In Spinsheet Magazine

The Ideal Teaching and Sharing Sailboat

NMS_0223The trend towards shared sailing fleets for training and daysailing is unmistakable. Community sailing centers and clubs around the country are collecting a variety of boats on which members often take their first sail along with an experienced sailor, take their first official lessons with an instructor, and then take their independent sail once qualified.

A common theme emerges when you speak with the operators: the ideal shared teaching sailboat design doesn’t exist yet. If it were available, clubs with broader memberships and community support would raise the money to buy all new fleets. After years of discussions with these wishful folks, I’ve assembled a list of criteria to describe their dream design. This, in Spinsheet’s Oct 2015 issue, is what I’ve heard.

What a sailing school can be


Taji Jacobs was always on the look-out for fun outdoor activities that might be done as a family.

She thought sailing might be fun for everyone, though she was a bit apprehensive herself. Would she feel scared? What if she didn’t understand the lingo and made a mistake that caused trouble? Would the kids think it was boring? Would Paul be interested?

My latest in Spinsheet challenges schools to include the whole family, and families to include sailing as the thing done together. 

When a Sailor Needs Anger Management

Anger ManagementI’ve sailed with a few yellers, but only one time each.

Here’s how a yeller can kick the habit. See page 58 in this month’s Spinsheet Magazine.

Doug Drake Days

Blueprint loving the sea breezeIn my town there is a regular summer sea breeze. It doesn’t set up every day, but it is persistent and predictable enough to have caused the locals to coin the expression “cooler by the lake,” now a de facto advertising slogan for Milwaukee. Sailors have another name for it.

A local 470 sailor who helped organize our community sailing program in the ‘70s passed away recently, and in his honor, his friends deemed these special days “Doug Drake Days.”

Doug had lucked into enough of these days in his long sailing life to know what to expect of them and he used them to his advantage. Here’s how.

Sailing Mentors: Not All Old Men

shapeimage_1-1The only thing that good mentoring demands is the confidence of experience. You don’t have to be old. You don’t have to be a man. You don’t have to be rich. You don’t have to be a hero or a professional. You just have to have been there, and you have to want to return to help someone else go there, whether the destination is a place or a feeling or a skill. Read more.

Immersion Sailing – CSC Shows How

shapeimage_1-7Imagine that you’re not a sailor. You’ve never done it, but always wanted to. You find a sailing club that supplies all the boats and all the equipment and free training to learn to sail and then use the boats as often as you want for about $25 bucks a month. Sound like a good way to start? Read more.

On Making Sailors

shapeimage_1-2Interested in Saving Sailing? Start mentoring now. Start on your boat, and if you don’t have one, borrow one. If you can’t borrow one, then go where there are boats to use. Your sailing life is sure to take on a completely new and more interesting form when you do. Read more.

Making Time to Sail

shapeimage_1First rule: Don’t pit sailing against soccer. Given equal weight, sailing takes on the thin veneer of the spectator sport. Sailors know that sailing is vastly different and better on many dimensions, not the least of which is that it is best done in family or intergenerational groups and that in that format, it gets better with time. Draw a clear distinction between kids-sports and family time. One is a game, and it ends. The other is love and it lasts. Read more.

Modern Sailing Clubs can Save Sailing

shapeimage_1-3Instead of assuming that parents can’t or won’t actively mentor, sailing clubs should provide parents with the tools to engage and teach their kids in their free time, and practical ideas for making more of it. If sailing clubs do this, then sailing can play a real role in strengthening the fabric of American society in the 21st century. Read more.

Sailing is Hard. That’s Why it’s Good

shapeimage_1-4Sailing isn’t simple. Done well, it might be among the most complex pastimes we might select. True, almost anyone can learn to tail a winch, raise a mainsail, or tie a figure-8. But in concert with others over long periods of time, sailing takes more than basic instruction. It takes an environment. Read more.

This Sailing Vacation, We Spent Nothing (Except Time Together)

shapeimage_1-5One of the central lessons of sailing is that you just don’t know what you’re going to get. You might not get what you hoped for. You might have to wait. You might have to adjust your expectations. You might have to try again. Most of the essential variables are out of your control. But when it comes together, it can be stunning in its beauty and power: graceful, organic, complete and, dare I say, spiritual. Read more.

Hey Kid, Let’s Take Up Fishing

shapeimage_1-6Given the chance to learn among adults, kids of any age will certainly learn special skills and lessons that can never be taught indoors or in packs of like-aged kids. Kids who are familiar with nature and who value these intergenerational experiences are much less likely to develop video game or other media consumption habits. They’re aware of a far better alternative. Guiding these choices and creating these opportunities are among the central roles of the modern American parent. Read more.

Sailing Backwards (in time)

shapeimage_1-8It’s through nostalgia that avid sailors often find meaning, what some call ‘the passion’ for sailing. At the root of most sailing nostalgia are fond memories of fun on the water with family and other important role models. If we’re lucky, sailing can also transport us to another time altogether. It’s a benefit that rare few other things can offer. A well-selected sailing cruise works well for this backwards-looking discovery. Read more.

Falcon’s Hope – New Usefulness for an Old Sailboat

shapeimage_1-11The existence of a sailboat in a life often influences the course of that life, and determines its legacy. It’s not a worship of a material thing or a symbol of status or prestige. Sailboats are valuable because they are experiential. Read more.

Betting on Sailing Parents

shapeimage_1-14A few years ago we surveyed moms to learn if they would be interested in participating with their kids in some way. Our idea was that in a session of 10 sailing classes, one would be open. A mom could come down, put on a life jacket and go sailing to witness first-hand what her child had learned. Fifty percent replied that they were game. More interestingly, seventy percent of single moms were eager to go sailing. We were stunned. It was as if these moms had been waiting for an invitation. Read more.

Learning to Capsize

Learning to Capsize1.) Why do kids need to know how to swim to learn to sail while adults don’t?

2.) Why don’t adults start to learn sailing – a water sport – by going into the water, just as kids do? Read more.

The Abracadabra Moment: How to find time for family sailing

SpinsheetWhen the old video game and TV watching habits are broken, a body of shared sailing memories starts to build. It, in turn, feeds itself. Making memories is the inspiration to make more. Eventually, the summer calendar is organized around family sailing, not the other way around.  Read more.

Sailing with other people’s kids

Spinsheet - Dan Phelps, family sailing, kids and sailing, saving sailingOne of the most difficult sailing challenges you may face will be taking other people’s kids. You are sure to run into situations that seem daunting and extreme and that make you second guess the idea. Fearing such a thing, many people just won’t do it. While I understand the feeling, I think it’s a mistake to give in to it. Read more.

What’s in it for you

Three generations prepare to go sailing togetherKids learn from experience. Sometimes experiences teach skills or consequences. Other times, things out of control turn experiences into adventures, and teach about fear, risk, determination and things larger than ourselves. Sailing can provide both the ritual and the experience, and of course, the adventure. So it is simply an ideal instrument of parenting; a way to make great kids. Read more.

Facebook Sailing

Facebook SailingA couple of years ago, America’s Cup promoters told us that they planned to break promotional ground and find new sailing fans among “the Facebook Generation.” After all, there are five hundred million subscribers to the service, so sailing ought to benefit somehow from clicks and tags, one organizer told me. I wish them luck, but don’t have high hopes. Facebook is the world’s largest repository of puppy pictures, or in a best case, where friends tag friends in photographs from the night before. But it’s not where people get together and do. That happens offline, on boats, outside, in company. Read more.


Paddle-to-the-seaAs a kid, my all-time favorite book was Paddle-to-the-Sea. Remember it? Author Holling Clancy Holling takes us on a trip with a toy indian in a birchbark canoe from a Canadian headwater north of Lake Huron, through the Great Lakes, down the St. Lawrence river, past Montreal, and onto the Atlantic Ocean. Today, I credit Paddle, in part, for the vision that led to this sailing life. Read more.

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