Oh, what would I give to be back at the helm on Bluebird, hooning across Lake Tahoe, the winds gusting, the sun shining, my crew “ready to tack!” Our four days taking sailing lessons with Cruisers Academy may have been my favorite four days all year. My boyfriend Walt and I have always wanted to take a sailing course together, the first step in a a process that may eventually lead to buying our own sailboat. BUT – where to do those sailing courses and with who?
We began our search with two questions in mind:
1) Where are the best sailing schools? But also...
2) Where are the best places to learn to sail?
Instead of just taking sailing lessons in New Jersey, where we’re from, we decided we wanted to go away somewhere and a learn-to-sail vacation was in order. It wasn’t long before Lake Tahoe quickly rose to the top of our list.
Let me preface this by saying, I’ve taken two other 'Intro Sailing' courses, both of them well over a decade ago, and I truly forgot everything I learned. I was in no shape to take the helm of anything. I needed a serious refresher and my boyfriend, Walt, on a good day could maybe tell you the port and starboard sides of a sailboat, but that was about it!
When we arrived to beautiful Lake Tahoe, the lake glistened, beckoning, and we were eager to get out there. If Tahoe isn’t one of the most gorgeous places in the U.S., I don’t know what is. It was storybook pretty, the crystal clear lake set against the mountains and pines. Cute shops and restaurants. I could live here, and I’m super jealous of the people that do! We were glad we made the decision to turn our sailing lessons into a true sailing vacation.
Day 1 started with sailing theory in the classroom, and diving headfirst into a compact, to-the-point, waterproof and floatable curriculum designed by Cruisers Academy. Immediately I could tell this course would be different than the others I’ve taken. Somehow the instructors manage to make you feel like we’re all just friends here, learning something new together, while at the same time clearly demonstrating that they are true pros who not only know what they’re doing, but know how to break it down for newbies. We bonded immediately – not only with them, but with our fellow classmates/crew members.
I was surprised how thorough the curriculum was, as we learned about local and world weather, how we harness the wind to move us via points of sail, that famous tack and the infamous gybe, sailboat anatomy, anchoring & docking theory, and most importantly- how to be a good crew mate.
Once we got on the water, we quickly learned why Lake Tahoe is the perfect place to learn to
sail. The lake presented all manner of conditions – everything from tons of wind, sending us
heeling, to light wind to periods of no wind at all — every day was different. Brady and Blue
taught us not only the mechanics of sailing, but, just as importantly, how to think like a sailor:
watching the water, feeling the direction of the wind, learning all the things that just can’t be
learned in the classroom. Each day was a mix of classroom instruction followed by lots of time on the water, or vice versa if conditions meant it was better to go out earlier. We left each day tired but happy, more confident on the water and with a bunch of new friends.
Although I’ve taken other sailing courses, by the end of Cruisers Academy’s CA-1 I felt like I
really, finally, learned how to sail. Their action-packed, “you-can-do-this!” style puts the other courses I’ve taken to shame. I also felt like I got way more time on the water, which makes all the difference when it comes to sailing courses. And for us, Lake Tahoe is by far the best place to learn to sail.
We’re back home in Jersey now and working on finding our own version of those four glory
days on the lake because goshdarnit we’re really becoming sailors this time. My boyfriend
won’t stop sending me boats for sale. Cruisers Academy, it’s a slippery slope, y’all… Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!