Provider: OCSC Sailing
Length: Five days or two weekends
Price: $890 ($790 for bookings made by March 31)
If you've dreamed of learning to sail, perhaps one day skippering your own boat around the Caribbean, but dismissed the idea because you lacked the necessary trust fund, despair no more. Even if you don't know a bowline from a clove hitch, there are sailing schools that can teach you the art of this exhilarating sport for less money than you'd think.
One of the top sailing schools in the country, the Berkeley-based OCSC Sailing, runs a rigorous but reasonably priced learn-to-sail course for beginners.
"We are exceptional at training folks who are serious about learning to sail well and really want the confidence to become good and safe and competent at the sport," says OCSC Founder and President Anthony Sandberg. "We teach with a maximum class size of three students per instructor instead of the national six-to-one standard."
OCSC's Basic Keelboat course takes place over two weekends or five straight days and is designed to give you the know-how and confidence to skipper 18- to 27-foot boats in protected waters with light to moderate wind conditions. The five-day course (which gives you more time for the same price as the weekend courses) includes more than 40 hours of instruction, with most of the time spent aboard the boat on the gusty San Francisco Bay. "If you can sail on San Francisco Bay, you can sail anywhere," says Sandberg.
Sailing on the Bay is an adventure, but the course is also the stepping stone for a lifetime of sailing exploits. "About seven years ago, I showed up at [OCSC's] door with a dream to be able to bareboat. I knew almost nothing," says former OCSC student Kevin Cullen. "I just returned from Tahiti on my ninth bareboat vacation, this time just my wife and I sailing for nine glorious days in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. [OCSC] produced a very competent and happy sailor."
Courses are scheduled weekly throughout the year, with weekend courses running Saturday to Sunday and five-day courses running Monday to Friday. Rates cover textbooks and manuals, navigation and seamanship seminars, waterproof spray gear, a one-year U.S. Sailing membership, sailing instruction and lunches. Students can opt to bring a sleeping bag and stay overnight in the sailboat bunks. Breakfast and dinner and transportation to the school docks in Berkeley are extra. If you're coming from far away, it's worthwhile to compare fares to all three Bay Area airports: San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.