"You Do What?"

As the month of May drifts away, I record another 15 days of sea time in my logbook, slowly sailing my way to the required 360 days for a U.S. Coast Guard Captain's License.  I hope to reach the lofty goal by the end of the calendar year.

Most of my “sea time” these days is acquired by teaching Basic Keelboat (BK) and Basic Cruising (BC) courses at the OCSC Sailing Club in Berkeley, CA.  So I thought I’d write a bit about the club and job I love so much.

The primary objective of these courses is to train students to sail (BK) and skipper (BC) keelboats less than 30 feet in length.

We use the sturdy, agile, and popular J24 sailing vessel for training.  These boats are 24 feet long and 9 feet wide, with a 4-foot draft. They weigh 3,100 pounds, with about 900 of those pounds found in the keel.  They aren’t going to tip over, but they will heel significantly if you don’t manage the size and shape of the two sails. They are a ton of fun, with the tiller giving the helmsperson a real sense of the boat’s behavior.

The BK and BC courses each consist of 4 days of 7-hour classes on weekends, with most students requiring additional “reviews” to hone their on-the-water skills before satisfying the U.S. Sailing (and OCSC) certification standards.   We usually sail with 3 students and 1 instructor onboard.

Many (if not the majority) of our students have never stepped foot on a sailboat before. They may come to us to find a new weekend hobby, to learn something new with their partner, or to realize a life-long dream.  Some students have plans to skipper day sails on the Bay; some students want to charter boats in exotic locations for family vacations; and some students want to eventually sail around the world! Whatever their dreams are, they start at OCSC; they start with me.   And that is very motivating and exciting for me.

Students come from near and far, drawn by the school’s excellent reputation.  (This past weekend, for example, I taught a gentleman who came all the way from Alaska just to take the week-long version of our Basic Cruising course.)

Students come from all walks of life with respect to age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, economic background, prior sailing experience, etc. which reflects positively on the school’s 40-year-old mission:  to make sailing accessible to anyone who is interested! We want to erase the image that sailing (and skippering) is for the rich, white, and male. It’s for anyone.

The OCSC Sailing School is known for its rigor, with a relentless focus on safety, fun, and learning.  We train in some of the toughest inland waters in the country, facing high wind, heavy traffic, and quick currents (not to mention confusing fog).  It’s the perfect recipe to build confidence in our students! I like to think that if you can sail on San Francisco Bay, you can pretty much sail anywhere.

Although I sailed a bit with family and friends over the years, my own formal sailing training came from OCSC in 2013, when I enrolled in same courses that I am now teaching!  It is a thrill for me to be in this position, working with students as they discover the joys (and challenges) of sailing, and as I discover the joy (and challenges) of teaching!

 A fellow J24 sailing vessel out on the Bay.

A fellow J24 sailing vessel out on the Bay.

 Demonstrating heaving-to, and taking a quick break for photos.

Demonstrating heaving-to, and taking a quick break for photos.