We have some favorite resources for the beginning sailor, including two good books:
Sailing Fundamentals, by Gary Jobson (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1987, $16 paperback). The official learn-to-sail manual of the American Sailing Association (ASA), this is an active, thorough teaching text with large black-and-white photos and over 150 diagrams.
Start Sailing Right, rev. ed., by Derrick Fries (U.S. Sailing Association, Newport, RI, and the American National Red Cross, $9.25 plus postage). A graphically driven book with over 200 illustrations, diagrams, and cartoons by educator Derrick Fries.

We recommend that you look around the SAIL web site for all sorts of sailing information—what’s happening across the country, expert opinions, the latest news and links to related sites.And there’s more learn to sail information below our Sponsored Links

Sailing schools

Professional sailing instruction is a very good idea for beginning and intermidiate sailors. Even experts can benefit. It’s a way to advance quickly, and get each step right.

Begin your search for a sailing school right here

Or, to find professional sailing schools, contact national accrediting organizations such as American Sailing Assn. (ASA), 13922 Marquesas Way, Marina del Rey, CA 90292 (tel. 310-822-7171) and U.S. Sailing Assn., P.O. Box 1260, Portsmouth, RI 02871 (tel. 800-877-2451, 401-683-0800). Also check advertisements in magazines such as SAIL or consult the “Sailing & Navigation Schools” listing in SAIL’s annual Sailboat Buyers Guide (call 800-362-8433 to order via credit card).

Classroom courses

National organizations such as the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Power Squadrons, Red Cross, and State Boating Offices offer free basic-boating courses in a classroom setting (the Red Cross offers on-the-water instruction, too). These courses can be taken in the off-season or as enhancement while you’re taking a separate on-water course. The BOAT/U.S. Foundation for Boating Safety, an arm of BOAT/U.S., the national boatowners’ organization, maintains a clearinghouse for these free basic-boating courses nationwide. Call 800-336-2628 (in Virginia, 800-245-2628).

Community boating programs

Low-cost, convenient public sailing programs are available in many communities. Contact your local chamber of commerce, tourist bureau, or municipal parks and recreation department. Order the Community Sailing National Directory describing programs throughout the country from U.S. Sailing (tel. 800-877-2451, 401-683-0800).

Kids’ programs

The following local organizations often run sailing programs for kids and/or teens: park and recreation departments, YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, local yacht clubs. (Many private clubs accept non-member juniors.) For nationwide information, look for sailing camps in the annual Guide to Accredited Camps, $12.95 from the American Camping Association, 5000 State Road 67N, Martinsville, ID 46151 (tel. 800-428-2267); ask the American Sail Training Association (ASTA), P.O. Box 1459, Newport, RI 02840 (tel. 401-846-1775) about big-boat offshore training; and check the Sunday New York Times and SAIL Magazine for information on such programs as Outward Bound.

Women’s programs

Some women appreciate the peer support found in women-only sailing courses, many of which advertise in the classifieds section of sailing magazines. You can also order the Women’s Sailing Resource Book by sending $4 to National Women’s Advisory Board on Sailing, 16731 McGregor Boulevard, Ste. 110, Ft. Myers, FL 33908 (tel. 800-221-4326, 813-454-1700).

Programs for the disabled

Physical disability need not be a barrier to sailing. For the locations of adaptive sailing programs nationwide, contact: National Ocean Access Project, P.O. Box 33141, Farragut Station, Washington, DC 20033 (tel. 301-217-9843) and U.S. Sailing’s Committee for Sailors with Special Needs (tel. 800-877-2451).

It’s a lot of fun to sail in a resort location—from a palm-treed island base in the Caribbean or from seaside towns on the U.S. East and West coasts. Here’s a selected list of schools that offer instruction in a vacation setting:

Annapolis Sailing School BR>Annapolis, MD; St. Petersburg, FL; the Florida Keys; and the Virgin Islands), P.O. Box 334, Annapolis, MD 21403; tel. 800-638-9192, 410-267-7205

The Bitter End Yacht Club
Virgin Gorda, BVI, 875 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611; tel. 800-872-2392; 312-944-5855

Newport, RI; Annapolis, MD; Key West, FL; San Diego, CA, Box 1509, Newport, RI 02840; tel. 800-343-2255, 401-849-5492

Club Mariner program of The Moorings
Tortola, BVI; St. Lucia, WI, 19345 U.S. Highway 19 N, Ste. 402, Clearwater, FL 34624; tel. 800-334-2435

Offshore Sailing School
Captiva Island, FL; St. Petersburg, FL; Newport, RI; Tortola, BVI; Chicago, IL; Jersey City, NJ; Barnegat Bay, NJ; Stamford, CT, 16731 McGregor Blvd., Ft. Myers, FL 33908; tel. 800-221-4326, 941-454-1700

Safety information

You can obtain safety information—more than 20 publications covering, among other things, safety procedures and required safety equipment for your boat—from the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Hotline in Washington, DC (tel. 800-368-5647).


Each time you go sailing, you should be prepared for the anticipated conditions. Check local forecasts on radio, TV, the NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) marine forecasts on VHF channels WW1 and WW2, or the Internet (for example,;; or

There are dozens of books, of varying complexity, available on general and marine weather. The Weather Book: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to the USA’s Weather, by Jack Williams (Random House, Westminster, MD, 1992; $18 paperback) uses colorful graphics and a large format to provide an understanding of national and local weather.

In addition, you can call the National Technical Information Service order desk, tel. 703-487-4787, to order NOAA publications. The pamphlet “A Mariner’s Guide to Marine Weather Services” (NOAA/PA 92056) is particularly useful.

And&emdash;you can access gobs in information through the weather links here at


Tides and currents can greatly affect your sailing. At low tide you may not be able to launch from the local ramp. In light air you may not be able to sail against a strong tide in a narrow channel. In areas of large tidal range, it pays to plan your sailing around favorable tides. Times of high and low tide are stated in NOAA VHF weather forecasts and are often available in local newspapers. Check marine bookstores and chandleries for nautical almanacs containing tide tables. Local marine businesses sometimes imprint tide calendars with their logos and distribute them as gifts.

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