How to Start Sailing with No Money

UPDATE: I’m moving posts from my old Wordpress blog to their new home and this one from 2018 caught my eye as being a useful resource for any gonna-be sailors in need of ideas of how to get on the water, especially when money is an issue. Let me know how you’re going about it in the comments!

I realized the other day that I should probably change the name of this blog to reflect this blog post’s title because at this point, learning to sail without spending any money is really what I’m focused on.

There are a lot of ways to go about it actually. People, myself included, have the mistaken notion that you need a lot of money to sail. Happily, I’m discovering that’s not necessarily true. I’m benefiting from the knowledge of seasoned sailors, using a little imagination and having the ‘ovum’ to pick up the phone and say, “yes!”


The Internet

Of course, this is the biggest free resource for learning how to sail. There are a lot of free books available on the subject. I’ve got a library card and that gives me access to Overdrive, which is kind of an online library. Actually, it IS an online library and it lets you download ebooks on loan, listen to audio books. You don’t need a library card to use it though and it’s all for free.

There’s also a good selection of sailing resources on Scribd. However, the service isn’t free although it offers a one month free trial, which I’m taking full advantage of 

One caveat with free trials – make sure you put the date you need to unsubscribe in your calendar with an alert so you don’t forget and end up being charged! When you don’t remember to cancel (and if you haven’t put it on your calendar… =p) don’t hesitate to shoot an email telling them you made a mistake and need to be refunded. I’ve never had anyone decline the refund.

Another surprising resource of freeness is where you have access to a plethora of books, audios, movies, documents and even software. An additional benefit, you can find archived versions of websites that are no longer on the internet.

There’s a boatload of free information from websites on any sailing subject you care to learn. You’re going to need to organize your links if you start bookmarking your favorites. I have a folder titled ‘Sailing’ and then within it I have folders for ‘boats’ ‘maintenance’ ‘food’ ‘anchoring’ – you get the idea. Here just a taste of the many I’ve found to get you started:

Salty Sailor How To Articles – On anchoring, engine repair, sails, sailing and more!
Sailing Simulator – learn and practice basic sail trim on dry…laptop…
Celestial Navigation – free online course! I kid you not.
How Engines Work – a simple intro to the basics of that crusty ole’ engine
The Mother of All Maritime Links – they’re not joking, it really is!

There is a Facebook Group on every aspect of boating you can imagine. People are generous with their knowledge of the sea and the challenges of riding upon it. I’ve made friends and found mentors just by saying hello and sharing my newfound passion.

It can be intimidating learning to sail if you’re a woman. The guys can get a bit carried away with the whole ‘captain’ thing. Getting lessons from your partner can be a huge strain on the relationship. I heartily recommend connecting with Women Who Sail on Facebook for an amazingly knowledgeable, experienced and loving support group. They made me feel SO good about this sudden onset sailing insanity of mine.

If you’re interested in Junk Rigs then you should head over to the Junk Rig Association which has a lot to share for free and their membership fee is tiny. Most people on the internet will refer you to them so you may as well start there! =D

Pelican, Norwalk Island Sharpie 29, Sunbird Rig, Townsville Australia

Pelican, Norwalk Island Sharpie 29, Sunbird Rig, Townsville Australia

I was fortunate enough to find a few junk rig treasures in and Scribd troves:
Voyaging on a Small Income by Annie Hill
Cruising Wrinkles by Thomas Colvin
Make Your Own Sails by Bowker & Budd

Local Sailing Organizations

Book learning is a great place to start, especially in the winter living on the east coast of the United States. However, books will only teach me so much. Of course, the real learning comes when by getting into a sailboat!

My greatest find to date (besides Annie Hill’s book which I’ll buy soon but in the meantime…) is the local Hudson River Community Sailing organization. I found them online and was interested in taking sailing lessons with them. They had a low budget alternative of single lessons instead of the whole hog at almost $500 that is often the only choice given.

Great, I thought. I can save up my pennies and eventually, I’ll be sailing on the Hudson. Then I noticed the ‘Get Involved’ button on their site and being the curious type, clicked it to find that not only do they teach sailing to high schoolers but they also use volunteers!

Hot diggity damn! I got in touch with them and come next Monday I’m heading over to assist their winter boat building class. I am going to learn SO much! Which dovetails nicely with my next suggestion:

Build Your Own Boat

I know, I know…that sounds ridiculous! Bear with me for a sec, cause amazingly, depending on what your building, it’s actually not that difficult to do.

Let me start at the beginning.

An amazingly knowledgeable, kind and generous sailor has taken me under her wing by offering ideas, information and pointing me towards resources pertaining to my need to sail without the traditional resources (read money) to do so.

One of her first brilliant ideas was for me to build a small boat to learn on. My first reaction was probably the same as yours but after going to a site where lots of people had done exactly what she proposed, without spending a lot of money or necessarily having much experience, I was convinced.

Allow me to introduce you to the PDRacer!


Wow! You gotta love the sailing community. SO generous.

When I first published this post in February of 2018 my plan was to build a PDRacer that summer and sail it around the bay in Sag Harbor. It would’ve cost about $200 and allowed me to get out on the water as often as I wanted, weather permitting.

Life had other plans that had me on stage instead of on the water (I’m NOT complaining.) With the advent of the 26 footer coming into the picture, I’m turning my thoughts toward the possibility of building a folding dinghy. Will definitely share more on that when it takes center stage. 😆

I hope this post has done a decent job of convincing you that no matter your circumstances, you CAN learn to sail. One way or another.