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Home / Opportunities / Wednesday Night Sails
Home / Opportunities / Wednesday Night Sails

Wednesday Night Sails

Wednesday Night Sails (WNS)  brings community skippers and OWSA members together on the Columbia River for weekly sails throughout the summer season. The goals of WNS are to build confidence on the water and provide introductions to many boats and crew members. As a result of WNS participation, you can build your own sailing network to sail more often of your own design! The WNS season runs from early June through August. WNS invites all paid-up OWSA members to sail at no additional cost. Write to to ensure your profile includes the interest tag for Wednesday Night Sail.

What is WNS?

Most Wednesday evenings during the summer sailing season, community skippers and our own OWSA Fleet offer their boats to host OWSA club members for an evening of sailing on the Columbia River. The general sail plan is to leave the dock at 6pm and be back at the dock before dark. Once the boat is cared for, the crew shares food with the skipper to review the sail, go over sailing terms, and build friendships. The season ends with a special raft-up potluck in late August that is divine.

Can I go if I've never sailed before?

Yes! The qualifications: you must be an ACTIVE (paid-up) OWSA member, you must operate as a crew member (not a passenger), be willing to learn, be able to move about the boat under sail, and follow orders from the skipper to your best ability. Please be honest about your skill level and experience when signing up! Feel free to email if you have questions about the abilities required.

How do I sign up?

If you've paid your dues, and checked off Wednesday Night Sail as an interest, you will receive the WNS invitation email the Thursday evening before a sail. Once you have looked at your personal schedule and determined you can make it to Marine Drive or Hayden Island by 5:30pm to sail at 6pm, log into your account on and sign up on the calendar. There is no guarantee you will get a spot, but we try our best to get everyone safely on a boat. It is generally first-come, first-served, so your odds are better the earlier you sign up; the cutoff for signing up is Sunday at noon. We will keep track of women who have been wait-listed and make it a priority to get them out on the water the next week. Crew lists are sent out Monday night before the sail, and include all contact information for skipper and crew, and the location of your boat.

What should I bring?

Everyone who sails with OWSA is required to wear a PFD (short for Personal Flotation Device, aka a life jacket). Many skippers have extras on the boat, but you must ask them ahead of time, because its not guaranteed. Sailing gloves are helpful but not required. Please wear comfortable, close toed, non-marking shoes and clothes you dont mind getting a bit dirty or wet. Jewelry or other attire that could get caught is not safe and needs to be removed for the sail. Be sure to have a late-afternoon snack. The customary sharing of food won't happen until after the sail is complete.

WNS List:

  • yourself, @5:30pm at your assigned dock with a sail bag containing:
  • PFD
  • sailing gloves
  • comfortable close toed, non-marking shoes
  • layered clothing
  • hair tie (or a hat that wont blow off)
  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen and chapstick
  • water
  • snack to share with the group after the sail

What is the snack?

Each crew member brings a simple snack to share in gratitude of our skipper, our boat, and our crew. Please plan on 20-30 minutes at the dock to enjoy the camaraderie after the sail is complete. Provisioning is an important skill for sailing! Your snack should include protein/carbs, such as salami or snack cheese are good options. Veggie trays, crackers, dips, fruit, La Croix, chips, and bars are all good options to round out the snack.  Consider reaching out to your crew to coordinate rides and snacks ahead of time. This planning prevents a ton of the same thing being brought, or triggering a food allergy. While some skippers appreciate adult beverages, others do not drink. Each boat and skipper will have their own custom, so ask. OWSA guidelines are alcohol can only be consumed after sailing while tied to the dock, and of course with the blessing of the skipper.

How do I get there?

Many of our community boats sail out of Hayden Island, or from Rose City Yacht Club. Some boats are moored at floating homes, and other smaller marinas. The directions will be on your crew list. If you are coming from Portland, rush hour traffic is brutal. Getting there from the Washington side is a different story - no rush hour traffic at the Hayden Island exit. Getting off the island after your sail is not bad at all, since rush hour is long over. Many women plan a work from home day, or take a half-day off in order to stay relaxed and not get stressed out getting to their moorage. Not everyone can afford to do that, so plan your commute carefully. Have everything packed and loaded the night before, do not delay your departure, stay calm on your drive. Each boat will have its own location, so investigate your route ahead of time. The boat location will be on the crew list you get Monday night. If you have any questions, call or email the skipper and/or other crew members well ahead of time.

What if I have to cancel?

Please make every effort to cancel BEFORE the crew lists are sent out Monday night. If you cancel before the WNS chair posts the crew lists, no harm, no foul. If you cancel once the crew lists are posted, it generates multiple issues. Life happens, we get that. If you must cancel after crews are established, call your skipper AND email as soon as absolutely possible. If there is a wait list, we may be able to fill your spot, but that takes time. Make sure you have voice contact with your skipper; many do not read email on Wednesday afternoons. You don't want people waiting at the dock for you if you're not coming. Be explicit in your message to the skipper so there is no confusion.

Anything else I should know?

If you're less experienced, dont be afraid to ask questions! If youre more experienced, help others learn in a respectful manner. Everyone on the boat is expected to help out, no matter your skill level (no joyriders!).

The skipper is the ultimate authority of their boat. You must make your best attempt to follow their instructions. If you have a different opinion, do what the skipper says in the moment, then debrief when there is a quieter time. Skippers are happy to have a conversation about sailing technique, but do not argue with a skipper while in an active maneuver. Safety is the number one consideration, and skippers will keep you safe as long as you are able to follow orders, and exercise common sailing precautions. You do not have to do anything youre not comfortable with, as long as you communicate clearly, and safely hand over the responsibility to someone nearby. Stay engaged and watch and learn so you are able to do better next time. Wednesday Night Sail is an educational participatory event! OWSA members cannot bring non-member friends on WNS. Do not ask your skipper for special consideration and put them in the uncomfortable position of saying no. This could overcrowd the boat, which is unsafe for everyone, our insurance does not cover this situation, and WNS is a privilege of OWSA membership. Encourage your friend to join OWSA! If this rule is broken, you will not be able to go on WNS for the remainder of the sailing season.

The WNS Chair is responsible for setting up the crews each week. Special boat and partner requests can be difficult to support. You can ask, but if you sign up, you must be responsible for your crew assignment, no matter how it shakes out. (or put in the notes you prefer not to go out if your request can't be granted) The WNS Chair will make best effort to support mother/daughter sailing pairs, and car pools. Please sign up at about the same time so you will be close to each other on the list. (If there is any contention, we use the latest time of the pair.) Both parties must give the same message, such as "I'm car-pooling with Gail." And Gail will write, "I'm car-pooling with Stephanie." Requests must be made in complete agreement. The other supported request is if you want a woman skipper. Please put that in the notes section. If any of these crew requests can't be met, we will inform you of your

options, and you can choose what you want to do. If you can state your flexibility in the notes section, it will expedite the crew list creation and require fewer communications. Please remember one of the functions of the WNS is to provide introductions. You are meeting different skippers, different crew mates, different boats, and different marinas. We usually start out beginners on the larger boats, and then provide opportunities on smaller boats. If you want to try out a certain size of boat, put it in the notes. Plan on networking and gathering contact info among your WNS crew. Keep a sailing log. Perhaps you'll make a connection who can take you out on the water at other times outside of Wednesdays!

Questions? Concerns? Email See you on the water!


First Mate Program: Check out the First Mate Assessment skills checklist on the website under Opportunities>First Mate.  No matter what your skill level is right now, check out the assessment and establish your goals for becoming a First Mate! You can use it to gauge your learning process. When you have 80% of the skills listed, you can sign up to be part of the First Mate team for the upcoming sailing season. Being a First Mate may allow you more sailing opportunities on Wednesday nights as we need experienced crew to balance out the boats. Email for more information.

BOAST program: Boat Owner and Skipper Training (BOAST) provides opportunities to sign onto an OWSA fleet boat for extra sailing privileges. For a very reasonable monthly fee, you can learn what it is like to own a boat, learn how to skipper, take non-OWSA friends sailing and get more time on the water. See the description of the program under Opportunities > BOAST. OWSA Fleet boats and crew are expected to go out on Wednesday Night Sails as much as their personal schedule allows. Sometimes we need crew, and sometimes we need the boat and a skipper! Write to for more  information.



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