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Costs of Learning to Sail

May 12, 2008

I have been learning how to sail! I have some pipe dreams of cruising around the world on a sailboat, though at this point in my life, that isn’t really an option. I don’t spend a lot of money on entertainment, going out, or gym memberships, so I selected sailing as my newest hobby. It is a bit more expensive than I anticipated, but to be honest, I didn’t think much about it. It sounded fun, so I signed up.

First there are the lessons. They cost $385, but I was able to pay about $150 instead of full price. This includes 3 lectures of 3 hours each, and six on the water days of 3+ hours each. I can now take the second round, which is the same price but more advanced topics. There are also some fees to get “certified”, which I was not originally aware of.  It is about $95 for a written exam and on the water exam, plus another $30 or so for a log book. I think there is one of these certifications for each of the first 2 classes, so I’d have to pay the fees two times. If I want to go further, the next step would be $445 (!) for a weekend trip that certifies me to charter my own boat.

Then there is the “gear”. I didn’t go overboard and buy a bunch of actual sailing gear, but I did purchase a $50 windbreaker, $20 sunglasses, and $20 white soled deck shoes. I could have just wore regular sneakers, but mine had black soles. If I were to get really into sailing, I might have to get “foul weather gear” but I haven’t found the need.

Between the classes and the gear (mainly the classes) I could easily spend $1000 this year learning how to sail. Then what? What am I going to do with my knowledge? T is going to take the class I just took, and we could take boats on little trips around here. However, sailing seems to be expensive and time consuming and neither one of us has a lot of time or money right now. Purchasing a sail boat is only realistic if I intend to live on it, which sounds a bit romantic but is a little to extreme for this point in my life.

I can’t afford to regularly rent boats, I really can’t afford to go out and buy a boat. Is sailing a wealthy person’s hobby? It seems like there is a mix of wealthy people and people who are free spirited. My sailing teacher has given up his life in the “rat race”, as he said. After spending a year cruising with his family, he has taken to making a living by writing on the weekdays and teaching sailing on the weekends. Not a bad life, if I don’t say so myself. (This is helped by the fact he sold a home in the L.A. area at the peak of the real estate bubble. I wish I did that.)

I don’t know what to do from here. I could continue taking classes, but I have no real goal for my sailing hobby, other than fun. It is apparent I won’t be buying a yacht or chartering a cruise to South America anytime soon. I could call my $200 spent so far a fun entertainment/educational expense, and put my sailing career on hold. I could pay $150 more for another session of six lessons. I could pay another $200 on top of that to get fully certified. But for what purpose? I can afford to learn to sail, but I can’t afford to sail on a regular basis after that. It would be kind of like how T, two summers ago when making decent money, learned how to fly private small planes for perhaps $3000 or so. He loved it, but he hasn’t been up in over a year because it is too expensive for a grad student to keep up. (I hated it. I got airsick and small planes are actually pretty dangerous.)

After moving and putting my degree on hold, I found myself with a lot more free time than I was used to, so learning to sail was one thing I chose to explore. Next fall, I’m going to be continuing my M.S. degree and I won’t have time for these hobbies. I still have a whole summer left to explore other interests, and now is the time to decide if I want to continue sailing or spend my time doing something else.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. tom permalink
    May 12, 2008 10:09 am

    It may be expensive, but it sounds like it’s worth it. Just think, in 40 years when you retire, you’ll be able to sail around the world in your yacht w/o the help of an expensive crew! Knowing how to sail is one of those awesome/random things to know in life!

    I did the same thing with scuba lessons. Spent a bunch of money, and didn’t really have a goal. I have not been scuba diving since those lessons, BUT I still remember most of what they taught in class and could potentially go diving at anytime. Scuba lessons are also an awesome/random thing to know!

  2. Taylor permalink
    May 12, 2008 10:37 am

    I would recommend contacting the yacht club nearest you and asking if anyone needs help crewing their boat – this is how I learned to sail. It is free, fun, and a great way to meet other folks who sail. At first I felt bad b/c I was “freewheeling” – or so I thought. Then I would get calls from the boat owners wanting to confirm that I could be there and help them with a race, or a leisurely Sunday afternoon cruise. I realized that they needed me as much as I needed them – some of the larger, fancier boats that I sailed on required 8-9 people to get everything done. The smaller ones still required three or four. If the owners didn’t have enough crew, they couldn’t use their boat.

    I learned to sail in New Orleans, and left the year before Katrina hit (destroying all of the boats that I sailed on). I went to the local yacht club one evening and asked around. I could have also left a note on their message board. They also have a website that I found had places to post messages.

    I miss it – it was sooo much fun – I hope you will try it whereever you are!

  3. jay permalink
    May 12, 2008 12:07 pm

    Having lived on an *old* wooden boat in Sausilito for over three years, I totally concur with the saying “a boat is a hole in the water you pour money into”!
    Sailing is fun, though, and you might get some “free rides” by crewing on ships in various places. There are also vacations (Virgin Islands, etc) structured around sailing. if you like being around teenaged kids there are also groups like the Sea Scouts, etc.

  4. May 12, 2008 7:26 pm

    I agree with the comment above – boat owners are usually more than willing to accept the help of a wannabe crew member. Find out when area yacht clubs have races or other events going on and show up (wearing appropriate attire) and ask around. Sailors are a friendly bunch and love to share their love of the sea.

    It can be an expensive hobby if course but I taught sailing lessons to kids and adults for years and there’s always a cheaper option to be had. I wanted to join a winter sailing league and didn’t have a boat and the members hooked me up with a rental for the season for free! Definitely try posting on message boards in your area as well and enjoy!

    Also I’ve been sailing since I was nine and other than my Instructor certification I never required any official documents so be wary of courses that tell you otherwise. It’s important to learn the basics and the rules of the road but it shouldn’t bankrupt you. The company I used to work for charged about $150 a couple for a double session of sunset sailing instruction on J24s but that is on the East Coast.

  5. May 12, 2008 8:10 pm

    Thanks for the suggestions–offering to be crew on a boat is a great idea. I’m kind of a ” by the books” girl who appreciates formal training, but once I have the basics down, that sounds like a fabulous option.

    I believe the certification is ASA, and it is prob. what they require to rent boats through their school. I’m not currently planning on paying for the certification, but perhaps a little further down the road if I see a reason for it. Thanks for the warning.

    Message boards is a great idea. 🙂

    I appreciate the thoughts and and advice!

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