What if I have never sailed before?

If you have never sailed before, the Introduction to Sailing course will allow you to learn and practice basic sailing skills. You will also become familiar with the Downtown Sailing Center's (DSC)  boats, facilities, terminology and procedures.  Plus, sailing in Baltimore's Inner Harbor is fun! The boats you will be learning on will not capsize and our instructors are well-qualified. Many DSC members, some of whom are now skippers and even instructors, started sailing at the DSC with little or no sailing experience.

I have done some sailing before. Should I take lessons?

All new DSC members are strongly encouraged to take lessons.

If you have only sailed a few times, or have not sailed for a few years, you will probably want to start with the Introduction to Sailing class so that you can review and brush-up on basic skills.

If you are a sailor with some experience, the Intermediate Sailing course will teach you how to leave and return to the dock (without a motor), crew overboard procedures and how to manage a boat in stronger winds. Even new members with significant sailing experience are encouraged to take this course so that they learn how the DSC operates. If you think that you are ready for an Intermediate Sailing course, please discuss your previous sailing experience and goals with the DSC staff. Often, we have students register for Intermediate Sailing who are not quite ready, holding back the entire class.

Do you recommend weekday or Saturday sessions?

You will cover the same material in twelve hours of instruction in all sessions. However, if you choose a Monday or Tuesday evening session you will have more time to absorb the material, as well as more time to practice the skills you are learning during the course. (Everyone is encouraged to sail as much as possible regardless of their experience or what class they are taking or will be taking.) The weekday sessions make it easier to manage the material and expose you to more wind conditions. Not everyone has the flexibility to take the weekday session, though, so the Saturday sessions fill more quickly with people who cannot fit a Monday or Tuesday evening course into their schedule. If you are interested in Saturday classes, sign up early! We recommend you choose a session that best fits your schedule and allows you to attend all of the classes.

Can I sail before my class session begins?

YES! We encourage new members to start sailing as soon as they can and as often as they can. New members who join at the crew level (or any higher level) may sail on Wednesday and Sunday open sails. The more time you spend on the water, the easier it will be to understand the materials and skills presented in the classes.

How will the recreational open sails help me learn to sail?

Learning to sail is one of those things that you can only learn well by doing. The more you sail, the more varied wind conditions and situational variables you are likely to experience. Sailing under different wind conditions and with different variables around you will teach you to think and react quickly, making you a better and safer sailor. You will also sail with different skippers and crew, exposing you to different perspectives and different ways of explaining things, some of which may help you better understand a sailing fundamental.

Unlike many other sailing programs, the DSC does not cut you off after you have taken lessons. As a crew member, you have the opportunity to sail several times a week on open recreational sails or fun races. Getting out on a boat as often as you can will help you reinforce and improve the skills taught in the classes. It is very helpful to sail between your classes so that you are ready to build upon your skills in subsequent classes.

The skippers who participate in open sails are volunteers who are willing to teach others. At one time, they were crew members just like you. So do not be shy or intimidated. Show up for open sails as often as you can and let the skipper you sail with know what you know and what you think you need to practice. Crew will rotate during the sails, so everyone will have the opportunity to practice in different positions.

What should I wear and bring for my lessons or for an open sail?

You should wear comfortable clothes (donft forget an appropriate hat), suitable for the weather. Your shoes should have closed toes and non-marking soles (for example, Sperry boat shoes or even a pair of basic white Keds). If rain is forecast, please bring a rain jacket (rain pants, too, if you have them). We don't sail if there is lightning or the winds exceed 20 knots, but we do sail in light rain. Always bring sunscreen and a bottle of water (on really hot summer days, you may need two bottles). If you think that you might be out sailing for a few hours (maybe on a Sunday open sail) you may want to bring along a light portable snack, such as a granola bar or energy bar. You do not need to bring a PFD/life jacket as the DSC provides these to our members and students.

If I successfully complete Introduction to Sailing and Intermediate Sailing, will I be able to become a skipper?

Our classes are designed to teach you the skills needed to become a skipper at the DSC. The set of skills presented in the classes is crucial, but you need to practice those skills. In general, you should get twenty hours of practice on the water before advancing from one course to another and another twenty hours of practice after completing Intermediate Sailing before you consider scheduling a skipper check-out.

One of the key skills needed to be a good skipper is being able to manage your crew. Often you will have crew that know little or nothing about sailing, and you will need to be able to communicate with and direct them. Once you feel that you are a competent sailor, you need to be able to direct your crew and effectively convey your knowledge.

It is not a race. The best skippers are people who worked on the details, sometimes taking classes twice. We encourage you to get a good foundation, because your overall sailing quality and enjoyment | and that of your crew | will depend on how much practice you put in before becoming a skipper.

Do I get a certificate after I complete a class?

You will receive a US SAILING Basic Keelboat Certification upon successful completion of the US SAILING Basic Keelboat Certification course.

What if I miss a class?

It is difficult, but not impossible, to make up a missed class. We recommend that students sign up for a session that allows them to attend each class. Classes often fill to capacity with exactly three students per boat. Most often, arranging a makeup class means you will take the place of another student who fails to attend. However, we cannot guarantee that you will be able to make up a class.

Is there a way to take a class earlier in the season?

The classes fill up very quickly, and we are always trying to add more boats and instructors to keep up with demand. Throughout the summer, we may add boats or notify our members of last minute cancellations. Request that your name be added to the waiting list. Usually within a week or two before a new class begins, we will send out an email to all potential students who might be interested in taking the earlier class. Of those who respond, we will use the waiting list to make the final selection. The waiting list is organized by the order in which we received your application and money.

What if I want to reschedule my class?

If you notify us 72 hours in advance of the first class, we will reschedule you for a later course.

Can I get a refund if I need to cancel my class?

If you notify us 72 hours in advance of the first class, you may receive a full refund.

What is the weather policy?

You should come to class rain or shine. If sailing conditions are unsafe, the lead instructor will continue the dayfs lesson with land-based instruction under the pavilion. We do, however, sail in light showers, so please be prepared with the appropriate rain gear. While we cannot guarantee make-up classes for individuals, we will schedule group make-up classes when an entire lesson is cancelled due to foul weather. Students are expected to show up for class regardless of the weather, as the decision to cancel the entire class will be made on the spot.

Is sailing a safe sport?

Like any sport, there are risks. But DSC's mission is to teach water safety skills. Safety is our number one priority, followed by education and having fun. We believe Baltimore is one of the safest places to learn because it is far enough inland to be protected from harsh weather and extreme wave action. When it is blowing 20 knots in Annapolis, it may only be blowing 10 knots in the Inner Harbor. If there are any mishaps, there are plenty of boaters and docks to support us, and the fire and marine police units are only five minutes away with a cell phone call.

The J/22 and Sonar are very stable boats and will not capsize. They have a 1000-pound lead keel that prevents the boat from tipping. We recognize that adults want to learn how to sail comfortably and J/22s and Sonars are the perfect boats to meet that goal.

Will your classes give us a license to operate power boats in Maryland?

No. Maryland law states that anyone born on or after July 1, 1972, must have a certificate of boating safety education to operate a motorized vessel. This includes powerboats and sailboats with an outboard engine. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers a certified, four-hour boating safety class. Click here for more information.

How can I get a fuller description of the classes?

Please feel free to stop by the office and talk with the DSC staff. We will show you the instruction book and curriculum that clearly lays out the course.

I have seen US SAILING mentioned several times on your Web site. What is US SAILING?

US SAILING, the United States Sailing Association, gis the official National Governing Body of Sailing and represents sailors before Olympic, government and international organizations.h1 As such, US SAILING sets a national standard for quality sailing instruction. The Downtown Sailing Center is a US SAILING-certified community sailing center. This ensures that our students receive instruction that meets US SAILINGfs strict standards. Students who complete the US SAILING Basic Keelboat Certification course receive US SAILING certification and a one-year membership to US SAILING. For more information about US SAILING, please go to www.ussailing.org.

If you have any additional questions about adult lessons at the DSC, please call us at 410-727-0722 or send an email to education@downtownsailing.org. Click here if you want to register for a session of adult lessons.

1United States Sailing Association. Web site: www.ussailing.org.

The Downtown Sailing Center is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit community sailing center.
Located at The Baltimore Museum of Industry
Photography donated by Andy Herbick Photography, and others.