Twelve Steps To Becoming A Sailor

By: Learn To Sail, women on the water

While scrolling through Facebook I was introduced to the Women’s Sailing Association of Santa Monica Bay (WSA) sailing group. This post appeared and I had to share it with our American Sailing Readers.  We all have dreams about sailing and the author of this piece, Yosh Han, outlines her twelve steps to living her life as a sailor.  Even though I feel like I have the dream job, Yosh might have me beat. If you need a recipe for a major lifestyle change, this is it.  

How I Got Into Sailing, And You Can Too.

I got hooked on sailing about three years ago. This is a twelve-step process on how I got into it with resources on how you can enjoy the sailing lifestyle too.

In 2016, I was invited by my then boyfriend on the Cabrinha Quest, a private adventure catamaran sailing in Micronesia. Prior to that trip, I had been primarily living a land lubber’s life, just dreaming of beach vacations staring wistfully at people on sailing yachts. On that particular trip, something shifted, perhaps it was staying up for a night watch, sailing in the warm wind, under the stars and being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean or the combination of all of those things that got me hooked. How could I change my life to live out my life-long dreams to sail around the world?

Step one: Change my land life to be more digital-friendly to make time for sailing. After I broke up with the guy who had invited me on that epic trip, I applied on a whim to Remote Year, a travel program for digital nomads that kept popping up on my Instagram feed. I got accepted and took it as a sign to change my life. I cleaned out my apartment and perfume studio and put everything in storage, got a subletter and traveled around the world with 60 digital nomads. 12 cities, 10 countries later, it was not easy being one of the older people on the programs but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Step two: Assess my business and figure out how I could create more opportunities remotely. Luckily, I found an amazing 3PL partner to manage my perfume inventory and ship on-demand. I also overhauled my website and began selling D2C by redesigning my website and adding a webshop via SquareSpace and also moved all my retailers to an online marketplace called Faire Wholesale. This enabled me to move my entire business online, including moving my accounts to Quickbooks online. This step was a 2 year process. 

Step three: Stay away from the rat race! Right after my Remote Year program ended, I realized I wasn’t quite ready to go back to ‘normal life.” So I decided I wanted to level up my digital marketing skills while scuba diving. I spent 9 months in Indonesia between Bali, Gili Air, and Nusa Penida and became a PADI MSDT Scuba Instructor while doing a digital marketing boot camp through Pineapple Hustle. It was an extraordinary program for many reasons – I got to spend time underwater doing something I love while learning new skills that directly impact my business. I didn’t teach scuba for very long as I had a family emergency, but I loved my time in Indonesia and dream of going back. 

Step four: Develop more skills. I decided to take a bunch of sailing classes. I signed up for a liveaboard in Baja Mexico and completed my ASA 101, ASA 103, ASA 104, and ASA 114 all at once. Basic Keelboat Sailing, Basic Coastal Cruising, Bareboat Cruising, and Cruising Catamaran through Go Baja Sailing in La Paz, Mexico. The week-long course allowed me to be in a gorgeous environment and actually see what it would be like to live aboard and get a feel of what cruising full-time might be like. 

Step five: Find local sailing clubs, charter clubs or yacht clubs. I had been on the fringe of the sailing community in Marina Del Rey, but then I decided to jump in full throttle. I joined the Women’s Sailing Association and Fairwind Yacht Club, both great community-minded organizations where I met other sailors, got time on the water, got to go cruising on weekend and longer trips, and leveled up my skill set. I really like Fairwind Yacht Club because you can check out many boats of varying sizes. There are similar organizations like Tradewinds Sailing School & Club and Cal Sailing Club both in the Bay Area. These are more wallet-friendly ways to get on the water but if you have the budget, there are charter clubs like Marina Sailing with several locations up and down the coast of Southern California and similarly Modern Sailing and Club Nautique in the Bay Area which have charter fleets.

Step six: Get into racing! Racing is an incredible way to hone your technical skills and learn how to work as a fast-paced team. I sat on the rail as ballast for the first year but learned a lot by observing and got bounced around many boats before I found a team that suited my personality and skill set. Don’t be afraid to try out different race teams until you find people you like. You can go to any Yacht Club that has a racing program and contact their Race Chair Director and ask to be put on their crew list or you can brave it by bringing a six-pack and showing up to the docks on race day and seeing if you can hop on a boat that way. You can also access the Regatta Network for a race near you.

Step seven: Stay plugged in even if you can’t get on the water. Many clubs and organizations and sailing brands offer in-person and online zoom workshops! There are lots of clinics available to all types of sailors. Island Yacht Club hosts a women’s sailing clinic each year and since the pandemic, they’ve taken the whole seminar series online and hosted other online workshops like the Weather Clinic. I like North U for its racing seminars. The St. Francis Yacht club in San Francisco is a private club reserved for members but their Yachting Luncheons are open to the public as is the speaker’s series at Corinthian Club in Sausalito. In Southern California, I highly recommend SCYA Boating Clinic. You can also spend way too much time watching YouTube sailing channels. Here’s a compilation of the Top 100.

Step eight: Join Facebook groups and sailing apps. This is a serious rabbit hole if you go down this road. Literally, search Facebook with any combination of the following words. Sailing Groups. Cruising and Sailing. Cruisers and Sailors + region you’re interested in.  Women Who Sail. Sailboat Hitchhikers and Crew. Prepare to FILTER and SIFT till you find the group that fits your sailing style. (If you don’t know your sailing style, get on the water and find out: casual day sailor, blue water ocean passages, racing, ocean racing, passage making, deliveries, or professional mariner. You will also want to gut check whether certain lifestyles suit your personality. There are some situations that are more freestyle and others that are more buttoned-up and everything in between. You can also use MeetUps in your area and search for sailing opportunities or use the GoSailing App. See step nine.

Step nine: Get on crew lists. There are free and paid crew lists. Like anything in life, you have to know thyself, do your own research, sift for your objectives and figure out what criteria will help you meet your goals. The most well-known ones are Findacrew, Crewfinder, Crewbay and Crewseekers. Some offer paid services – these will usually get you a premium boat. If you decide you want to go this route, it’s helpful to develop a sailing resume.

Step ten: Trust your gut. There are fabulous captains who are leisure owners who only sail in the harbor, some go island hopping and others take their boat off-shore while there are some who are paid instructors, and others who are professional mariners who do deliveries. You can meet all kinds of people who run the gamut. There will be many captains who you may not get along with so ASK QUESTIONS including, “is it a dry boat?” Meaning: some people like to party hard on the water, I personally don’t, so I prefer to sail with people who are modest drinkers or some who only drink after the anchor is down or the boat is back in the marina.

Step eleven: If you’d like to further your career, there are many resources for learning to become a Captain. There are 2 other main sailing schools in the USA. American Sailing Association and US Sailing. Internationally, you’ll want to go with Royal Yacht Association. For professional seamanship, visit Training Resources Limited and Orange Coast College

Step twelve: ENJOY THE RIDE! While you figure out what kind of sailor you are and what type of sailing you like to do, you will meet SO many amazing and salty characters out there! Don’t ever judge a captain by how they look, but feel free to ask about the engine. If it doesn’t look well kept, be advised. Lastly, truthfully, HAVE FUN! Being on the water will change you.

This story originally appeared on YOSH’s website. Read the full story here

Yosh Han

In her free time, Yosh is a professional PADI MSDT open water scuba instructor, blue water sailor, and wild swimmer. Believing the ocean is one of her communication channels to the Supreme Being.

In 2017, she crossed the equator by catamaran from Papua New Guinea to Palau on the Cabrinha Quest; as is customary for all sailors crossing the equator, Yosh made an offering to Poseidon, god of the sea, and committed herself to be an Ambassador of the Ocean. Some of her favorite maritime destinations include Micronesia, Polynesia, Indonesia, Mexico, and her home state of California. She is a member of Fairwind Yacht Club and Island Yacht Club and a publicist for Women’s Sailing Association, Santa Monica. YOSH recently completed a 2650nm double-handed journey on an Ericsson 30’  from San Diego, CA to the Big Island, Hawaii and inter islands around Maui, Molokini, Molokai and ending in Honolulu, Oahu as well as a 2000nm adventure from Grenada to Charleston, South Carolina via USVI.