By Sara Johnson
You long to enjoy glorious summer sailing around South Puget Sound’s beautiful and protected waterways, but there is a problem – you don’t own a boat. The cost of boat ownership may be out of reach. Or perhaps you are interested in trying out sailing first, before committing to owning a boat. Perhaps you are between boats, like our family is, and are looking for ways to get out on the water while saving for the next one.
There’s no need to sit by on the shore and watch the sailboats tacking on Budd Inlet without you. There are a variety of great opportunities around Olympia to get plenty of sailing time in without owning a boat of your own.
If you are new to sailing but eager to gain the skills necessary to captain your own boat, there are a number of options to learn how to sail the best way – by doing it – in Thurston County. Olympia Sailing, fostered by the Olympia Yacht Club, offers youth sailing classes and camps as well as adult learn-to-sail programs aboard smaller (14-foot) boats. Island Sailing Club, located at Swantown Marina, has basic sailing and keelboat programs for both kids and adults. They offer American Sailing Association (ASA) Certification programs which allows students to work up to Bareboat Chartering certificates.
If you are familiar with sailing and small boat handling or have your ASA qualification, then chartering (renting) a sailboat is the option that many people choose when they wish to take out a boat on their own. Island Sailing Club maintains a small keelboat fleet from 22’ to 25’. These sailboats are available from half-day to multi-day charters for exploring the many secluded anchorages dotted around the South Puget Sound. Even if you have just the day to explore by sail, there are a number of great places reachable within a few hours. You could stop at Hope Island for a hike or Boston Harbor Marina for lunch.
If you’d like to try big boat sailing then participating in a crewed charter is a great way to gain experience by sailing with an experienced captain. In Olympia, Mystic Journey charters can take up to six guests at a time. Captain Rick Kramer offers guests the chance to book a seat or two during his Open Sail Cruises, or you can gather up a handful of friends for your own private day or overnight charter.
Racing and Crewing
The South Sound Sailing Society (SSSS) offers a number of organized racing options for local sailors. Crewing on a race boat will quickly allow you to hone your sailing skills, not to mention have a whole lot of fun and make new friends–with even more opportunities for sailing. Contact SSSS to get on their “Wants to Crew” list, or better yet attend a monthly meeting to learn more about the club and the many racing and cruising opportunities they sponsor.
SSSS’s Budd Inlet Star Fleet typically races on Monday evenings during the spring and summer. This 100-year old design endures today due to the Star’s ease of handling, stability, and powerful sail plan. Star Fleet Captain Bill Brosius encourages anyone with an interest in sailing to get involved with Star racing. Owners are often looking for crew, and most will even loan their boats out to experienced sailors wanting to race in order to keep the fleet active and the races more competitive.
New Sailing Friends
Once you start hanging out with sailors, you’ll quickly find that the one thing they have in common is they love to take new sailors out on their boats. For an experienced skipper, the huge smile on a new crewmember’s face as they feel the wind’s pull for the very first time is priceless. As boat owners, my husband and I loved to take out new friends that have never sailed before, giving them an experience they’ll never forget.
You can make new sailing friends through attending meetings and events through the South Sound Sailing Society as previously mentioned. The Olympia Yacht Club is also welcoming to new members, those with and without a boat. Or, you can simply hang around the docks. Boston Harbor Marina has regular dock BBQs every Friday night, Saturday and Sunday afternoons and Breakfast on the Dock every Sunday morning.
Overlooking the gentle South Puget Sound waters, how to get out sailing is sure to be the hot topic among all the new friends you’ll meet there.