Decisions were made. After looking at all the sailing school possibilities, we made our decision based on all the good points in the last post “Looking at Sailing School? Yep.” On top of that, it was hard to go against the overwhelming reviews. Not only were there positive reviews from Yelp and various sailing publications, but we also had a recommendation from a friend. It felt to us everyone was moved to speak on OCSC’s behalf.
OCSC Sailing School is a great little place at the Berkeley Marina in Berkeley, California. It is nestled at the end of the marina, which is littered left and right with boats in repair or in storage. Driving into the marina is much like driving into every other marina I suppose, but to us, grand spanking newbies, it was and is always exciting and never gets old. We always marvel at the keels and point out cool stuff along the way.
We joined OCSC a few days after A Day on the Bay, which is an intro to sailing excursion that you can do for just pleasure, to learn about the school, or to see if you even like sailing. OCSC offers the club/social aspect, classroom time and sailing time, all the classes and clinics you could ever imagine, certifications, practicing in the San Francisco Bay which is right there, and exceptional people who are super friendly and not brokers. It’s everything we ever wanted! And as a bonus, they offer flotillas in remote places like Thailand or a safari in Tanzania among other amazing places too if you want.
Before you sail the bigger boats with a wheel helm and jib furler, they start you on J24s for Keelboat and through Basic Cruising. A lot of people speak highly of J24s and they are awesome little boats to whip around in. Let me just tell you though, we were just beating ourselves up on these little guys over and over. Oh my goodness, it was terrible. Jib up, jib down, jib up, jib down… one more for effect… jib up, jib down, lol. I can’t tell you how many bruises, scraps, broken nails, and aching backs and bones we had, omg! Awful! Oh, and one rolled ankle after jumping off a boat onto some messy dock lines/horn cleat while coming into the slip, which still kills me months later btw, but that was in bareboat class, so maybe that doesn’t count in this particular rant.
Besides all that though, which was a lot, the experience on J24s was excellent. I do mean that wholeheartedly but can only honestly say that now that it is over. At the time, mmm, it sucked. I guess the idea is mess up in that little bucket if you have to, I’m sure. The problem is since these little guys are so close to the water, you really feel everything a great deal more. You feel every gust of wind and every available drop of that ice cold San Francisco Bay water manages to spray up in your face and drench you. Now, depending on your skill level, this can be big fun… ooorrrr… it can be just terrifying. We were so scared so many times with other boats getting too close, shipping lanes and cargo ships, lines knotting and jamming, land, and dying outboard motors or motors that didn’t even want to fire up in times of near doom that every puff and droplet of water only added to the hysteria, or “drama” as they call it. The SF Bay is no joke. We just got tossed around out there in that tub. There were times that no one was even holding onto the tiller anymore because we were all on our backs, legs up! You really think you are going to die out there! It’s ridiculous! But we made it. “Inspire confidence” is OCSC’s motto and inspire confidence they did. Each one of those experiences built on the last. Looking back, we were never going to die out there. They give you all the information you need to be a competent sailor, you just need to apply it. It is far better knowing you can do it than not knowing if you can do it. We learned to evaluate, troubleshoot, and most importantly stay calm.
But more on that stuff in future posts and videos…
So each level you have a little classroom time and then you go out sailing. Their location is ideal. It’s directly in the “slot” where the bulk of the wind shoots through the Golden Gate Bridge and across the San Francisco Bay. Having the club right there allows you to come in for lunch, which in turn doubles your marina experience. As beginners, commanding the vessel coming in and out of the slip, hoisting and lowering the sails, exiting and entering the marina, and close quarter maneuvering are invaluable skills. You can never get enough marina time. The more the better. You have a little private debriefing after each lesson to let you know the highs and lows of your day and what you might want to work on next time. After “putting the boat to bed,” you go inside to wind down and have a nice beer. Ahhh so refreshing!
After you complete your lessons, there is an onboard review period to practice what you have learned. When you feel ready, you take your practical test, PT, followed by a written exam. Once you pass both successfully, you are certified at that level. Simple. You are given a logbook when you start to prove your level certified and to document your sailing time. As I am writing this now, we are now bareboat cruising certified! Whoop! Whoop! It took us about eight months. We were going at it hard too! Every, and I mean every, weekend we were there sailing, both days, and then some. True weekend warriors we were!
We enjoyed getting together at the social events, BBQs and holiday parties. With Phil at the Q, no one was left out, food and beers around! Just a perfect time to see the people you sailed with before and exchange remember when’s or your latest fish story. A fish story, if you don’t already know, is a true story that through the excitement of the time takes on a new exaggerated tone, a 5 foot wave becomes a 10 foot wave or a 10 foot wave becomes a 20 foot wave, and if it weren’t for you and your excellent sailing abilities totally saving the day or Poseidon himself looking after you, you wouldn’t be here today to even tell the tale. Good times! Everybody has tons of stories, all incredible and to a lot extent true.
Along with having had the immense pleasure of meeting and sailing with students from all over the world, Matt and I especially have a warm place in our hearts for the instructors. What a well rounded, worldly group of people invested in your success. Great human beings and great sailors, but surprisingly each so different. Each have their own outlook, which helped us to connect to and appreciate all aspects of sailing. There is a time and place for everything and everything has a time and place. I don’t even know if they understand how wonderfully they fit together. It is like the perfect cast to your favorite tv show, where the chemistry is just right and it all flows effortlessly. They may not all be besties and I’m sure they get on each others nerves on and off screen from time to time, but to the audience, it all works seamlessly. It is an OCSC family.