Although the weather has been brilliant for the past week or so in the Pacific Northwest, we’re still in that little interval we have every year between the end of the monotonous winter rains and the beginning of true and glorious summer, with long days, predictable northerlies, and pretty white clouds instead of lumpy gray ones.
Which means it’s the perfect time to brush up on your boating skills locally before you have the opportunity to go and embarrass yourself on that first trip through the Locks on Opening Day.
And there are a lot of options for your locally if you’re interested in getting some training or education in nautical matters.
United States Power Squadrons have been the go-to resource for boating education for the past 100 years. Despite the name, most of their courses cover general seamanship and nautical skills, and are not specific to power boats. There are squadrons scattered throughout the Pacific Northwest, so it’s generally easy to find one close to where you are.
A consolidated site showing each of the local Power Squadrons and listing their upcoming classes can be found here.
If you don’t need the training, you can also take advantage of their free program, offered in cooperation with the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, to perform vessel safety checks. No matter how experienced you are, everyone can benefit from a second set of eyes going over their safety equipment and vessel condition.
Also in the “free” column is a new effort that Seattle’s Fisheries Supply is in the process of building up: Fisco University brings in vendor representatives from various suppliers to make presentations to staff and customers and answer questions about their products. Not only is it free, but they will feed you lunch!
The schedule for this year is still in flux and nothing is posted on the company’s website, but you can check the calendar at the store, or get more information by subscribing to their email list.
If sailing and time out on the water are what you are after, two local non-profits offer a variety of classes for kids and adults alike. Sail Sand Point focuses entirely on sailing, teaching in classes or private lessons on everything from dinghies to keelboats, in locations from their Magnuson Park home base, to Kirkland, to Shilshole Bay.
The Center for Wooden Boats only sails on Lake Union, but they also have a broader variety of educational programs available, from sailmaking to varnishing to casting bronze. As an added bonus, if you are taking a sailing class (and like Sail Sand Point, they offer both regular courses and private lessons), you’ll probably be learning in a well-maintained, classic wooden boat… nothing gets you into the spirit of things like zipping along in a traditional sailing dinghy.
Yacht clubs also often offer educational opportunities, for members and non-members alike.
Seattle Singles Yacht Club is offering a three-day basic keelboat class on May 6, 13, and 20 between 6:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. at the Mountaineers facility in Magnuson Park. No previous boating experience is required; the cost is $60. You can sign up online.
This may improve your odds of finding a life-long sailing partner, but impair your ability to pay attention in class; you decide if it’s worth the trade-off (if you’d like to separate the partner-finding from the skills-building, you can always go to the SSYC dance at China Harbor on April 14th and take care of that before going to the class).
If you are north of the border, yacht clubs and private schools seem to be the primary option for sail training; BC Sailing serves as an umbrella organization listing different organizations offering education throughout the province. And SALTS, the organization that runs the iconic Pacific Swift and Pacific Grace tall ships, is another holistic option for younger folks.
Of course there are many private businesses in the Puget Sound region that offer individual training and classes also; you can find a good list, with links to their websites, at the American Sailing Association website here.
Whatever it is you want to learn more about, there’s someone out there who can teach it to you!