13 Cheap Ways to Get Sailing Experience Now

Written by Sophia Roa in Learn to Sail

Are you dreaming of hitting the open seas but worried about the cost? Good news: you don't have to break the bank to get started in sailing. In fact, there are plenty of cost-effective ways to gain experience on the water, even if you don't own a boat. In this article, we'll explore 13 cheap ways for you to get sailing experience now, so you can unleash your inner sailor without emptying your wallet.

You can join local sailing clubs and take advantage of free or affordable sailing courses. You can also rent a sailboat, go on sailing vacations, participate in regattas, use simulator games, read sailing books, watch sailing documentaries, and work as a crew volunteer on a yacht or as an intern at a marina.

Even if you're on a tight budget, there's no need to let the cost of sailing keep you from enjoying this exhilarating sport. You can even swap your skills for sailing lessons. How is that possible? Let's find out.


  • Attending local sailing events, sailing as a crew member, trying out virtual sailing simulators, and watching sailing documentaries are often free.
  • Sailing competitions may charge entry fees; for a local regatta, these are roughly $50 to $100.
  • If you rent a small sailboat, you'll pay $20 to $100 per hour.
  • Online sailing courses often range from around $100 to $500.

How to Get Sailing Experience

Here are the practical, budget-friendly ways you can start gaining sailing experience today.

Ways to Gain Sailing Experience Potential Costs
Attend local sailing events often free, or may have a small admission fee of around $10 to $20
Join sailing competitions entry fees for a local regatta may be around $50 to $100, while entry fees for a international championship could be thousands of dollars
Rent a small sailboat $20 to $100 per hour
Swap skills for sailing lessons can involve some costs, but depends on the specific arrangement between the parties involved
Sail as a crew member often free, but you may need to pay for transportation as well as food and lodging
Join Sea Scouts involves a membership fee of around $20 to $50 per year, while others may charge several hundred dollars per year
Take sailing courses $100 to $500 for online courses; several thousand dollars for in-person courses
Try out virtual sailing simulators are free, while others may require a one-time or subscription fee of around $10 to $20 per month
Build your own sailboat a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars
Get a job at a marina depends on the specific arrangement between you and the marina; may require payment for participation in their programs
Read sailing books a few dollars for e-books to $20 to $30 for printed books
Explore budget friendly sailing vacations a few hundred dollars to several thousand
Watch sailing documentaries and tutorials can be free or involve a subscription fee from around $5 to $20 per month

Attend local sailing events

Attending local sailing events is often free, but some events may have a small admission fee. Admission fees for local sailing events can vary depending on the specific event and location. Some events may be free, while others may charge a small fee of around $10 to $20.

Attending local sailing events is a great way to start your sailing journey. You can learn from experienced sailors, socialize with like-minded people, and enjoy the sailing atmosphere. Many events may offer opportunities to hop on a boat and experience sailing firsthand. You can observe how they handle their boats, communicate with their crew, and navigate the waters. You can also network with other sailors and potentially find opportunities to crew on their boats.

Join sailing competitions

Entry fees for sailing competitions can range from a few dollars for local regattas to several hundred or even thousands of dollars for national and international events. The cost of entry fees can depend on the level of competition, the location, and the length of the event. For example, entry fees for a local regatta may be around $50 to $100, while entry fees for a national championship could be several hundred dollars.

Sailing competitions can also offer valuable experience if you're willing to volunteer. See if local yacht clubs or sailing organizations need crew members for their racing teams. Don't worry; beginners are often welcome to join and learn essential sailing skills.

Joining sailing competitions can give you the opportunity to test your skills and knowledge against other sailors. You can learn from your mistakes and gain valuable experience in different sailing conditions. Competitions can range from local regattas to national and international events.

Regattas, like the ones organized by local yacht clubs, are an exciting way to gain experience and meet other sailors. Sign up to volunteer and learn about the competitive side of sailing. Regattas are sailing competitions that can provide you with opportunities to test your skills and learn from experienced sailors. There are regattas for sailors of all skill levels, from local events to national and international competitions.

Rent a small sailboat

Renting a small sailboat can cost anywhere from $20 to $100 per hour, depending on the location and the type of boat. Renting a small sailboat like a dinghy can be a great way to get started with sailing without having to invest in your own boat. It is a budget-friendly option for gaining sailing experience.

You can rent a boat for as long as you'd like, practicing and improving your skills at your own pace. Many marinas and sailing schools offer small sailboats for rent, and you can typically take them out for a few hours or a day at a time.

Dinghy sailing is perfect for beginners because the smaller boats are easier to handle and less expensive to rent or buy. You can learn essential sailing skills and build confidence before moving on to larger boats. It is a great way to learn the fundamentals of sailing. Dinghies are small, lightweight boats that are easy to maneuver and allow you to develop your skills in a controlled environment. Dinghy sailing can also be less expensive than sailing larger boats.

Swap skills for sailing lessons

Think about what skills you have to offer in exchange for sailing lessons. For example, you may have experience in web design, photography, or carpentry that could be valuable to a sailing school or individual sailor. Look for sailing schools or individual sailors who may be interested in exchanging skills for sailing lessons. You can search online, ask around at local sailing clubs or marinas, or post on social media or sailing forums.

Once you've identified a potential partner, reach out and propose the exchange. Be clear about what skills you can offer and what you hope to gain in exchange. For example, you may offer to design a website for a sailing school in exchange for sailing lessons. Work with your partner to negotiate the details of the exchange, such as the number of lessons, the duration of the exchange, and the specific skills that will be exchanged.

Sail as a crew member

Joining a boat as a crew member is an opportunity to gain experience and learn from experienced sailors. You'll be hands-on with essential tasks like trimming sails, steering, handling lines, and navigating while gaining valuable experience. You can find crewing opportunities through local sailing clubs, online forums, or by networking with other sailors.

Sailboat hitchhiking, also known as sailboat crewing or boat hitchhiking, is a way to travel by joining a sailboat crew as a temporary member. It involves finding a boat that is in need of crew members and offering your services in exchange for a free ride. It's important to communicate clearly with the boat captain and crew about expectations, responsibilities, and safety precautions.

Join Sea Scouts

Membership fees for Sea Scouts can vary depending on the local chapter and the level of involvement. Some Sea Scout chapters may charge a nominal fee of around $20 to $50 per year, while others may charge several hundred dollars per year.

Sea Scouts is a youth-focused organization that teaches sailing, boating, and other maritime activities as well as leadership skills. If you're a young person or have children interested in sailing, consider joining a local Sea Scouts group. It can provide you with hands-on experience as well as opportunities to learn from experienced sailors and participate in sailing competitions.

Take sailing courses

The cost of sailing courses can vary depending on the level of the course, the location, and the duration. Basic courses may cost a few hundred dollars, while more advanced courses can cost several thousand dollars. Online courses are often less expensive than in-person courses, with prices ranging from around $100 to $500.

Courses, like those offered by ASA schools, are an excellent way for beginners to gain knowledge and hands-on experience. You can start with beginner courses and progress to more advanced levels as you get more comfortable sailing. Taking sailing courses is an excellent way to learn the basics of sailing and gain confidence on the water. You can take courses at local sailing schools or yacht clubs, or even online. Courses can cover topics such as sailing theory, boat handling, navigation, and safety.

Try out virtual sailing simulators

The cost of virtual sailing simulators can vary depending on the specific simulator and platform. Some simulators are free, while others may charge a subscription fee of around $10 to $20 per month.

Though not a replacement for real-life sailing, virtual sailing simulators can help familiarize you with sailing concepts and navigation techniques. They're a fun and low-pressure way to learn before venturing out on the water. Virtual sailing simulators can provide a realistic and immersive experience that can help you develop your sailing skills. There are a variety of simulators available, ranging from mobile apps to full-scale simulators used by professional sailors.

Build your own sailboat

If you're skilled with tools and have a passion for DIY projects, consider building your own sailboat. This can be both a cost-effective and rewarding way to learn about boat design and construction and sailing from the ground up. There are many resources available for building your own sailboat, including plans, kits, and workshops.

Get a job at a marina

Some potential costs to consider are transportation fees, lodging, meals, specific uniforms or personal equipment, and background checks or drug tests. It depends on the specific arrangement between you and the marina. In some cases, the internship may be completely free, while in other cases, there may be some costs involved.

Working at a marina can provide enough opportunities to be around boats and experienced sailors. You can look for jobs such as dockhand, boat mechanic, or sailing instructor, which are ideal positions for gaining experience and learning tips from seasoned professionals.

Read sailing books

The cost of sailing books can vary, but most are relatively inexpensive, with prices ranging from a few dollars for e-books to $20 to $30 for printed books. Sailing books and online resources, like the free courses by NauticEd, can provide valuable knowledge about sailing techniques and navigation. Take the time to read and study sailing materials to deepen your understanding of the sport. There are many great books available on topics such as sailing theory, boat handling, navigation, and racing.

Explore budget-friendly sailing vacations

Budget-friendly sailing vacations can range in cost from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the location, length of the trip, and type of accommodations. Consider going on a budget-friendly sailing vacation to gain experience and explore new sailing destinations while enjoying a relaxing getaway. Companies offer group sailing trips or flotilla holidays, where multiple boats sail in a fleet, providing a unique and affordable way to learn while on holiday.

Watch sailing documentaries and tutorials

The cost of sailing documentaries and tutorials can vary depending on the specific content and platform. Some documentaries and tutorials are available for free on platforms such as YouTube, while others may require a subscription to a streaming service or a one-time fee to purchase the content. Subscription fees for streaming services can range from around $5 to $20 per month.

Sailing documentaries and tutorials can provide insightful information to help you understand the sport visually. Videos can be a helpful resource for learning specific techniques or discovering inspiring stories from experienced sailors. There are many great documentaries and tutorials available online, covering topics such as boat handling, racing, and navigation.

Did you find the answer to your specific question?
👍 0 👎 0

Leave a comment