Skip to main content

Sail Your Telltales!

I know how to sail, right? At least I thought I did. I mean, I have a copy of Sailing for Dummies in my office, and I have worked at SAIL for 3 years, for Pete’s sake, so I know how to sail, right? That, at least, was my thinking going into a 10-day sailing course with my dad at the Offshore Sailing School. I couldn’t have been more wrong.We arrived at the Mansion House bed-and-breakfast
  • Author:
  • Updated:

I know how to sail, right? At least I thought I did. I mean, I have a copy of Sailing for Dummies in my office, and I have worked at SAIL for 3 years, for Pete’s sake, so I know how to sail, right? That, at least, was my thinking going into a 10-day sailing course with my dad at the Offshore Sailing School. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

We arrived at the Mansion House bed-and-breakfast located in St. Petersburg, Florida, our Fast Track to Sailing textbooks in hand, ready to get on the boat and start sailing. My dad had no sailing experience and, having only been sailing a handful of times, I considered myself an amateur at best.

The Mansion House, an elegant inn built in 1904 and home to St. Pete’s first mayor, boasted gorgeous common areas with guest rooms individually furnished with antiques. There was also a courtyard and pool—a lifesaver on those sweaty afternoons after a day on the water. Owners Kathy and Peter Plautz, along with Kathy’s sister, Diane Heron, did a remarkable job of making us feel right at home. The inn also housed the classroom for the three-day Fast Track to Sailing introductory portion of our 10-day program.

Each day began at 8am, or 0800 in sailorspeak. Mike Warren, one of Offshore’s expert instructors, introduced himself to our small class, which consisted of my Dad, Florida native Hoyt Nichols and me. Right away I knew I could learn a lot from Mike, an ex-military man with a lifetime of sailing experience. The lessons were very much like being in school. Mike would write on a white board while we took notes and nodded and asked questions. The classroom instruction included everything from sailing terms and docking strategies to chart reading and the difference between apparent and true wind.

After three hours Mike looked at our confused faces and asked, “Who’s ready to go sailing?” Dad and I looked at each other with blank stares. The thought of putting all the information I just heard to use was staggering. Would I remember all of the points of sail? Would I remember what to say when I was gybing? I guessed I would soon find out.

Walking out of the air-conditioned Mansion House into the early summer heat was a shock. As much fun as I knew we where going to have, it quickly drained our energy. On board one of Offshore’s training boats, a Colgate 26, Mike showed us how to raise and check the sails and outboard motor, stow sail covers and prepare the cabin and deck. With that, we were off. Once we were out on the water I found myself remembering the morning lessons. The limited sailing I had done on Boston Harbor also helped me understand what I was doing. When preparing for the trip, I don’t think my dad or I knew how much work sailing could be, and Dad’s bad knees didn’t make things any easier. After a few seating adjustments, though, Dad, Hoyt and I all started to get the hang of things.

Mike showed amazing patience. He identified each of our strengths and weaknesses, giving us each different advice. There was also a bit of advice he applied to all three of us: “Sail your telltales!” We heard coming over the waves every time Mike sensed the boat get off track. These words stuck in my head all week. Even now I can hear Mike’s voice bellowing that phrase to me.



Cruising: Safety Lessons Learned

It’s not often that sailors get a chance to put their rescue and MOB training to the test, rarer still that they do as quickly as newbie California sailor Khosrow “Koz” Khosravani did recently. If and when an emergency situation ever arises, though, it pays to be prepared. This more


At the Helm: Sailplans

The first thing you notice when you look at the sailplan for the Farr 65, Falken, which Mia and I recently added to the fleet here at 59-North, is the sheer number of headsails. Falken was built in 1999 as a racing boat to go around the world, and the crew would have carried the more


Racing Class Reunion

Where does an old VO70 go to retire? Right back to the racing circuit, apparently. This spring saw a remarkable contingent of Volvo Ocean Race one designs back on the water and duking it out on the Caribbean circuit. While it’s no surprise that some of the VO65 teams intending more


Charter: Sweden

With 2,000 miles of coastline, 270,000 islands and seemingly countless bays and inlets, Sweden is truly a sailor’s paradise. One of the top sailing destinations here is the archipelago just outside the country’s second largest city Gothenburg (locally known as Göteborg), on the more


Crowdsourcing Age-of-Sail Weather Data

Although big, multi-million-dollar projects like the Large Hadron Collider and the human genome project with their legions of PHD’s tend to grab headlines, there’s still a part of play for the “citizen scientists” of the world. Amateur birders have long contributed to an more


Ultims to Race Solo Around the World

For years now, maxi-trimarans, both solo-sailed and fully crewed, have been racing the clock on their own around the world in an effort to set ever faster records for the world’s fastest circumnavigation under sail. Back in 2000-01 there was also a no-holds-barred more


Juneteenth on the Water

Discovering Amistad and Mystic Seaport Museum have partnered to organize their third annual Juneteenth festival, featuring concerts, speakers and a reflection on the lasting legacy of racial injustice in America. Declared a National Holiday in 2021, Juneteenth celebrates the end more


New Multihulls for 2022

Lagoon 51 In keeping with many of the more recently launched models created by French multihull builder Lagoon, the Lagoon 51 is all about comfort, “en plein air,” in particular, as the French might say. Topside, a whopping 80 percent of the boat’s flybridge is given over to more