"We want people to know that anyone who wants to sail can," said Bob Roistacher, the head of the New York City's Community Sailing Association, Monday afternoon. The New York City Community Sailing Association (NYCCSA) is a non-profit community group that offers affordable sailing on the Hudson River.
"So many people think that sailing is only limited to investment bankers or lawyers," he said, "but that's just not true anymore. It's our goal to make sailing accessible to anyone who wants to participate."
For now, the organization is based out of Lincoln Harbor in Weehawken, but is eyeing a move to Hoboken in the near future. It is in discussions with the city to erect permanent moorings on the north face of Pier A Park.
Mayor David Roberts said Thursday that he supports the concept to have a permanent home for the sailing school and club at Pier A Park.
"We have been working with [the NYCCSA] and I do believe that is an appropriated use for our waterfront," said the mayor. "I want to get this going as soon as possible so that we can fully utilize this great body of water for the resource that it is."
Bill Campbell, the mayor's spokesperson, added that the application is currently being reviewed by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corp of Engineers. He was not able to give a timetable for the DEP to grant its approval.
If the NYCCA does come to Hoboken it will become the city's second sailing school, joining the Manhattan Sailing School at the Shipyard Marina.
Hitting the water
The NYCCSA offers open sailing, racing programs in both winter and summer and certified instruction all in the shadows of one of the most breathtaking skylines in the world.
NYCCSA provides instructional and recreational sailing to the public at about half the cost of commercial alternatives. The organization also offers subsidies to others who might not otherwise be able to afford this sport. Membership is open to everyone, said Roistacher.
The organization's instructors are either U.S. Sailing or American Sailing Association-certified, some are professionals, and others are members or alumni of the Columbia University Sailing Team.
For a $50 fee, the organization offers first-timers a three-hour sail around the New York harbor area. If the participants decide to enroll in one of the sailing courses, that fee will be used towards the cost of a course.
The NYCCSA also offers courses for intermediate and advanced sailors. Those courses included a basic keelboat course, which introduces the intermediate sailor to the cruising yacht and offshore sailing procedures. Curriculum includes mechanical and electrical systems, weather navigation, anchoring, reefing, heavy weather sailing, rules of the road, motoring skills, safety and emergency procedures, maneuvering under power, and VHF radio procedures.
A coastal cruising course is for sailors who wish to charter boats for multiple days anywhere in the world. The curriculum includes cruise planning, provisioning, anchoring, weather, navigation, boat systems, reefing and heavy weather sailing, safety, emergency procedures and long-distance passage making. Students will experience a trip to Santa Cruz Island with an overnight stay in one of the island's anchorages.
The course is taught on a 28-foot by 36-foot yacht. There are also coastal navigation, spinnaker, and performance sailing courses offered. Membership to the NYCCSA costs $25. Courses range from $150 to $450.
Recreational sailing is available from May through October. Members reserve berths by the web, e-mail, or telephone for any of three sessions for each day. A minimum of two people on board is required. At least one person must be a qualified skipper. The cost for the club sailing program is $250 for the season.
According the NYCCSA web site, the organization conducts several weekly racing series throughout the year. Races are competitive, yet friendly, and open to all members. During the regular season there are three separate seven-week series. From November through March, there is a winter frostbite racing series, without spinnakers. A single day of racing is $50, but there are package deals available.
A connection to the water
For the past decade, countywide, local officials have lauded the benefits of renewing their interest in urban waterfront development. Communities up and down the Hudson are rediscovering the river, recognizing it as a tremendous community and economic asset for urban revitalization.
But while condos and high rises now tower over the waterfront and spacious walkways overlook the river, Roistacher said, that the new wave in development lacks one important aspect - the connection to the water itself.
"Go to most any harbor in the country on a summer weekend any you're likely to thousands of boats on the water," he said. "But here in New York, it's bizarre; you're lucky to see a couple dozen. We have lost our historic connection to the waterfront."
He added the NYCCSA is one affordable avenue to get people excited about recreational sailing. For more information on the club, call Roistacher at (212) 222-1405 or visitwww.sailny.org