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Sailing Offers Exhileration on Open Waters
September 23, 2011
Some do it for the feeling of absolute freedom. Others enjoy the sight of an unobscured sunset, the sound of canvas unfurling in the wind, the sturdy feel of the ropes and taste of the salty air.
"You're forcing a natural agent — the wind — to do your bidding," says sailboat owner and recreational sailor Paul Erskine.
Regardless of the reasons, sailing is a popular hobby for both the adventurous and competitive. While some take their boats out for cruises lasting several days to several weeks, others prefer to gut their boats and race them competitively.
Jim Rice and Cait Goodwin are such owners, who bought their boat with another family and gutted it for racing. Rice, who learned to sail through a marine biology program in Massachussets, enjoys competi- tive sailing for the teamwork and excitement it provides.
"It's a teamwork sport," he says. "You want a team that works in concert as best it can."
Sailing teams can have four to six people, each with a different role to manipulate the sails.
Working in synch with a team, he says, is "a Zen like experience." He also says the situation can also take an abrupt turn, where "the wind's blowing really hard and you want to maximize your speed but not overpower the boat."
Sailing instructor Mike Fulmor enjoys the freedom and adventure provided by sailing cruises.
Fulmor, a Yaquina Bay Yacht Club instructor, has spent more than 50 years on the water.
He learned to sail "since I was born," and made his farthest trip in 2003: Newport to Mexico and then across the south Pacific to Australia.
"You can sail anywhere you want," the sailing veteran remarks through a bushy beard. "You're just limited by your imagination."
Fulmor says that the other draw of cruising comes from the camaraderie that develops both between crew members and boats. "Cruising communities are some of the best around," he boasts. He says that many boats share experiences, both good and bad, on the water and have common ground to talk about when they make landfall.
A sailing crew, says his wife, Barbara, requires an important mix of skills. "It's a real small world on the boat." Crews can be as small as a mom and pop boat, or several friends.
Crews should have skills in several areas, Fulmor says: mechanical knowledge for when an engine inevitably breaks down, culinary skills for eating on board most of the trip, leader- ship and direction to captain the boat, and most importantly, sailing ability.
"If anybody wants to be a crew member, it's easy," Fulmor says. "Plenty of people need crew."
Sailing skills are transferable among the sailing community, Fulmor says. "Once you learn," he explains, "you can sail on other people's boats." Working as a crewmember on a charter boat is a way to travel through work.
No matter how one gets into it, sailing is a skill that must be patiently learned. Club member Stephanie Brown taught herself when she was 22 after plenty of reading and preparation. Having learned from his father, Fulmor advises against this.
"You can be self taught as long as you read the proper books," he says, arguing it can reinforce bad habits. While he doesn't count Brown as one of them, "a lot of people will learn just enough to be dangerous."
There has been, and still is, a certain price barrier in some areas, but the Yaquina Bay Yacht Club is attempting to diminish that with a pro-rated yearly membership fee as well as discounts on sailing lessons.
Currently, several organizations offer sailing lessons, such as the Yacht Club or the Oregon Boat Association. Lessons are divided by boat certification levels: basic keel-boat, basic coastal cruising, and bare boat charter. Each works on a larger boat size and each costs roughly $300 for the entire course including lessons and materials.
Sailing lessons aren't the only way to learn, but they are the most direct. Newbies looking for a start can sometimes join a crew by stopping at Newport's Bier One or the Yacht Club at around five p.m. on Wednesdays.