Monday, March 4, 2013

How I started Sailing at the cost of a cheap gym membership

 dad on a Fairwind Club vessel
If you live in LA, Ventura, Oxnard, Santa Barbara, or other local towns in Southern California and you want to sail, I have one word for you.......FAIRWIND.
  I know of NO cheaper way to sail then this club, unless perhaps your boat is in your driveway.
But before I talk about Fairwind let me diverge to the original reason I decided to lift my eyes up from the beach and waves, out to the Santa Monica Bay and the Islands therein.

My wife and I visited Las Vegas for the weekend.  We gambled $10, stayed in cheap hotel, did most of our cooking and saw one show.  Total price for one weekend; $500.  All I could think of was, get me the hell out of here.  I'd be walking down the streets, holding my wife with my left hand, my youngest on my shoulders and my 6 yr old in my right hand while street vendors are handing me pictures of topless girls in awkward poses.  We had a buffet at one of the Casinos, it all tasted the same.  After three days I was desperate for nature, to be surrounded by God's handiwork, not man's.

I remember vividly thinking, I could have spent that money and taken my family sailing, creating lasting memories, gaining skills and giving my boys an experience they can take with them thru adulthood;   Never again!

The sights and sounds of Vegas made my spirit sick.  My eyes and brain had ingested the worst pollution possible.  It's a gambler's town, its objective; leave you unsatisfied, wanting more.   I left that town hungrier then ever for the outdoors.  All I could think of was, get me to the ocean, let me wash and be refreshed in spirit and body.   To be surrounded by God's handiwork is satisfying and one quickly realizes how little one needs to have happiness and joy.

 "She looked out at the rolling purple-green waves of the sea once more.  A stirring that she could not name fluttered within her- something deep and strange, to do with the sea and sky." 
                                    The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her Own Making,                                 Catherynne M. Valente

"The sea makes a girl strong you know" 
                                 Catherynne M. Valente
 The ocean is the last great wilderness.  Here in LA, the ocean is our backdoor.  And believe it or not, the South Bay and the surrounding waters of Southern California are alive and well.

 When I sit in a restaurant with a view of the ocean, I have to turn away and sit facing the interior of the restaurant, otherwise I'm too distracted and can't carry a conversation.   She is so beautiful, magnificent, infinitely changing.  One minute breathless and still, a mirror, suddenly a raging dragon with foaming mouth, threatening to swallow up all in it's path.  In her there are treasures beyond counting.  

  There are what, 18 million people in this city, traffic, congestion, ect.  Yet, a mile off of Redondo pier you can be alone, alone with the dolphins, sunfish and whales.  The city skyline as large as your finger, just melting in the distance.  Los Angeles as suggested in the photo below, is sandwiched between two natural resources, the San Gabriel Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.   The city, like any, can often feel overwhelming, crowded and manic.  Yet within half an hour to an hour's drive one can literally get lost in the wilderness, be it mountain, desert or ocean.

The Channel Islands off of Ventura are the most remote National Park in the USA.  Pretty amazing since they are only an hour's drive from LA, + a short boat ride.

Catalina Island is a boaters paradise, only a day sail from LA.

Emerald Bay, Catalina Island

Brian Fagan, author of "A cruising guide to Central and Southern California" writes, "I have enjoyed more perfect sailing days off the California coast then anywhere else in the world...Quite simply we sail in paradise on earth-"

 If you are a sailor in these parts, this is old news.  If, like most of LA you don't sail but wish you did, or wish you could afford it, well, I think you can.  It does not have to be expensive.

Let's go back therefore to my comment at the beginning of this post.
Fairwind Yacht Club.
This club is amazing.  At $30 a month, you can start sailing and will receive free instruction by ASA instructors and other members.  It is a cooperative.  The club owns the boats.  So unlike a Chartering company,  members do not have to pay when they sail.  It's the membership fee and that's it.   Why are costs so low; because members volunteer their time maintaining the boats and giving instruction.  We pay by giving of our time, but believe me it is worth it.  Members are very generous with their knowledge and skills.  I can't think of a better way to learn.

If you have money, and you are in a hurry to start exploring the islands and coastline, then by all means check out the local Chartering companies.  They have great on-the-watertraining programs.
BluePacific Boating has good prices for courses, $695 will get you 5 days of training, the 101 and the 103.   This may seem expensive, but think about it.  A weekend in Vegas including gas will cost you at least that.

The only downside with the Chartering companies, is when you sail, you have to pay at least $100 a day, not to mention simply being a member you must pay around $30 per month.

When I look at the numbers, Fairwind is amazing.  But if you have money and don't have time, go with the Chartering companies.  

I hope this puts a bug in you, or at least gets you thinking about more possibilities to explore the outdoors with the kids.   After living in La for 12 years, I am continually amazed.  The more I do, the more I realize there is to do.  It is so easy to get settled in our routines, hike the same hikes, watch the same shows, stay home on weekends.  But as we plan, reach out, get outside, see new places, do new things, we quickly find ourselves asking the question, what took us so long, or, why don't we do this more often?  There are already people out there doing what you dream of doing, or hope to do, be it sailing, biking, hiking at night, ect, ect.  Find them, meet them and join them.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

a sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind
live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you  anyway                    
                                                                                 --Webb Chiles 

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