Sail to Learn - Sailing

Steve helming solo just west of Passage Key.
Sail2Learn offers sailing lessons for beginner to intermediate sailors in the Sarasota/Bradenton, FL area. Lessons are aboard 'Joycee' - a 17' trailerable daysailing fractional sloop (one mast with mainsail and jib)... a perfect learning vessel and a wonderful boat for new sailors on a budget. The sailing grounds [Google Earth map] for these lessons are on Sarasota Bay. We will rig and launch Joycee from the Ken Thompson Park boat ramps located on City Island (on Lido Shores) near the Mote Marine Research Center. [See MAP]."

One of the strengths of Sail2Learn is that the program was designed by an exercise science educator who spent twenty years assisting college faculty members design ACTIVE learning strategies. Humans learn best by DOING... By practicing logical, progressive skill sequences mated with applied knowledge. Your instructor ***has experienced*** several professional sailing courses - and found most of them lacking in these qualities.


Half-day or full-day lessons for small groups (3 max!) are 'hands-on' by design with an experienced coach at your side. Start from scratch and learn all required to effectively and safely handle a daysailer including:
  • creating a "floatplan" for the excursion - dependent upon weather conditions,
  • demonstrated application of wind theory using sailboat model simulation during land lesson orientation,
  • successfully rig (assemble standing and running rigging and step (raise) the mast using a safety bridle system) a daysailer which entails learning to assemble spars (mast and boom), securing sails to control lines (halyard, topping lift, boom vang, mainsheet, jib sheets, lazy jacks, reefing and furling lines) and fittings using hardware and tying proper seaman's knots. Here new sailors will be introduced to sailing lingo as they learn to identify parts of the boat. Practice here.
  • launch via boat ramp from trailer & tempoarily secure boat to dock using docklines,
  • helming (tiller steering and/or mainsheet management (hauling/cleating, easing) under sail - on all points of sail - learning to execute tacks and gybes smoothly) with mainsail alone,
  • crewing (jib sheets, furling line, centerboard, and anchor/rode) and both simultaneously, under sail - on all points of sail - learning to execute tacks and gybes smoothly) with BOTH mainsail and jib,
  • deploying jib sail and helming and/or crewing under main and jib sails - on all points of sail executing tacks and gybes smoothly,
  • tacking and immediately heaving to,
  • identifying visual bearings, waypoints, and viable points of sail while avoiding getting caught "in irons" - and if it happens (and it will!), quickly recovering by backing the mainsail,
  • Using a handheld VHF marine radio to communicate effectively with others on the water - including;
    • accessing weather forecasts,
    • making hailing calls to properly request;
      • a radio test,
      • a bridge opening,
      • emergency assistance.
  • recover a "man-over-board" (not you - or your partner(s)! ;-) It's a drill! We "rescue" a red kickboard... with a goal of a pick-up in less than 60 seconds!),
  • make a beach landing (the Hunter 170 with a swing centerboard and kick-up rudder has an 8" draft and is "beachable" in low surf),
  • Furl jib and flake (accordian fold) mainsail into lazy jacks system. Re-hoist mainsail and deploy jib to complete a successful beach launch,
  • While on a downwind point of sail (broad reach or run);
    • Deploy jib and mainsail in "wing and wing" sail arrangement to opposite sides of centerline,
    • Blanket the jib sail with mainsail and roller furl jib
  • recover from capsize (optional... the Hunter 170 is a very stable vessel and she is difficult(!) to capsize, BUT we will - if students desire it! The recovery from capsize is a challenging skill to master but is a great confidence-builder),
  • reduce sail by reefing main (jiffy reefing and stowing flaked section of mainsail in lazy jacks boom nest) and jib (self-furling headstay reefing),
  • drop, set, and weigh anchor, and
  • planning and executing return to dock under sail or auxilary power safely - includes throwing and securing lines.
  • making a summary self-assessment using the Sail2Learn Goals Checklist to identify future goals.

All of the above can be accomplished in a Full Day (7 hour) lesson or two half-day (3.5 hour) sessions. As a bonus we will often sail beside dolphins, eagle and/or leopard rays, manatees, comorants, even an occasional sea turtle during a sail - and large pelicans and other seabirds coast on the breezes nearby and then suddenly swoop and drop with a terrific splash when diving for a meal. We'll sail among classically pretty power and sailboats, tour boats, jet skiers, kayakers, windsurfers, kiteboarders and paddleboarders.

When we get hot/sweaty - we'll anchor and swim or snorkle to cool off... search for scallops, triton and conch shells, sand dollars, sea urchins, sea horses - all of which are found in these waters. You'll learn in an active, fun manner - to speak the language of sailing, to choose and tie the right knots for the particular situation, to helm and crew effectively, throw lines, and much more.

Joycee's large cockpit will accommodate six, but class size is limited to three students to maximize the learning by DOING experience.

Will you *master* sailing in this class? Honestly!?? No! Certainly not in your first class...
Sailing masterfully in all conditions takes hundreds(!) of hours of practice. But in each session/lesson we will build upon your prior experience(s) - and focus on relevant and appropriate individualized objectives. "Nothing succeeds like success!" - and while you will tackle situations and problems that are challenging, they will be fairly immediately obtainable with practice and attentive coaching.

Steve Bonham
Steve Bonham
Sailing coaching provided by Steve Bonham, a calm, patient, experienced (50+ years sailing) and friendly skipper with current ASA certifications. Bonham is a former college health & kinesiology professor, an NCAA division I Mens Gymnastics coach, and an instructional systems designer/faculty developer. He believes that for learning to stick it must be hands-on and immediately relevant.

So learners can expect sequences of progressive drills and mindful practice with individualized, kind and constructive feedback from a laidback and patient instructor. Sailing mistakes will be made! And that is great! Bonham believes those are effective learning moments sometimes the very best kind. Sailing is a wonderful and therapeutic form of play - and learning to sail should and will be fun!

If conditions permit - the Full Day sessions will include an island/sandbar landing and a picnic lunch.

The Hunter 170 Daysailer

Snorkeling Stop

Porpoise Encounter


So! You've decided to become a sailor. :-)

Christopher Cross got it right. Sailing can be magical...

"Well, it's not far down to paradise
At least it's not for me
If the wind is right
You can sail away
and find tranquility.

Oh, the canvas can do miracles.
Just you wait and see...
Believe me...

It's not far to never-never land
and reason to pretend
and if the wind is right
you can find the joy of innocence again.
oh, the canvas can do miracles.
Just you wait and see...
Believe me..."

Sailing does takes one away. You will soon - believe me!

The decision to become a sailor is something you will be grateful for the rest of your life! Sailing is a recreational activity (soon a passion!) that you can do all life long. You can putter around on inland ponds and lakes... along the coasts, or make passages that could carry you across oceans - or even completely around the world. That is the kind of an adventure that you have begun. Congratulations!

Conch find
Sailing... the art of moving a vessel across the water with nothing but the wind is simple - and also very complex. To become a master sailor you will be required to know an incredibly wide variety of things. But you don't have to learn these all at once. You'll learn aspects of astronomy, geology, physics, geometry, hydro & aero-dynamics, meterology, and lots more besides. You'll learn to read the wind, the clouds, the waves, and currents... about the creatures that inhabit the waters upon which you sail. You will immerse yourself in nature in a true physical connection that you have previously never even imagined. It IS wonderful. And it's why I call this experience not "Learn to Sail" but SAIL to Learn!

Steve Bonham

Email to schedule your sailing lesson - or to request further information.


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