Passionate Pursuits: Setting Sail

Written by Amelia Jeffers / Photography courtesy Sail Martha's Vineyard

If the pandemic has proven anything, it has shown us that there are a lot of ways to entertain yourself while stuck at home. As the world opens up, many people are seizing the opportunity to explore interests that were cultivated during hours of exploring the internet, living life vicariously through influencers and posters who are passionate about one thing or another. On the first night of my latest sailing course, the instructor acknowledged that our cohort is the largest in the history of the adult program. When he asked us to introduce ourselves and explain why we signed up, I was surprised by the number of people who cited YouTube videos of around-the-world sailing adventures as their inspiration. It turns out that a lot of people dream of sunsets in the Mediterranean, but are intimate by the cost and learning curve associated with sailing.


Like many avocations, sailing has a reputation fueled by the highest tiers of the sport. In this case, the America’s Cup and its billionaire boy’s club paint a picture of a pastime that is simply inaccessible for most of us. But affordable and approachable options abound - even for landlocked central Ohioans.


Several years ago, I headed to Erie Islands Sailng School in Sandusky for a long weekend and the first of what I had hoped to be several certifications for “big boat” sailing. The American Sailing Association’s “ASA 101, Basic Keelboat Sailing” taught me to skipper a sloop-rigged keelboat of approximately 24 feet in length in light to moderate winds. I learned basic sailing terminology, parts and functions, helm commands, the beginnings of sail trim, points of sail, buoyage, seamanship and safety including basic navigation rules to avoid collisions and hazards. And, most of all - I learned that I can’t think about anything going on with work, family, friends, or home while trying not to take a boom to my head and trim a mainsail at the same time.


We are fortunate to have Lake Erie so close, because most sailors agree that if you can sail Erie, the ocean is a breeze. Sheer surface area coupled with mostly shallow depths makes Lake Erie a rough body of water prone to sudden shifts in wind and waves. But even a two-hour drive and the commitment to a long weekend away can be difficult to fit into life with teenagers and a busy career, so my ASA coursework has taken a backseat. Longing for an opportunity to be back on the water, to hone my skills (and hoping to not lose too many of them), and to experience the refreshing mindfulness of one of my favorite activities, I set out to find an option that I could incorporate into my life this summer.


Luckily, Columbus has two terrific learn-to-sail programs: Hoover Sailing Club in Westerville and Leatherlips Yacht Club in Dublin. Both offer classes for adults, and both provide storage and club activities and amenities for anyone interested in investing in a personal sailing craft. Traveling to a water location this summer? Check online for a yacht or sailing club in the area. Most will have open-houses, short courses, and even opportunities to sign up to crew a bigger boat - you don’t necessarily need experience. Check bulletin boards or show up at the dock — or try the Go Sailing app — to see if anyone needs a crew member. The sailing community is very social - and generally enthusiastic about engaging new people.

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