With elements of horse racing and chess matches, lessons in geometry and meteorology plus a respectable dose of social etiquette, sailing just might be the perfect sport.
Pete Snyder of the local Privateer Yacht Club says it's definitely the perfect way to spend a day - or a lifetime.
"I enjoy the camaraderie and some people call it the aesthetic - the wind and water. When the sun sets and the water is smooth, being out on the lake, there's just nothing like it," says Snyder, who's been sailing since he was in fourth grade.
The only sailing club in the area, Privateer gives others the opportunity to get on the water, whether that's just for a day or it is the first day of the rest of their life as a sailor. "Racing is the best way to learn a lot quickly," says Snyder, who owns a Catalina 22 but usually crews for another club member.
"There's a lot involved in racing - they say on average a race skipper has to make about 700 decisions. Come on out and learn the ropes, literally," he says. With race season already under way, the club hosts several races throughout the week until Thanksgiving.
"If people want to crew they need to let it be known ... and we'll get them hooked up with a skipper and his boat, they can take orders and learn what's involved," says Snyder, who recommends getting to a race at least an hour in advance if hoping to get hooked up with a crew.
Others are encouraged to come spend the day. "You might get a dozen or more boats on the line at one time. They're all trying to be at the same spot at the same time at the start. It can get pretty exciting," Snyder says.
Learn the Ropes
For those who would like more formalized instruction, club member Brian Holloway, a U.S. Sailing-certified instructor, offers landlubbers beginner courses through Chattanooga State.
"I've been through tropical storms, I've been through great weather, I've seen more stars than you can count in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, I've been on more islands, I've had more fun, I've been scared, I've done foolish stuff and great stuff and that's all come from sailing," he says. "It's given me a sense of confidence, which is why I instruct. What I've gained I hope to pass on."
The eight-week course costs $425 and starts April 7. Two sessions, one from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1-4 p.m., are available. Participants must know how to swim and bring their own comfortably fitting life jacket.
An intermediate/advanced course might be added in the future depending on demand. Five of the nine participants from last spring's first beginner course are now club members.
"Why get involved in sailing? It's a really tight-knit community; it's very welcoming. It's a sport you can do all over the world, both recreationally and professionally if you're good enough. And it's something for me personally that's always been a challenge and an escape," Holloway says.
A complete race schedule and other club information can be found at www.privateeryachtclub.org.