Have you ever looked out across San Francisco Bay and wondered what it's like to be aboard one of those sailboats out there? Do you know someone who loves to sail and you're curious to find out why?
There's a reason so many beautiful songs have been written about sailing. It is an activity that people can fall in love with. Some jokingly describe their passion for sailing as an addiction or refer to it as being "bitten by the sailing bug." Unlike some other habits, sailing also brings many health and life-enhancing benefits to those who partake often.
Perhaps you feel drawn to sailing, but your fears are causing hesitation. Hesitate no more! Here are five signs you might enjoy sailing - or even fall in love with it - along with some reassuring notes to help address some of your possible fears.
1) You enjoy spending time in nature, especially on or in the water.
Nature-lovers and thalassophiles often find themselves drawn to sailing. It's a great way to spend time outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine, with few other people nearby - only your crew, of course. Swimming in chilly Bay or Pacific waters may be unappealing to some, so sailing can be a perfect way to get "blue mind" without getting soaked. (On that note, windier days also tend to be splashier. Learn how to stay dry and warm by reading our article What to Wear Sailing on SF Bay.)
Sailing San Francisco Bay, you'll also have the opportunity to enjoy iconic scenery, breathtaking sunsets, and "Karl," the Bay's infamous spectral fog. It's also not uncommon to spot many species of birds, seals and sea lions, porpoises, and even whales. (Give whales a wide berth of 500 feet or more.)
Sometimes you might even be able to spot and retrieve plastic waste from the Bay. This is one way that sailors can give back to the oceans and waterways that we cherish. Learn more about the American Sailing Association's Operation Plastic Pollution Purge.
Worried you'll get seasick? This article can help: 10 Tips to Prevent and Remedy Seasickness
2) You feel a need to engage in a healthy activity that will help you cope with or temporarily escape from a stressful job or life situation.
Even on cloudy or rainy days, there's something very uplifting, refreshing, and often euphoric about sailing. On windier days, it can even be exhilarating. While some sailors consider sailing purely an adventure sport, for others, it is something more meditative or spiritual. Staying focused and alert for marine traffic, ogling other boats, steering, trimming sails, and immersing your senses in the wonders of nature rewards you with the opportunity to clear your mind of worldly worries and invites you to be "present in the moment."
The science is clear - boating is good for your health and your mind. Learn more with marine scientist Wallace J. Nichols and DiscoverBoating.com.
3) You have an adventurous spirit.
You may have tried and enjoyed other ambitious sports or activities - team sports, hiking, rock climbing, backpacking, paddleboarding, kayaking, surfing, parasailing, open water swimming, horse riding, roller-skating, bicycling, etc. If your lesiure activities tend to be more tame, don't be deterred from giving sailing a try. We have seen many newcomers begin sailing with very little background in other sports fall in love with it because of its many benefits and it's something totally out of the ordinary for them. One of the beauties of sailing is that it is welcoming to people of all ages and abilities!
If you feel fearful of the boat "tipping over," know that it is normal and natural for a sailboat to to lean or "heel" to one side when sailing in certain directions, especially if the wind is strong. A prudent skipper will know when it's time to "reef," or reduce sail area, to limit the degree of heeling. The boat's heavy keel is designed to keep it upright and counter the force of the wind on the sails. It takes a tremenous amount of force to capsize a larger keelboat (>25'). Since waves in the Bay tend to stay on the smaller side, it's extremely unlikely that a capsize would ever occur within the Bay - unless you're on a tiny sailing dinghy like a Laser, El Toro, or Optimist, which is another matter.
If you're concerned about possibly getting injured on a sailboat, check out our article Common Sailing Injuries and How to Prevent Them.
4) You enjoy problem-solving and don’t tend to shy away from a challenge.
It's true, sailing is a learned skill and a challenge. The basics of steering and sail trim might come more naturally to some than others. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of natural ability, you'll find that conditions out on the water are different every day, always presenting new challenges. Some days, the wind and chop are boisterous, while other days, conditions are serene and sublime, or winds are frustratingly fickle. Every sail is an opportunity to learn something new. High-quality training, practice, and experience will help prepare you to handle anything that comes up.
The best part about learning to sail as a member of a club like Modern Sailing is that you don't need to worry about maintaining or repairing a boat while you're also learning to sail. If anything hiccoughs while you're away from harbor, our staff can help walk you through problem-solving or Sea Tow will bring you in safely. Our Member Resources library also contains several educational articles to help skippers cope with some of the potential challenges inherent in sailing.
5) You want to grow as a human being.
Do you tend to confront challenges in life as learning opportunities? Are you dedicated to continual self-development? If so, you will probably love sailing! Not only will you be constantly learning and growing, but you will be surrounded with and supported by a community of like-minded people who are also invested in their growth - and yours.
Especially at Modern Sailing, you'll find that the sailing community is imbued with the spirit of sailors helping sailors to learn and grow. We all remember what it was like to be a beginner, and each of us has one or more mentors to thank for helping to shape us into who we are today - as sailors and as human beings.
Nature abhors a vaccum, as the saying goes. Fear likes to seep into the gaps where information and knowledge are lacking. The more you learn, the less you'll fear. Nonetheless, the forces of nature insist upon respect and even experienced sailors can feel fear. Some fear can even be beneficial, as it will motivate you to remain mindful of essential safety practices. Sometimes simply facing and conquering your fears is part of the challenge and can inevitably lead to your own personal growth.
If you go often enough, sailing also has a way of exposing both your strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you're lacking confidence, you may find that under the guidance of a caring mentor, you are capable of much more than you once imagined. Or, you may realize you could learn to be more tolerant of different personality types.
We've heard many sailors remark about how sailing has helped them develop their teamwork and leadership skills. Getting a boat to move in a desired direction depends upon effective communication and trust between the skipper and crew members. Skippers will find their leadership skills grow when they learn how to communicate their intentions to the crew in a way that fosters cooperation, enthusiasm, and confidence. These skills can be applied beneficially to both their personal and professional lives.
While sailing together, we not only learn a lot about ourselves, we learn a lot about others and our relationship to them. Through trial and error, we learn the wisest ways confront (or avoid!) the more difficult aspects. When we connect, the bonds we make with the people we sail with tend to be very strong, often resulting in lifelong friendships.
Ready to give sailing a try? Here are the best ways to begin.
The most gentle introduction to sailing is an Introductory Sail or Skippered Charter with one of our experienced, personable, and US Coast Guard licensed captains. You only need to show up and step aboard - your level of participation is up to you. During your time on the water with your captain, you can pick his or her brain to get answers to all the questions you may have about sailing and safety. These options are available at our Sausalito and Berkeley locations.
Another option is to go sailing with a friend who is an experienced skipper, someone you can trust to go easy on you your first time.
If after reading this article you already feel confident you will enjoy sailing, you can skip straight to ASA 101, Basic Keelboat Sailing and begin learning to sail right away.
After Your First Sail
Inspired to keep going? American Sailing Association (ASA) courses are a very safe way to learn. The progression of courses is intelligently designed to help sailors gradually overcome fears and build upon increasing levels of knowledge and experience. During your courses, your instructor is always there as a failsafe. He or she will allow you to make small errors as part of the learning process, but will step in to prevent any mistakes that could cause injury or damage to the boat. If this happens, don't take it personally. Just take a few deep breaths and try again.
In between courses, Modern Sailing club members can continue to expand their skills and confidence by chartering, co-skippering, or joining Club Sails. There are no certifications or experience required to join a Club Sail, and Club Sail skippers are fellow club members who have been thoroughly trained and vetted by our instructors. Non-members are welcome to participate in our skill-building Sailing Clinics,
If you find that sailing isn't for you, don't feel bad. Some people try it and never take to it, and that's okay. Don't give up on finding the right activity for you. You might enjoy something like kayaking or paddleboarding to get the blue mind you're craving. If you'd like to try paddling, our neighbors at Sea Trek can help.
But if you find yourself falling in love with sailing, get ready! You are about to embark on one of the most challenging and life-enriching journeys you will ever undertake, and the community at Modern Sailing stands ready to welcome you aboard.
Learn more about membership with Modern Sailing.