A special sailing birthday present
Laurie Underwood explains how she got into sailing:
I began sailing in 2014 when I bought a weekend of sailing lessons as a birthday present for my husband, Sean, who had always wanted to learn to sail. I had never sailed before, but growing up on Long Island, I had spent a great deal of time fishing and waterskiing on my grandfather’s and my parents’ boats on Long Island Sound and Great South Bay. Taking sailing lessons with Sean seemed like a great way to spend time on the water again, but I still had visions of waterskiing off the stern of a power boat. I did not anticipate how much I would love the quiet tranquility of moving across the water powered only by wind and sail.
After taking our initial basic keelboat course, Sean and I rented and sailed 19-foot Flying Scots almost every week at Belle Haven Marina on the Potomac River. We would sail between Belle Haven and National Harbor for a few hours, but we quickly began to dream about sailing in other places.
Expanding sailing from the Potomac River to the Bay
At the 2015 U.S. Sailboat Show, we made plans to charter a catamaran out of Annapolis for a week with another family. In preparation for that trip, we took several American Sailing Association (ASA) classes through the Pentagon Sailing Club, including ASA 101 and 103 and ASA 105, the basic navigation course. We also took ASA 104 and 114 from BaySail in Havre de Grace, MD.
The week we spent with friends chartering a 41-foot Fontaine Pajot catamaran was one of our favorite trips, and we were hooked. We thought maybe we would purchase a boat after our kid went to college, but we just couldn’t wait and eventually decided as a family to purchase our own sailboat, a 1998 Hunter 410 Bootlegger, which we keep at Herrington Harbour North.
Almost every weekend from March through December is spent sailing on the boat
We spend almost every weekend from March through December out on the boat. For the past two years, we have also taken two weeks off in the summer for an extended cruise. In 2019 we sailed to Wildwood, NJ, and explored many ports along the way. Our 2020 plans were scaled back a little due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but we did get to Yorktown and Cape Charles, VA, and several other locations along the way. This summer, we hope to spend time exploring the James River. When we retire, we would like to cruise down to the Bahamas and up to Nova Scotia.
Advice for someone interested in learning to sail
Taking sailing lessons was extremely helpful. In addition, chartering is a good way to get your feet wet and see if you enjoy being out on the water for multiple days. The other thing I would suggest is finding a sailing club or multiple sailing clubs that fit your interests. We belong to three sailing associations, and all of them have enhanced our sailing experience. We joined the Pentagon Sailing Club initially to take ASA classes, but we have remained members because of the friends we made. We continue to take winter classes through the club to improve our skills. We joined the Herrington Harbour Sailing Association to meet fellow sailors at our marina and joined the Hunter Sailing Association Station #1 (HSA-1) to meet fellow Hunter owners. Through our participation in these clubs, we have made wonderful friends.
Learning boat maintenance
Prior to owning a boat, we did not know much about boat maintenance and repairs. Taking classes on diesel engines and marine electronics was very helpful. The best way to learn is by doing. For example, winterizing the boat at first seemed like an overwhelming process, but after a few seasons we finally have that down. A gel coat repair sounded daunting, until we actually did it. When cleaning winches I had visions of not getting them back together properly, but all worked out well, and our winches work better without the years of grease from the prior boat owners. We also have a great circle of friends who have walked us through many boat projects, especially our friends in HSA-1.
by Laurie Underwwod, as told to Beth Crabtree