Radio Controlled Sailing for Newbies
I discovered radio-controlled sailing (“RCS”) early this summer after an internet search and it immediately piqued my interest. I like to learn. I can easily sail including using my rollator, and I love to watch as my unpowered boat glides across the water. Now proudly displayed in my office, my boat is ready to go come next spring. I’m even taking on-line courses over the winter on how to sail and (maybe someday) race. However, my journey thus far has not been without frustration, largely resulting from my inexperience. I thought I’d share my story with the hope that others might follow as easier path. Because, even with my limited exposure by the end of this summer, I was hooked.
If I had first contacted some people who knew what they were doing, I’d have been far better off. (Isn’t that always the case?) After typing “Learning to sail a Radio-Controlled Boat” into Google’s search engine, over seven pages of potential websites came up. Ninety-five percent of those linked me to vendors and about five percent were to RC boat magazine. I learned the hard way that there are hobby vendors selling radio-controlled products dedicated to sailing and there are the others (the majority.) I went with the one that advertised “all that is required is to put in the batteries,” because I’m not that handy. That wasn’t the case! When I came home with my glossy new boat, I couldn’t have known that the instructions were bewildering at best. It took me a few days before I finally understood a key part (the jib) was defective. Then it took me weeks to get a new one.
My second error was buying a boat first and then thinking about where I might sail it. Of course, you can drop any 650 mm R.C. boat (a standard size and the one I have) in Lake Ontario, but the waves would quickly turn it into a submarine. There is cottage country, of course, and I’m looking forward to a post-COVID time where that might be an option. In my quest for help, I came across a sailing club in Toronto’s west end that is part of the Metro Marine Modelers (MMM – https://metromarine.org/) who sail in their protected areas at the bottom of the Humber River and in Port Credit. These “ponds” that are scattered throughout southwest Ontario are facilitated by the local cities in response to interest by the citizens. The cities partner with local sailing clubs and they (literally) are away to the races. By the way, these clubs are across the world and sail in such prodigious places as High Park in London and Central Park in New York.
I wish I’d met the extremely helpful people in MMM before buying a boat, but eventually they encouraged me to consider joining their club. I understand that the club’s three main objectives are to inform the public about the hobby, help them buy a boat and learn how to sail it if they like. My first reaction was, I am no sailor and certainly not a racer. That clearly makes no sense for someone like me. Then I learned that the club facilitates the operation of the pond in partnership with the city of Toronto. The $45 annual dues are largely to pay for required liability insurance. Most importantly, the club provides ample opportunities to learn how to sail, which I plan to take advantage of next year. You don’t have to race, but for those that do, there are weekly events depending on the size of the boat.
If you’re interested, or think you might be, contact one of the people listed on the website contacts page in the MMM’s sailing division. You’ll be glad you did.
Ahoy from Peter the newbie skipper.