Here’s my story in today’s New York Times:
IT’S a gorgeous Friday evening. There’s a breeze off the Hudson River, and the single best place to be — every sailor knows — is out on the water. But you, who wouldn’t know port from starboard or rudder from tiller, can only gaze longingly at those bobbing, darting boats on the horizon.
You don’t know anyone with a boat and you don’t know how to sail.
Get to Nyack, on the Hudson 25 miles north of Manhattan, and stand on the dock of the Nyack Boat Club before a scheduled race. “There’s always people looking for crew — you would definitely find a ride,” even without any experience, said Tom Lawton, who sails a 17-foot Thistle, one of the nation’s top 10 fastest such vessels. The club’s regular races are Wednesdays from 5:30 until dusk, and Sundays at noon.
Despite its blue-blood reputation, sailing is for everyone. Owning and storing a boat may cost thousands of dollars a year, but aside from membership fees at some clubs (not Nyack), crewing costs nothing when a skipper invites you aboard. What you do need are the will to learn and a boat in need of a crew.
The references are local, but the spirit is international — anywhere there are skippers eager to race their sailboats, there are skippers who need crew! And there is rarely an unlimited supply of strong, quick, reliable and friendly sailors to help them out.
Which is where you come in. I fell into crewing after my marriage blew up. I was in the boring ‘burbs with few friends, no kids, not much money. What was I to do on long, lonely summer weekends? Sail! Once I found a few boats who saw that I brought good skills — and taught me more — my summers, May through October, were set. I was racing sometimes two or three times a week, sometimes two or three times a day. Exhausting!
If, like me, you are outgoing, a quick learner, competitive, and love being oudoors on the water, there are few free pleasures as great as this one. All you need is a cap, sunscreen, non-marking rubber-soled shoes and a few skippers willing to take you on.