Two county organizations help kids and adults discover joys of sailing

Sometimes, you can’t get there from here.

Unless you’re on a boat.

That’s certainly the case with Sucia Island, which Rick Sale, general manager of San Juan Sailing, describes as the gem of the San Juans.

Bellingham outfits such as San Juan Sailing and Bellhaven can teach you how to take yourself to all those green islands amidst the glittering blue water. If you want your children to learn how to sail, the Bellingham Yacht Club will teach them through its youth program.

“It really is about a whole new, almost life-changing skill, that you’re learning, that enables you to explore and enjoy … the places that you can’t easily get to by car,” says Sale, a Bellingham resident.

For Ray Poorman, who oversees the yacht club’s youth program, being surrounded by wind and water helps calm him.

“It’s really re-grounds you,” he says of sailing.

There are charter companies in the area that teach people how to operate power boats. But only San Juan Sailing and Bellhaven have schools, which teach would-be sailors how to sail via weekend courses or over an entire week while living on a boat.

Children can learn through a Bellingham Yacht Club program that has existed for about 30 years. The classes teach youngsters ages 8-18 how to sail dinghies, boats that are shorter than 20 feet long that can be handled by one person. The introductory classes teach how to sail the small boats in light winds.

Youngsters also learn sailing terminology, how to rig a dinghy, how to launch one, tacking and jibing as well as what to do if their boats capsize.

Adults who want to learn how to handle dinghies can start doing so later this summer, most likely in August, when the club offers those classes for the first time in at least 10 years.

“We get such a demand for it and there really is no other outlet for that right now,” Poorman says. “We’ve got about 20 adults queued up to do this. We purchased larger boats to be able to do it.”

The yacht club is still working out the details; find exact dates and costs by continuing to check its Web site at www.byc.org.

Adults who want to learn how to sail larger boats may learn through Bellhaven and San Juan Sailing. Chartering a boat will require taking a series of classes, each building on the other, but those who just want to figure out whether sailing is for them can start with the beginning classes.

Details: 733-6636 and www.bellhaven.net.

The sailing school is at 2615 S. Harbor Loop, Suite 1, in Bellingham.

Details: 671-4300 and www.sanjuansailing.com.