How Much Does It Cost to Learn to Sail?

Sailing can be one of the most exciting outdoor activities to engage in, but from an outsider’s point of view it might be unclear how much it might cost to learn to sail. While owning a sailboat or any other kind of boat is famously (or infamously) known for being one of the worst financial investments you could make, knowing how to sail can be one of the best personal investments you can make during your lifetime.

So how much does it cost to learn to sail? Sailing schools or private instructors are known to charge anywhere between $20-$50 per hour for sailing courses. Students wanting to gain basic sailing accreditation may require between 15-35 hours worth of lessons, which can include lectures, sailing, and exams.

The amount it can cost per hour as well as the number of hours needed to learn to sail really depends on the sailing school, the organization they’re a part of, and other important factors. In reality, it all depends on your specific circumstance, so let’s see how much it might cost you to learn to sail.

How Much Does It Cost to Learn to Sail

Some people learn to sail when they’re young or with people who own sailboats, so their costs are rather minimal. Then there’s the person who’s never set foot on a sailboat, but wants nothing more than to learn to sail. When I learned to sail, I already knew a bit about what I was doing, but boy did I have a lot to learn.

Let’s start out with what everyone wants to know first, which is what’s the cheapest way to learn to sail. Well, if you’re just starting out and you have friends, family, or even an acquaintance who has a sailboat, there’s no doubt you should talk them up and see if you can crew their vessel the next time they go cruising.

You’d be surprised how many sailors at marinas are looking for crew members and don’t care whether or not they have experience. The type of person they’re looking for is one with a passion to learn and put themselves to work. Experienced sailors know they can direct a crew of any experience level on what to do when out on the water, which provides a great opportunity to learn.

However, none of these free methods of learning how to sail can get you any form of accreditation. While learning this way can bring a lot of value to your sailing knowledge, going through a proper course can effectively fill in the necessary gaps that might not be filled when learning off-the-cuff.

When looking at accreditation, you have to ask yourself whether you want an international license or something more domestic. Of course, this really depends on where you live as some countries don’t necessarily require any form of accreditation. However, if you plan on chartering a sailboat in your home country or abroad, you’ll likely need one.

Earning yourself a basic sailing certification where you can safely sail during the day a sailboat between 25 and 35 feet in moderate winds might cost you anywhere between $300 and $1,000. Through the most well-known US sailing associations ASA and US Sailing, this would earn you the ability to sail coastal waters with a good amount of knowledge.

If you plan on learning outside of the United States, then you might want to consider getting the International Certificate of Competence (ICC). The ICC is recognized by over 24 countries and allows you to sail your way around parts of Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. The two most popular sailing organizations that offer the ICC is International Yacht Training (IYT) and the Royal Yachting Association (RYA).

I first learned to sail on a dinghy in high school but didn’t achieve accreditation until I sailed the Meditteranean for several weeks with IYT-certified sailing schools. After a bit of lecture and a lot of practice, I earned my ICC. All in all, it cost me around $1,500 to learn how to sail properly and to attain an international certificate.

In the end, it doesn’t have to cost a lot to learn how to sail. In all likeliness, if you’re passionate enough about sailing you’ll find a way to get on a sailboat. Either way, there’s no doubt the amount of personal value you get from learning such an exciting outdoor activity and sport, which I believe almost anyone would enjoy.

Seasonal Effects on Cost

If there’s anything that affects the cost of learning to sail the most, it’s likely the time of year you choose to learn to sail. I believe this comes as no surprise to you that very few people want to sail in the winter and virtually everyone wants to sail in the summer.

The cost of learning how to sail, chartering a boat, or simply being a passenger will always be the greatest during the summer months. The peak months for sailing are June, July, and August, which is when you’ll pay the most for sailing lessons.

Even in areas where the weather is fairly consistent year-round, like the Caribbean, the peak months between June and August still command the highest prices due to the massive influx of people. It’s difficult to get around these high prices during these times of the year, so if you’re on a budget you might want to consider learning during off-peak months.

If you’re looking for a bit of a bargain when learning to sail, many schools continue to operate from September until late November and even early December, which is when the sailing season starts to die down and prices drop considerably. You can also find good deals on sailing lessons between late March toward the end of May.

While sailing in the summer months is one of the most beautiful times to sail, sailing during the off-peak months can also be a lot of fun. As a matter of fact, there will be fewer vessels around and fewer people in your course so you have more opportunities to sail around freely while getting a more personalized level of teaching. Not a bad tradeoff!

Essential Sailing Gear Cost

Whenever you decide to get out on the water to go sailing, there are certain items you’ll likely want to take on-board with you. Having the right sailing gear can be important since you might find yourself in a situation where you can’t get something you left on shore so easily.

There are a number of items that I suggest you take on-board with you when going out sailing, including

  • Waterproof duffle bag
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Deck shoes
  • Sunscreen
  • Motion sickness medicine

These are the bare essentials and can cost you as low as $100, so it’s wise to invest in them. However, if you’re the captain of the sailboat, there are many more essential sailing gear items and other sailing gadgets to keep onboard your sailboat especially safety equipment. As you might have expected, these other items generally cost much more than the ones I just listed.

Learn to Sail on Holiday

One of the best and most memorable ways to learn to sail is to combine it with your next holiday vacation. Maybe you’ve already decided to head to Hawaii or Miami during the summer and want to pick up sailing. Or maybe you’ll find yourself on the European coasts of the Mediterranean and get the urge to sail on those beautiful blue waters.

Wherever you are on holiday, combining the fantastic learning experience of sailing with getting away from the every day is a feeling like no other. Not only are you truly taking advantage of your free time in a fun way, but when you get back home you’ll have a new experience and passion for one of the most fun activities out there.

The great part about learning to sail on holiday is that you have a lot of great options in terms of mixing leisure and education. Many schools know that some students are really there for the experience of being on a sailboat and don’t necessarily want to indulge in every little detail about sailing. Others, however, will take it seriously enough to learn a thing or two and potentially earn themselves a certificate.

Related Questions

Is sailing easy to learn? Learning how to sail is easy and fun when you have an experienced and passionate sailing instructor. Learning to sail requires consistent practice that can only be achieved by being on a sailboat and actually doing the work.

Do I need a license to sail? Technically, no one needs a license to sail as long as the owner of the sailboat doesn’t require it or you own your own sailboat. If you charter a sailboat, you’ll likely be asked for proof of sailing experience which can come in the form of a certificate and/or a detailed logbook.