distant Ionian Islands
“You can jump in a kayak or rent a boat. So if you’re traveling now, maybe choose a place where you can get on the water,” Guimaraes said. “It can inspire you to seek new goals after the life-changing experience of learning to sail.”
Thanks to the growth of community sailing centers, it’s possible to try sailing at a reasonable price – and join a community that meets everyone where they are, from landlubbers to old salts. Children can learn science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts fundamental to sailing curricula. And everyone can cultivate the teamwork, leadership, confidence and appreciation for maritime pursuits and the environment that sailing can bring.
“They’re a wonderful way to access the water with a supportive group of people, whether you’re there for the day and want a private lesson, want to rent a boat, or want your child to experience an exciting summer camp,” Guimaraes said.
Operating in San Diego for 51 years, the Mission Bay Aquatic Center (MBAC) is one of the world’s largest watersports instructional facilities with a fleet that includes more than 50 sailboats, 15 windsurfers, 90 kayaks, 100 surfboards, 70 paddleboards and more. In 2021, the center served more than 30,000 members of the public with a variety of classes, programs and rentals.
The sailing programs allow participants – most of whom have never sailed before – to transition from mainland to advanced sailing. However, most people don’t pursue certification as an end goal, opting instead to just enjoy the water.
“What we do here is much more than just sailing,” said Paul Lang, training and maintenance manager for MBAC. “Sailing is a tool to get people outdoors to do something active. We are the first step in giving access to people who see sailboats from shore and think, “How could I ever do that?”. ”
Williams is a writer from Oregon. your site is erinwilliams.com.
Small boat programs are located at the Diamond Teague Park piers at 99 Potomac Ave. SE. The schooner American Spirit is anchored at the Wharf, 650 Wharf St. SW.
Sunset Sails on American Spirit are $50 for non-members. With a $225 annual membership, members can purchase up to four Sunset Sail tickets for $25 each, plus other benefits. Refresher sailing courses are $75 for members. An adult sailing course at the basic membership level costs $515. Kids Set Sail summer camps are $350 per week and the high school racing program is $550 per spring or fall season. Youth program grants are available. Open from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m
Community Sailing New Orleans
101 N. Roadway Street, New Orleans
Many of CSNO’s youth, adaptive, and veteran sailing programs are free to participants. An adult beginner keelboat course is $375 and a customized Women in the Wind clinic is $32 per person. Youth sailing camps are $325. CSNO works seven days a week; Hours are seasonal.
Mission Bay Aquatic Center
1001 Santa Clara Pl., San Diego
MBAC has a variety of classes, youth programs and rentals. Adult Basic Sailing Course is $180 Adult Basic Sailing Course is $180. Private lessons are $150 for two hours, $75 for each additional hour. Sailboat rental for qualified sailors is $40 for 2½ hours. Basic youth sailing and multisport camps are $465. Financial help is possible. Open from Monday to Sunday, 9am to 7pm
21 David G. Mugar Way, Boston
CBI, the nation’s oldest public sailing organization, offers programs for adults, children, and accessible programs. Adult and youth courses range from introductory to advanced sailing, racing, windsurfing and paddling. There are also STEM courses for teens, a two-week beginner’s sailing course, and tiered costs from $1 to $395. CBI’s Universal Access Program provides adaptive guidance and equipment, also on a sliding scale. One-day keelboat rentals for experienced sailors from $85. Kayak rentals for two hours from $34 per person. CBI works daily; Hours are seasonal.
Prospective travelers should consider local and national health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning a trip. For travel health advice information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention interactive map of travel advice by destination and the CDC’s travel health advice website.