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 'JoySEA Too' a 19' Flying Scot- a 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 primarily on Sarasota Bay, 455 square miles of beautiful water that averages 6.5' deep. We will rig and launch from the Ken Thompson Park boat ramps located on City Island (on Lido Shores) near the Mote Marine Research Center. Once on Ken Thompson Parkway turn right at Mote's "Purple Wall" and drive past the boat ramps to the grassy rigging area.

On occasion (when red tide conditions are high in Sarasota Bay but low on Anna Maria Sound - lessons are moved to Anna Maria Sound - launching at Kingfish Landing on Hwy 64 (Manatee Ave West). [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 many of them lacking in these qualities. I recall- in particular - one line from an instructor during an on-board session (that I had booked in advance according to the schools calendar offerings (another thing I do NOT do - we only sail when the winds are steady in direction and velocity)! He said "IF the wind was blowing we could..." Seriously - Funny? I didn't think so.

Black text = Beginner (Half-day sail) outcomes
Gray text = Intermediate (Full-day sail) additional outcomes


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,
  • review weather forecast; wind direction and velocity, and tidal phases,
  • identify current conditions using windicators,
  • identify local landmarks for use as visual bearings,
  • demonstrate 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 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_ | _Rigging Map_
  • helming (setting course (steering on a point of sail) and speed (increase/decrease), balancing load, directing crew,
  • crewing (handling jib sheets, centerboard, (and anchor/rode too)), under sail - on all points of sail - learning to execute tacks and gybes smoothly) with BOTH mainsail and jib,
  • 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,
  • take a bearing via handheld compass
  • 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.
  • identify current location by chart landmarks and by use of GPS device
  • 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 Flying Scot with a swing centerboard and kick-up rudder has a shallow draft and is "beachable" in low surf),
  • drop jib and flake (accordion 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 drop and secure jib on foredeck
  • recover from capsize (optional... the Flying Scot 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),
  • drop, set, and weigh anchor,
  • reef or reduce mainsail using jiffy reefing at first and/or second reef points. If we are out in strengthening winds we will learn the proper proceedure to reduce windage of the mainsail so that we are not overpowered. This is an important skill for stormy conditions.
  • singlehanding (handling helming AND crewing roles solo - yes! It's a handful!), and
  • plan and execute return to dock under sail or auxiliary power safely - includes throwing and securing lines at the dock,
  • 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. Take a look at a four minute videoclip of some tacking practice from a lesson. 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, stand-up paddleboarders, windsurfers, kiteboarders, wing foilers. Sarasota Bay is a watersports mecca!

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 and sponges- 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.

JoySEA Too'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 Men's 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.

Snorkeling Stop

Porpoise Encounter


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

JoySEA Too - at the end of the rainbow...

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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