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Published 10:24am on 26 Feb 2022

Cruising on a sailboat is many sailors dream. But how do you make that dream come true?

First, take some beginning sailing classes. OWSA has several classes to help you learn parts of a sailboat and sailing theory so you're ready to be crew on a cruising sailboat. YouTube videos and reference books are also good sources of information.

With just a little basic terminology, youre ready to cruise on a 30 to 50 foot boat. If you dont have friends with big boats, you can rent a cabin on a boat where a skipper is provided (do a google search for cabin charter or crewed charter or skippered yacht sail). Most major boat charter companies (Navigare, Sunsail, Dream Yacht Charters, etc.) now have this option in popular cruising grounds like Greece and the Caribbean and the San Juan Islands.

You can also sign up for sailing lessons that include living aboard a boat. Most of the well-known sailing instruction curriculums, such as US Sailing and American Sailing Association (ASA), require on-the-water experience so sailing schools combine instruction with a fun vacation. Although there is often some studying before you step aboard, most of the time cruising is spent actually sailing and enjoying the local sights. Many sailing schools in the Northwest and around the world offer this option. For example, San Juan Sailing in Bellingham offers weekend to two week cruises in the San Juans with classes for beginning to experienced sailors.

After doing a couple of cruises, it'll be time to decide if you want to continue to charter with a hired skipper or become a skipper yourself by getting your bareboat certification. Again, most sailing schools combine book learning with on-the-water instruction (cruises) to earn the bareboat certification.

For many newly certified bareboat skippers, arranging that first solo boat charter and cruise can be intimidating. Joining a flotilla of boats with a set itinerary and flotilla leader is a good intermediate step. Many charter companies arrange flotillas and provide local knowledge on weather, currents and moorages.

So thats how you can make your sailing dream come true. It doesn't matter if you take years to reach your goal; the joys of sailing can be experienced every step of the way.

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