Need to roll a canoe over...into a sailboat
August 12, 2014 9:25 PM   Subscribe

Looking for the ideal locale to live cheaply and practice sailing just as cheaply.

I'm considering a move to the SF Bay area for the sole purpose of spending the maximum number of daylight hours sailing cheaply or for free on other people's keelboats. My ultimate goal is solo cruising in about three years. I would also really like to buy a cheap boat and live aboard, to get my downsizing out of the way while I'm getting my skills up to snuff, learn boat maintenance, and maybe turn a profit in a couple years when it's time to buy The Boat (that last is totally optional).

I've lived in the Bay Area before and am close enough to it now that I can easily visit to check things out, which is a significant advantage in itself. But, at this point in my life, I could live pretty much anywhere in the world where a) !important I can take my dog along and b) there's fast, fairly reliable, and not horribly expensive internet access. For personal reasons I would favor a location on the west coast of North America, but I'm very much open to all possibilities.

I'm thinking there must be other places with a similar or somehow equivalent palette of sailing opportunities that score higher on the cost-of-living/availability-of-cheap-sailing curve. Are there? If they exist, where are they?
posted by bricoleur to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Dalles, Oregon.

It's one of the best places in the world for wind surfing, in particular. The current runs several knots to the west, and usually the wind (and it's usually windy) blows east, so you can go back and forth across the river (about half a mile wide) all day and end up right where you started. As a result, it's become something of a surfer's mecca.

But it's also a wonderful place for sailing, for pretty much the same reason. You can sail all the way down to Bonneville Dam and up to the Dalles Dam, about 40 miles. (Going past either dam, you have to pass through a lock, which costs.)

If you need access to a big city, it's a straight shot right down I-84 to Portland.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:49 PM on August 12, 2014

Best answer: I don't really follow sailing, but have been to many marinas over the years. Most people get started by buying a boat, making friends out of their neighbors, and making it up as they go along. Many of them get jobs at the marina doing everything from pumping gas to resorting teak or sewing canvas.
You can basically choose any city with large bodies of water across the world and you will find a sailing community. If you are looking for a low cost of living do not overlook the Great Lakes.
You may be surprised to find many boat owners aren't wealthy, and instead are resourceful and thrifty in keeping their old tubs afloat.
If your goal is to sail the fastest, most expensive boats, perhaps consider living and working in the marina so you meet the proper connections.
You may also consider purchasing an older houseboat (perhaps $15k, perhaps with no engine and many vexing problems :) ) if you can't afford a sailboat that you can occupy full time.
You may enjoy this Toronto based article:
posted by littlewater at 10:06 PM on August 12, 2014

Bellingham, Washington. Access to the San Juan Islands is great.
posted by Capri at 6:54 AM on August 13, 2014

Best answer: San Diego? SD and SF are the two big sailing hubs in CA. Very different weather and sailing conditions.

You are a little vague on how much you know about sailing now, and whether you are interested in racing or only cruising. Although there are plenty of guys who would like a sailing friend because the wife isn't interested, it's in racing that there is a constant need for crew. For purposes of discussion only, let me divide racing into three categories:

1. Club racing. Local races between boats belonging to a particular yacht club. These races are often on week nights and referred to as beer can races. You can probably get a spot by putting a flyer up on the club bulletin board or just asking around, even with no experience. The sailing ability of the competitors ranges from poor up to very good.

2. Interclub racing. Local races and distance races up to about 50 miles open to all the boats in the area regardless of club. Advertise in the way as above, but the skipper is looking for people who already know something. The skill level is similar except the poor sailors don't compete.

3. Distance racing and grand prix racing These are big events. You get a spot by word of mouth, and you have to know what you're doing.

The skill level between the average in club racing and the grand prix level is big. You have to work your way up. One way to accelerate the climb is by taking courses.

One reason to race, even if your objective is cruising, is that you learn more, faster, and can measure your accomplishment. There are plenty of cruisers who might take you aboard but who have nothing to teach you, or who don't really know what they are doing.

You might want to ask around to see who does yacht deliveries in your area. Call them up and offer yourself as crew. Most deliveries are done under power, but you still learn a lot. At worst you can spend more time on the water, and perhaps (no guarantees) earn some pocket change.

Oh, on the east coast, Annapolis, MD and the Tampa, St Pete area.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:19 AM on August 13, 2014

Many sailboat owners are always looking for crew. Get a job at a marina, make friends. To get diverse experience, do this in a couple of places with different conditions. I learned to sail on a lake, with shifting wind, so I got good at tacking and jibing out of necessity. When I've sailed on the ocean, with long stretches between tacks, it feels peculiar.
posted by theora55 at 8:43 AM on August 13, 2014

Best answer: It's not clear if you are wanting to race or cruse. Getting some time on afternoon races is great but you're sitting on the rail or looking at bits of yarn (telltails taped to the edge of the sail used to fine tune performance) all day.

Your own boat is an ongoing learning experience that includes carpentry, diesel maintenance, plumbing, rigging, electrical wiring, tracking down obscure clamps, bolts screws, fixtures. Learning that with "boat yoga" you can climb upside down into that tiny dark odd shaped space.

Buying a boat is the easy part and and decent boats are can be found for a good price and even free. Finding a spot to "park" can be really really hard and expensive. Getting high bandwidth connectivity can be problematic. Marinas will have ok wifi, on the coast sailing or anchored off - ok to spotty cell phone 3g is the expectation. Offshore - expect short text only emails, huge bucks for slow modem speed.

Look for community groups, Bostons Community Boating is an insanely great bargain.

To look up day sailing in a prospective area try googling the PHRF fleet in the area.

Getting a mooring or slip in a popular urban area can have a years long wait list. 20 or even 5 miles down the coast might be a whole different story. The "economical" boat yard will probably not be on the web, or have any interest in advertising. Road trip slowly along the coast, chat with the old guys, bring beer.

Go as small as you can, if you want to just get out on the water most days look for a 18-25 ft with a small cabin that you can easily sail yourself. You can certainly sail larger boats solo but getting off the dock is just a bigger effort. Scaring up crew is a constant project, folks are busy.

Start learning about tides, current, navigation, rules of the road and weather.

There's a fair number of folks that spend summers in Maine and winters in Florida, the transit is about a month.

The ActiveCaptain couple have an online business and these blog entries are current advice on connectivity.

But on looking back your actual real question is where. Hmm, big stretches of the west coast have no ports. What I read about the Bay area is that it's really expensive. Bellingham Wa is a great small town right next to the San Juan islands. Portland is a great area but what I read about getting out to the ocean from the Columbia river sounds interesting. The Great Lakes have a lot of sailing in the summer. Annapolis or Marblehead on the east coast are sailing centers.

Sailing is very doable for anyone that really wants to get out there. Feel free to PM me.
posted by sammyo at 9:25 AM on August 13, 2014

« Older Example of Japanese-speaker singing Disney song...   |   Should my mom put that back in her mouth? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.