Portland Sailing Center

Sailing Courses

Portland Sailing Center offers basic through advanced sailing classes for casual recreationists, ocean-bound cruisers, and everyone in-between, but no short-cuts. There are no substitutes for time on the water under sail, working on basic skills and learning new ones, trying new things and different boats. With time and practice come confidence and grace.

Whether you are simply curious or bound for the high seas you should start with Basic 1. It is great fun and introduces the skills that serve any sailing life.

Beyond Basic 1 sailors can progress at their own pace by repeating Basic 1 (at the "Revisited" rate), moving on to Basic 2, or going on to the Big Boat classes.

All PSC classes extract specific and real time lessons from the gifts of the local waters. This is an invaluable approach which requires no double talking adaptation from a generic curriculum.

Click here to link to the schedule page. To sign up or ask a question call 503-281-6529 or email to cliff at portlandsailing dot com (use @ and a dot in the usual address format). Not to worry, we won't send you any promotions, spam, etc.


PSC Basic 1

  • 15 hours over six lessons — $339
  • 10% discount to pre-assembled groups of four
  • No prerequisite
  • Includes textbook, logbook and practice rope

Whatever your sailing goals there are no skills of greater value than basic manuevering, sail handling, boat management, terminology, etc. Virtually everthing we do as sailors is basic. Experienced or "expert" sailors simply execute basic sailing skills very well.

Basic 1 is taught on ballasted keelboats from 22 to 26 feet in length with one Coast Guard licensed Master per four students. Instructors emphasize safety and fun which puts casual students at ease while allowing the eager to flourish. Classes meet six times spread over six days, once a week or twice a week, so you'll see a variety of wind conditions. Evening classes are available from late April to late August. Course is mostly boat time and includes:

  • Safety and safety equipment
  • Boat nomenclature and sailing terminology
  • Basic sail trim
  • Basic maneuvering, tacking and jibing, and steering to keep a boat "powered up"
  • Crew overboard recovery under sail
  • Motoring and docking
  • Introduction to the life and rhythms of the Columbia River
  • Five useful knots: Figure Eight; Square; Two turns and two half hitches; Cleat Hitch, Bowline.
  • And practice, practice, practice of basic sailing maneuvers!

Basic 1 revisited

  • 15 hours — $259
  • Prerequisite: Basic 1

Repeat Basic 1. Repeating Basic 1 is a great idea! You'll learn more the second time, and your mates will benefit from your experience.

PSC Basic 2

  • 10 hours over four lessons — $159
  • Prerequisite: Basic 1

After Basic 1 some students are ready to get out on their own. Basic 2 puts a group of four students on a boat without an instructor aboard. Your instuctor will communicate from our dock or a second boat via marine VHF radio. Except for a brief class presentation this class is all boat all the time: Students polish basic skills, take responsibility, and build confidence needed for renting or owning a sailboat, or moving on to cruising or race boats.

Basic 1 students should pay attention to every detail of their class to be ready for Basic 2, and practice those knots! You'll need them in Basic 2!

Big Boats and Cruising

  • 12 hours over four lessons— $299
  • Class uses Messenger, the same boat we use for Sea Trials
  • Typically meets once or twice a week
  • Prerequisite: Basic 1, assuming you learned all you could. Many sailors need more prep for BBC

BBC is designed to prepare students for private cruising and bareboat chartering. We try to cover:

  • Diesel inboard engine and wheel steering
  • Big boat maneuvering theory and practice
  • Handling big sails
  • Roller furling
  • Large and self-tailing winches
  • Anchoring
  • Nautical charts (maps)
  • VHF radio practices for ships, bridges, and locks.
  • Instrumentation: GPS, wind, depth, speed, radar
  • Marine toilets, propane stoves, freshwater systems and other conveniences


  • Overnight round-trip — $239 per person
  • Prerequisite: Current or recent PSC student

This is a scenic adventure and introduction to river piloting and sailing aboard Messenger. Like all PSC classes, students run the boat most of the time: driving, navigating, and sailing.

We'll leave Portland Sailing Center's dock on a Saturday morning and watch the scenery unfold as the Gorge opens up. We'll make Boneville Locks in six or seven hours, lock through, pass under Bridge of the Gods and tie up at the Port of Cascade Locks Marine Park before dark. Walk to town for supper, or eat your own meal on the boat. Sleep on the boat.

With favorable conditions on Saturday and/or Sunday we'll sail the famous waters above Bonneville Dam--there is hardly a better place for a sailboat. But we do have to get back to Portland on Sunday, so through the locks again and home we go, swiftly now, with the current. Arrival time varies seasonally. This is a low stress adventure with plenty of "wow!" moments.

See video of a trip to Bonneville in 2009 by clicking here, or simply search YouTube.com for "Messenger Sailing Adventures."

Bonneville is limited to four or five participants, plus the captain.

Sea Trials

  • Two nights, three days — $449 per person, plus food (each person brings one or two meals for all).
  • Prerequisite: Basic 1 or equivalent. Non-PSC sailors add ten percent, and buy A Forest of Sails
  • Ten percent discount for pre-assembled groups of four.

Sea Trials usually involves crossing the famous bar at the Columbia River entrance, so it requires good timing. The schedule lists the possible dates for this year, but we only go when students sign up, less than half the dates scheduled. Sea Trials is a mariner's term that refers to the test drive that ships or boats undergo after christening or prior to a buyer's acceptance upon purchase. Our Sea Trials takes us down the river, over the bar, out for a sail upon the Pacific Ocean, and back to PSC—about 240 miles—all in about fifty hours. This go-go pace has us under way day and night, with two brief stops for sleep and/or tide coordination. In addition to the challenges of piloting the river there is some great scenery that can only be seen from the river. You'll be amazed by the things you see and do on Sea Trials.

Sea Trials is limited to three or four participants, plus the captain. Course includes:

  • Working with nautical charts and aids to navigation, day and night
  • Identifying ships, day and night
  • Bar crossing, working with tides and currents
  • Practical VHF radio usage
  • Living and working on an active sailboat
  • Sailing and driving a big boat

Coastal Navigation

  • 18 classroom hours — Tuition is $175.
  • Book and plotting instruments add $150.

Batteries die in your GPS? Better know a cardinal point from a bowsprit! This challenging classroom course covers all the basics of coastwise navigation including charts and plotting, tide and current calculations, terrestrial fixes, running fixes, aids to navigation (buoys, etc.), and more. We run this class whenever there are four or more students interested. Let us know early if you want to be on the list.

Though licensed for six passengers, we limit Sea Trials and Off Shore to three or four participants per boat, plus the captain, unless special arrangements are made for a particular excursion. For Bonneville, four or five participants works very well. No one need bunk with a stranger. Contact Cliff at PSC: 503-281-6529 or cliff at portlandsailing dot com. Please include your phone number.



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