Top Sailing Schools Around Philadelphia
The music of wind in the rigging and a fresh breeze from nearby bays and rivers signals the lure of spring sailing. And, with the arrival of America’s sail training vessel, the Coast Guard Eagle in Philadelphia, we’re reminded that even the most experienced sailors had to start somewhere. The region is fortunate to have the protected waters and a variety of sailing schools and private instructors to launch landlubbers into a lifetime of pleasure and adventure. So, if you’ve ever longed for the romance of the sea under sail, but haven’t yet taken that first step, here’s where to start.
ANNAPOLIS SAILING SCHOOL
7001Bembe Beach Rd.
Annapolis, MD 21403
The King Neptune of sailing schools can be found in the nation’s nautical heart, Annapolis, Maryland. The Annapolis Sailing School has been teaching rank beginners and polishing up veteran “rag baggers” for more than half a century in classrooms and on an impressive fleet of day-sailors and cruising boats. On any spring, summer and fall day, you can see their boats with the distinctive rainbow symbol tacking across the historic Severn River. I’ve personally found that the most effective courses for new sailors here, if taken back to back are the weekend beginner’s course that combines some classroom instruction and a lot of time on the easy to handle 24 foot “Rainbow”, followed by a five-day cruising course. The five-day puts you, companions or family on your own larger boat for a cruise to a variety of Chesapeake Bay destinations. You’ll stop at marinas or anchor in secluded coves. Along the way, students learn how to set sails, basic navigation, boating safety, docking and anchoring. For specific courses and prices, steer toward: http://www.annapolissailing.com/courses_details.php#beg
LIBERTY SAILING SCHOOL
Philadelphia Marine Center
235 N. Columbus Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Sailing lessons are a short commute to Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River. The Liberty Sailing School at pier 12 offers two-day beginner sailing courses under $400. The classes are taught on the water at one of Philadelphia’s most dynamic destinations. Students sail within sight of the battleship New Jersey, the submarine Becuna and the U.S.S. Olympia. The basic course teaches new sailors the relationship between wind and sails and the rules of road, which can be tricky when there are no roads, no traffic lights, no stops signs and a sailboat has no brakes. You’ll learn simple navigation techniques, foul weather boat handling and safety – enough to take a small sailboat for a spin on a nearby lake or river. Liberty Sailing School also offers more advanced courses to turn a beginner into a cruising sailor, capable of handling liveaboard boats over long distances. For a rundown on what’s available, chart a course to: http://www.libertysailingschool.com/Courses.htm
1 Harrisburg School Rd.
Quakertown, PA 18951
Take fun and informative sailing lessons on Lake Nockamixon and the Chesapeake Bay, and become an American Sailing Association (ASA) certified captain. ASA Certification is recognized by charter companies throughout the world as indications of sailing ability and competence. Nockamixon Sailing School instructors are all USCG licensed Captains and ASA certified instructors. ASA Instructors must pass rigorous testing in order to achieve instructor status, ensuring the highest quality sailing instruction. Nockamixon Sailing School courses include Introductory Keelboat Sailing, Coastal Cruising, Bareboat Chartering, Coastal Navigation and Piloting, Docking, Spinnaker techniques, and even Celestial Navigation. Two locations on Lake Nockamixon near Philadelphia, and on the Chesapeake Bay operating out of Rock Hall, MD. Why not take beginning sailing classes in a safe and fun environment on Lake Nockamixon, and then continue taking more advanced sailing classes on the Chesapeake Bay, with a school and captains that you trust. Take the entire series and get certified to bareboat charter in destinations all over the world or get your own boat and sail anywhere with competence. For all course information and prices set your sights on: http://www.nockamixonsailingschool.com/nockamixon_sailing_school_web_site_002.htm
BARNEGAT BAY SAILING SCHOOL
100 Harbor Inn Rd.
Bayville, NJ 08721
New Jersey, with its long Atlantic coast, bays and barrier islands is an ideal training ground for new sailors who want to take their lessons with an intoxicating whiff of salt air. The Barnegat Bay Sailing School offers its basic courses on the sheltered waters of Barnegat Bay, just an inlet away from the seemingly endless ocean horizon. The basics cover sail handling, navigation, safety and rules of the road and are available in “women only” sessions, taught by women. Completion of courses at Barnegat also yield the newly required New Jersey safe boater certificate. And for new boat owners who want to become familiar with how to handle their vessels, private lessons are available on your own boat. Course completion also qualifies students for more advanced courses and to charter the school’s fleet of easy-to-handle sailboats in the 19 to 23 foot range. For a look at what’s available, steer to: http://www.sailingnj.com/lessons.html
MARYLAND SCHOOL OF SAILING AND SEAMANSHIP
Lankford Bay Marina
22978 McKinleyville Rd.
Rock Hall, MD 21661
One recent winter with snow flying in Philadelphia, but warm summer breezes pushing our hull along through Caribbean waters, I was surprised to see a familiar sight. It was an ocean going Island Packet yacht that normally plies the Chesapeake Bay crewed by students, learning their skills at the Maryland School of Sailing and Seamanship. The 40 footer was on its winter Virgin Islands cruising course for advanced sailors who were reaching for offshore experience and a Coast Guard license of their own. Intensive basic courses on the Chesapeake Bay starting in April cover 4 entire days and students live aboard their boats. You’ll learn how to move around a cruising sailboat, the theory of setting and rigging sails, handling an auxiliary engine, how to dock, anchor, navigate and confidently skipper a 30 foot boat. It’s a comprehensive course taught in a setting at Rock Hall, Maryland, my own home port. It’s also home to an array of restaurants, pubs, lounges and outdoor activities. For a rundown on courses and prices, pilot your way to: http://www.mdschool.com/courseDe.htm
A few things to know before you go:
- Street shoes are not for boats. Buy a pair of boat shoes, preferably with white soles. Avoid going barefoot on deck.
- Either wear a life jacket or have it very handy. Emergencies occur suddenly, often without warning.
- Carry a good sun screen, bug spray, sunglasses and hat.
- Sailing gloves can be expensive. Carry a right and left golf glove. They’ll be just fine. You may not need them, but best to be prepared.
- Learn how to tie a few basic knots – the bowline, square knot, slip knot and clove hitch should do it.
- The schools will supply all basic equipment needed for sailing lessons including books.
Reported by Jay Lloyd