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Where to…in Washington, DC

D.C. may be a city on a swamp, but the Potomac River offers a surprising variety of sailing options that beats the hour-long trip to nearby Annapolis.

D.C. may be a city on a swamp, but the Potomac River offers a surprising variety of sailing options that beats the hour-long trip to nearby Annapolis. 

Dock your boat:

Just a few blocks from the National Mall, Gangplank Marina (202-554-5000, gangplank.com) has 310 slips, laundry, and a pump-out service for boats up to 125ft.

To get to the marina, pass under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (70ft clearance) and continue another five miles to the Washington Channel on the east side of the river. Gangplank is a member of the Clean Marina Partnership, so be prepared to sign a document proving you meet the stringent EPA regulations. 

Rent or race a small boat:

With a number of membership options, including learn-to-sail packages, DC Sail (202-547-1250, dcsail.org) houses a great sailing community. Choose from a fleet of Flying Scots, FJs and Lasers, or book a sunset sail on a schooner. Wednesday nights feature social sails and BBQs, and Thursday nights host FJ and Flying Scott races year-round.

DC Sail also hosts a high school sailing program for local students. “Most of the membership costs go to these programs,” said Brian McNally, DC Sail program director. “Around 40 percent of our campers and sailors are in our programs for little or no cost to them.” Club members can volunteer to couch students, maintain boats or assist the organization, all furthering the DC Sail mission to bring sailing to public school students. 

Take lessons:

The Sailing Club of Washington (SCOW, scow.org) offers a variety of affordable classes to its members, taught on Flying Scots and Catalina 25s. Membership is relatively cheap—$50 a person or $80 a household—and the classes cover everything from beginning sailing and capsizing to spinnaker trim. Email commodore@scow.org for information on class schedules and availability. 

Race a big boat:

Tuesday night races at Daingerfield Island Sailing Club (703-548-9027, discsailing.org) draw PHRF boats from several clubs, so you know it’s the place to be. The competition is fun and fierce, and many boats are looking for crew. 

Frostbite:

The folks at the Potomac River Sailing Association (potomacriversailing.org) are crazy about dinghy racing. During the year, they do it all: Lasers, Albacores, Lightnings, Thistles, Buccaneer 18s, Hamptons and Flying Scots. Come winter, the Laser frostbite series kicks up with 18 boats and 14 races on the chilly Potomac. To get involved, email commodore@potomacriversailing.org

Give back:

Every September, most D.C.-area sailing clubs participate in the President’s/Leukemia Cup to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. There is an encouraged entrance donation and a number of fun events surrounding the regatta. Check out potomacriversailing.org and click on “President’s/Leukemia Cup.”

Hang out:

It’s tough to find a place in D.C. with cold beer, good food and good prices. Unless, of course, you’re a sailor. Located on a dock in the Washington channel, Cantina Marina (cantinamarina.com, 202-554-8396) serves up seafood, burgers and nightly drink specials in front of an unbeatable view. The bar is open late and is a prime spot to find a salty crowd watching a Nationals game and discussing the week’s races. 

DC Sailing Directory

Gangplank Marina: (202) 554-5000, gangplank.com

Capital Yacht Club: (202)488-8110, capitalyachtclub.com

DC Sail: (202) 547-1250, DCSail.org

Sailing Club of Washington: commodore@scow.org, scow.org

Daingerfield Island Sailing Club: (703) 548-9027, discsailing.org

Potomac River Sailing Association: commodore@potomacriversailing.org, potomacriversailing.org

Cantina Marina: (202) 554-8396, Cantinamarina.com 

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