Learn to Sail

The Center for Wooden Boats is a community nonprofit dedicated to celebrating our region’s small-craft heritage by preserving and sharing older wooden boats and maritime skills. Located on the shores of Lake Union an inlet from Lake Washington just 8-miles west of Bellevue. The Center is also home to a museum and many artifacts. The CWB offers skills classes and a rental fleet of 15 small sailboats—most of which were built between 1920 and 1950 and serve double duty as museum artifacts. Keelboat sloops such as the 20-foot Blanchard Junior Knockabout—built in Lake Union’s Blanchard Boat Company during the Depression can be rented along with smaller boats, such as the 12-foot Beetle Cat, designed in the 1920s by Massachusetts fishermen as a weekend pleasure sailor. Sailboat renters need to demonstrate competence in sailing away from the dock and out into Lake Union, executing rapid windward tacks, completing a circle and trimming the sail accordingly through various tacks and jibes, and maintaining control back to the dock with sails up and luffing in order to take the boats out.

Another option for learning to sail is at The Sail Sand Point on the shores of Lake Washington within Magnuson Park (just 5-miles west of Bellevue). There is a program that allows sailors to check out any of eight different types of small sailboats during “open boating” hours (usually 47 p.m. check the website for more info). Sail Sand Point’s fleet includes Lasers, Catalinas, Hobie Cats, Flying Juniors, Optimists, and more. To rent a boat, you’ll first have to pass a skills proficiency test. Sail Sand Point also offers group lessons for beginners and intermediates, as well as private lessons.

For those seeking to learn on bigger watercraft consider Windworks Sailing Center, learning on ocean-going vessels of Puget Sound. Beginners can take introductory lessons and serve as crew members. The center’s Intro to Sailing class, a two-hour tour on Puget Sound, complete with a captain and crew, is a great way to get acquainted with sailing. Windworks Sailing Center also offers an eight-hour keelboat crew lesson, as well as a whole series of lessons for more advanced sailors. Beyond teaching sailing, Windworks specializes in “bareboat” and “skippered” charters by the half-day, full-day, or for one or more overnights as well. Its fleet of more than 30 sailboats ranges in length from 25 feet to 63 feet.

If it’s more passive sailing enjoyment you seek, no worries…hop a ride on a larger sailboat with its own captain and crew and maximize exhilaration while minimizing your responsibility. Emerald City Charters takes passengers on one-and-a-half- and two-and-a-half-hour sailing tours of Puget Sound out of Pier 54, near Pioneer Square (about 9-miles west of Bellevue), on one of two 70-foot racing sailboats. Wooden boat aficionados may prefer to charter a sail on the Orion, a 64-foot yawl (two-masted yacht) built-in 1934 and recently restored in 2010. The Orion is available for skippered charters through Deep Green Wilderness. Here in Bellevue, we have so many options for wannabe sailors, so get your sea legs and wish for a steady breeze.