1. Archive

You can learn to sail away the days

Water, water everywhere, but how to start enjoying this gorgeous part of the Suncoast?

You could rent jet skis or buy a boat. Just don't run out of gas.

In fact, why not give up on internal combustion for a while?

There's always sailing, and there are always sailing lessons.

The Boca Ciega Yacht Club will host a basic sailing course for adults starting April 6. This popular event usually sells out quickly, so early registration is suggested. The class lasts six weeks, with a combination of evening classroom instruction and weekend on-the-water instruction in Gulfport. Call 391-9662 in Pinellas for details.

If speed and thrills are your thing, consider learning to sail on a catamaran. World champion Rocco Cuccio runs the Mystere International Sailing School out of The Pier in downtown St. Petersburg. The number is 895-7245.

For traditional instruction, the Annapolis Sailing School has a branch in St. Petersburg. This organization has been teaching people to sail all kinds of boats in all kinds of weather conditions for more than 50 years. Call 867-8102 in Pinellas.

The Clearwater Community Sailing Center on Sand Key also offers adult lessons from time to time. Call 462-6368 during business hours to reach the sailing master.

Before plunking down your money, it's a good idea to consider a few things. For instance, how physically demanding will the program be? Will the course give you the skills to handle a voyage around the world or around the harbor?

Most instructors will be happy to answer your questions _ if not on the phone, perhaps in person. Check out the instructor's credentials, and keep in mind that sailing lessons depend on having trust in the instructor.

It's well worth the effort to make the right start, especially since Tampa Bay offers a wide variety of sailing lessons, only a few of which are listed here.

Other news: Those crispy, see-through, high-tech "Stealth" sails are back. NuClear Sails Inc., of Tampa will be making the patented Mylar sails that had their national debut on Tampa Bay waters a few years back. For information, call 253-0905 in Tampa.

Boat of the year: The Captain Morgan Boat of the Year series continues March 12 with the Budweiser Cup hosted by the Treasure Island Yacht Club. Close to 200 boats are expected from Florida, Texas, Georgia and Louisiana.

Also in the Boat of the Year chase, Suncoast Raceweek will take place April 8-10 out of the Tierra Verde Resort. This change of venue puts the event on the Gulf of Mexico for three days of competitive racing. The deadline for one-design classes is March 11.

Rolex Cup: The 21st Annual Rolex Cup will be held in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, on April 1-3. This year the event will include a "Bareboat" class. Sailors in this class will be able to compete aboard chartered vessels, which translates into broadening the economic appeal of this costly event. Call Lynn Reid of the St. Thomas Yacht Club at (809) 775-6320.