Going with the Wind: Just Add Water

Sailing-Author Melissa (right) and friend and crew mate Stephanie Mulcock (left) take a moment to enjoy the beautiful view while Melissa adjusts the tiller to steer the boat. Photo by Nicholas Mulcock

I breathed in and smelled the slightly salty air of the summer breeze. The bright white sails stood out against the sky. I felt the soft wood of the tiller as I steered. As the boat turned, I heard the gentle flapping of the sail. I could nearly taste the excitement of being on the Hudson River and learning how to sail just minutes from my home in Peekskill.   

According to its website, Croton Sailing School was established by Steve and Katherine Jennings in 1986. The school is dedicated to making sailing pleasurable. Instructors teach “with patience, not pressure” and utilize hands-on instruction. Croton Sailing School is one of more than 300 American Sailing Association (ASA) sailing schools in the United States, 12 of which are in New York, per ASA’s website. The course I took, ASA 101, Basic Keelboat Sailing, is a twoday class that can lead to certification. 

On the first day, after some introductory instruction, we headed to our training sailboat, all of us clad in life vests. The five of us would be learning to sail on a 26-foot Pearson Sailboat.  

Once onboard, Captain Jack began to “show us the ropes.” Most of the “ropes” on the sailboat are called “lines” when installed and performing a specific duty, such as when they position and control the sails. We prepped and hoisted the mainsail and later the jib, and suddenly, we were sailing—gliding along the calm water in a barely noticeable breeze, almost as if by magic.  

Through the haze (lingering smoke from the fires in Nova Scotia), we zigged and zagged in Haverstraw Bay, learning as we tried new positions with different responsibilities. After lunch and a lesson on shore, we returned to the boat for more sailing. Each time we boarded, completed the preparations to sail, and actually sailed, we all became more comfortable and confident. 

The next day, with clearer air and blue skies, was an exceptionally beautiful morning to be out on the water. Jason was our instructor for this second day. He observed as we worked our way through all the steps we had learned and practiced the day before, providing additional guidance and information as needed, and then directed us to complete various sailing drills to further practice and hone our skills. We thoroughly enjoyed working with each other, the boat, and the wind, to sail across the water.  

After lunch, ominous-looking clouds gathered in the north. As the wind suddenly picked up, we collectively hoped the storm would pass. Unfortunately, after additional monitoring of the radar and weather reports, the last portion of our class would need to be postponed; we scheduled it for early August, and can’t wait to get back out on the water.  

I’ve rode various passenger ferries twice daily for most of 15 years and am no stranger to being on the water. Sailing, however, is in a class of its own. When moving through the power of wind alone, the relative silence while gliding though the water is peaceful, indeed almost meditative. It is something everyone should be able to experience. Consider giving sailing a try this summer.  

Peekskill resident Melissa Magnuson-Cannady is a professional home organizer, vacation rental manager, crafter, and freelance writer who loves nature and enjoys exploring the great outdoors with her husband and partner in life.  

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About the Author: Melissa Magnuson-Cannady