Four Ways to Start Sailing Without Breaking the Bank

Good news: there are ways to start sailing without spending any money!

Sailing, and especially owning a sailboat, can be expensive, yet there are ways to start without spending any money. If you try it and get hooked, then you will probably invest in gear, lessons, a club membership, and maybe even a boat. But for now, finances need not be a barrier to entry!

community sailing at Sail Nauticus
Community sailing programs are a great way to meet friends and learn to sail at a reasonable price point. Photo courtesy of Sail Nauticus

Four low-cost ways to try sailing

  1. Volunteer as Crew: Most boat owners keep a running list of potential crew members. Put yourself out into the sailing community as someone new to the sport who is willing to listen, learn, and be a good and dependable teammate. If you know just one sailor, ask if they can connect you. Also try an online crew finder. Such services match potential crew with boat owners. SpinSheet has a crew finder tab on its website and hosts annual crew-finder parties each spring. 
  2. Community Sailing Centers: Such places offer reasonably priced introductory sailing programs that usually included classroom lessons and on-water training. You’ll find such organizations in most sailing hubs, including Baltimore, MD; Washington, DC; Norfolk, VA; and New York City among others. Find links at
  3. Open Houses, Demo Days, and Boat Shows: Most sailing centers, schools, and boat sales dealerships offer free open houses and demo days designed to hook new sailors like you. Ride on as many boats as possible and ask questions, including whether the sailors who work there know of boats willing to train a new sailor. Boat shows also often have special events designed for new sailors. An example is the First Sail Workshop at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis.
  4. Regional Sailing Magazines: To find open houses, demo days, and boat shows, check the calendar of your regional sailing magazine. Such magazines are excellent resources for finding welcoming sailing clubs, centers, and schools. Look for SpinSheet on the Chesapeake Bay, Points East in New England, and Windcheck on Long Island Sound. All have websites or share digital versions online.