An objective guide to finding a great sailing school  

Compare Sailing School Facilities, Marinas, and Surrounding Waters

The facilities associated with a sailing school play a role primarily in the emotional experience associated with a sailing course. A particularly nice facility will bring a sense of grandeur to the sport, while other facilities may frustrate and annoy students because of their quirks. Read on to learn some key warning signs of facilities that will degrade the overall experience.

Marinas Associated with Schools

Sailing schools are either partnered with or part of a marina, giving them access to boats on which to host classes. The conditions within the marina will affect how challenging (and at times how frustrating) an experience you will have.

Be sure to ask how much wind enters the marina. Some marinas are situated such that they have a tremendous amount of wind rushing over the protected area where the boats sit. Strong winds can become particularly troublesome for the portion of the class dedicated to maneuvering the boat under motor power (see typical course content for more details). In marinas with heavy winds, novice captains will have a much more stressful time docking the boat, especially if the marina also has narrow channels. As a result, bad habits can develop such as overcompensating for wind and current or panicking when boats get too close together. While some wind in the marina provides a proper challenge for beginning classes, too much can harm the experience.

Also note that some schools are associated with multiple marinas in different locations. In this case, it is wise to compare the different facilities to find out which marina is likely to have favorable conditions on class day.

Knowing the Surrounding Waters

The practical aspect of a beginning sailing course is conducted in and around the school's marina. Great variation in weather, water depth, currents, and boat traffic exist among marinas that are very close together. In the San Francisco Bay, for instance, marinas in the northern part of the Bay enter into quite challenging waters as the current swirls around islands, while southern marinas enjoy protection from the gusty winds of the sea and have a more predictable and steady current. Be aware of the conditions you are likely to encounter near the marinas you're considering so as not to put yourself in an overly challenging situation that will inhibit the learning process.

Other conditions of the surrounding waters can be identified and avoided with ease. A long, narrow channel leading into and out of the marina will eat into valuable time on the water. Areas with inconsistent wind can leave classes with no means of practicing sailing if the air is still for an afternoon. Marinas under airports or near shipyards may have to deal with distractions. Asking anyone who sails in the vicinity of a school should give you a good indication of whether you need be wary of water conditions.

Finally, never underestimate the importance of a good view when you're sailing. The class will undoubtedly grow dull at some point as a fellow student is repeating what you just did, or the instructor is steering toward some far off buoy to show you its light pattern. At times like these, you will certainly enjoy the class more if you're in a beautiful area where you can enjoy sitting back and relaxing for a short time.

Return to home

How to Find Sailing Schools to Consider -- Make sure to start yourself with a solid list of schools to compare before making a decision. The right school for you isn't always the easiest to find.

Quality of Boats in Sailing Schools -- A list of great boats to learn on and some perspective on what types of boats give rise to the best sailors.

Best Locations for Your First Sailing School -- Basic facts about the four most prominent sailing areas in the United States.

How Much Should Sailing School Cost? -- Learn how to compare prices and see some typical course costs.