Behold, the power of the Groupon. The Indianapolis Sailing Club recently offered a 61 percent off coupon for a three-hour introductory sailing lesson ($39 instead of $100), expecting about 50 participants. Instead it got 500 -- my husband and me included.
We registered for our session online, a fairly simple process, and soon afterward received an e-mail listing the items we should bring to our session (e.g., sunglasses, towels, changes of clothes). The part about bringing dry clothes sounded ominous, as did the waiver we had to sign when we arrived, promising not to "intentionally" bash the boat into something.
Once the paperwork was completed, we got a quick, fairly incomprehensible sailing overview, then hopped into the boat with our instructor, Zach. Once we got in the boat, the complicated sailing terms (e.g., tack, jib) became a bit more concrete. Zach started us off easy, giving us the job of managing the jib sail. (That's the little one in front.) Once we had mastered that, we took turns with just the tiller, and finally we were able to handle both the tiller and main sail at once.
The most difficult part of the lesson was tacking -- turning around. This requires some complicated maneuvering of the tiller and the rope controlling the main sail, and the boat tends to lean into the turn. If you drop the tiller (as I did once), you might panic and accidentally clothesline yourself with the line to the main sail. But, good news: These boats are remarkably hard to tip over.
Even if we had fallen into the water, the nearby safety boat would have rescued us. The Indianapolis Sailing Club conducts summer camps for kids and regularly offers lessons, so it takes all the right precautions.
Of course, the Sailing Club is hoping that we'll fall madly in love with sailing and purchase a club membership, about $140 per quarter, which includes rental of the smaller boats. They're also hoping we'll enroll in the 22-hour certification class. I don't think that's in our future, but it was an interesting way to spend an afternoon (and a better workout than we anticipated). It could be fun, once every few months, to take another short lesson and get out on the water ... always making sure the safety boat is nearby.