Portland Sailing Center

Frequently Asked Questions

What are safety considerations?
What should I bring for a daysail?
What should I pack for Bonneville?
What should I pack for Sea Trials?
What should I pack for Off Shore?
What kind of foul-weather gear should I use?
What kind of living conditions can I expect on a multi-day cruise?
What about food for extended cruises?
What must I know for Sea Trials or Off Shore?
What if there is no wind?
I need lots of parking practice!
What kind of boat is Messenger?
Smoking and alcohol policy
Cell phone policy
Sailing with complete strangers
The high cost of sailing
Do you take kids?



Your safety is our first concern. Sailing is inherently risky. It is our intention to show you how to do it as safely as possible. We are not interested in hot-dogging or extreme activities that add senseless risk to anything we do. Personal flotation devices are readily accessible. Their use is always recommended, and often required by the captain. Also provided are jack lines and harnesses (for attaching oneself to the vessel, usually used when sailing on the ocean). Sailors are encouraged to think about safety in everything they do, and to give voice to any suggestions or questions.

About Messenger

Messenger, our primary vessel, is a fine blend of comfort, performance, and good looks. She is a 1987 Pearson 39-2, hull #15: masthead sloop rig, 39'3” length overall; 31'3” length at waterline; 12'5” beam, 6'10” draft; 16,800 lbs. displacement including 6,800 lbs. lead keel. Her basic sail area is 742 sq. ft. In 2017 she got two new sails, a double-reef main and a furling 110% head sail. Auxiliary power comes from a fresh (new in 2006) Yanmar 40 horsepower diesel engine. She carries 48 gallons of fuel and 100 gallons of fresh water, is equipped with refrigeration and a propane stove and oven. Messenger is roomy for a yacht of her size, and has two heads, one of which is always offered for ladies only.

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What to Bring for Daysailing (Not Overnight)

Dress as you would for a long walk in the predicted local conditions. Add:

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What to Pack for Bonneville

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What to Pack for Sea Trials

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What to Pack for Off Shore

Having completed Sea Trials you know what to expect. Just add a little more of the same. Your rain gear should be of higher quality.

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Foul Weather Gear — One Sailor's View

We have known people to use disposable rain suits with satisfactory results. On the other hand, on one trip we saw three $10 rain suits (from Big 5) tear to shreds in short order. For short periods of exposure to flying water, light-weight low-cost gear is usually just fine. Time is the essential variable: longer periods of exposure to foul weather require better quality gear to stay dry, warm, and safe.

Thin shells will keep a little water out for a short period of time, less than one hour. Heavier shells come in wide ranges of time/dry equations, but as water repellence increases so does the problem of trapping body moisture inside your rain suit. Perspiration condenses on the inner surfaces of your outer layer — then you have water in your suit. In a few hours this can become a serious problem, especially if you are active and perspiring a lot. Linings and loose-fitting layers aid ventilation and reduce condensation. Most gear claims to "breathe," (supposedly lets vapor out while preventing liquid entering) but most people perspire more quickly than most fabrics can breathe. True Gortex seems to be the best at exhaling vapor while shedding water, though it is not real durable, and salt accumulation reduces performance.

So choose your gear according to the potential duration of your exposure to foul weather. For Sea Trials light gear will likely suffice. For Off Shore you might be in the rain for several hours, then sleeping for several hours, then exposed again, so you might need some mid-range gear, what some sellers call "coastal," or decent quality ski wear.

Calf-high sea boots are nice, but loose fitting boat shoes with plenty of extra wool socks can be very satisfactory.

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Study for Sea Trials

Chapter 14 of A Forest of Sails is required reading for Sea Trials. The rest of Part III is highly recommended, and you should have a good understanding of mooring lines and how to apply them: arresting lines, breast and spring lines, and how to attach them to cleat or rail.

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Living Aboard

Bunks: Messenger has a cabin with double bunk forward, a cabin with double bunk astern, and a double bunk and single bunk in the main salon, amidships. There is plenty of room, as sailboats go. We guarantee that you will not have to share a small berth with a stranger. The closest you might be is sharing the broad double in the main salon, a large airy space. The boat is unheated but will stay generally well above 50 degrees in the cabin. For Off Shore you may be on call even while off watch, so you might sleep in your clothing. Heavy sleeping bags are therefore not recommended, but long underwear is.

Heads: Messenger has two heads, one of which is always offered for ladies only. These are manual pump toilets, fairly easy to operate, instructions are posted. Separate bags are provided for non-flushables. Both heads have showers, but we rarely use them on short trips. Sometimes we'll have access to coin-op showers at local marinas.


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Food for Sea Trials and Off Shore

Egad! They want me to feed everyone! A frightening prospect for some of us. Each participant in Sea Trials and Off Shore will be asked to provide a share of meals for the entire group. Sea Trials, for example, requires one or two complete meals from each participant. Messenger has a full galley (double sink, typical utensils, refrigerator, gas range and oven that measures 14 1/2" wide by 14 1/2" deep, 7") so you can "go to town" or keep it as simple as you like. Keep in mind that most meals will be taken while under way, so they should not include many courses or require complex preparation. You will not be keel-hauled for serving some quick item from Trader Joe's or the like. Please leave the bacon at home--frying is messy and greases up the cabin of the boat. Because of the pace of activity we will eat less than you expect: cut your volume estimates by about one third. Messenger is stocked with typical kitchen utensils including a drip coffee maker, so bring your favorite grind. All liquids should be in resealable containers. Items that require refrigeration should be chilled before loading into the boat's refrigerator, if possible.

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Fickle Winds and Weather

A fellow once said "There's sailin' and there's gettin' there!" Contrary to our best sailing dreams, motoring is a major part of sailing. This is especially true when getting there is important, such as when we are transiting the river, bound for Bonneville or the ocean. The best sailing usually happens after we get there. On the way a favorable wind is a treat which we will exploit! But after all, favorable winds cannot be guaranteed.

Day sailing requires wind. Now. No wind, no go, no cost.

Both Sea Trials and Off Shore are subject to cancellation or abbreviation, or even extension due to foul weather and sea conditions. In such cases we will adjust rates according to the captain's judgment.

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I need lots of parking practice!

We all need lots of practice maneuvering large boats in small places. Unfortunately the larger the boat the greater the consequences of errors, so people are less likely to let you practice on their boats. Our boats are no exception. However, docking is a complex job and there is ample opportunity to learn and be useful. A well-done docking requires mulitiple talents and is fun to watch or be a part of.

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Smoking Policy

For daysailing, Sea Trials, and Off Shore smoking is allowed on the lee deck (never in the cabin) when activity is light. If you are planning to stop smoking soon, please wait until the end of our cruise to commence a-quitting.

Alcohol, Drugs, Weapons Policies

Mind altering or illegal drugs are not permitted aboard any of our boats, nor are passengers under the influence of same. No stoned persons allowed. Weapons, licensed or otherwise, are not permitted aboard any of our boats. Drinking is not permitted on our boats, nor are passengers who have been drinking. (By prior special arrangement an exception could be granted for some special moment.). Persons who violate any of the preceding rules may be put ashore at the nearest port of call, with their gear, less their money which will be wholly forfeited.

Exception: We have secured an indulgence from our insurers to allow beer and wine consumption in the evening while Messenger is secured to the dock at Cascade Locks. We're talking one or two per person. Loud or don't-know-when-to-stop drinkers will be put ashore...

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Cell Phone/ Device Policy

No one wants to watch you gaze into your palm or listen to your ringtone or half of your conversations. If you must talk or play with your apps please go down into the cabin, out of sight. Of course camera functions are exempt from this rule.

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It is true, you need not be a sailor to enjoy our Bonneville excursion, but you really ought to be interested in this adventure as something you might do for yourself. You will be encouraged to participate in the operation of the boat, so you should come with an open mind and willing and curious spirit.

The same could be said for Sea Trials, but mulitply the intensity by ten. You really must be ready for something new for this trip. We are tempted to insist on a Basic Sailing class as a prerequisite for Sea Trials, but have found many fit and adventuresome mates who have no prior sailing experience.

If you prefer a more casual tour of the Columbia River check into the sternwheeler Columbia Gorge at Cascade Locks, or the tour vessels SS Legacy, American Empress, Explorer, Queen of the West, or Sea Bird.

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Sailing with Strangers

You might be surprised to find more comfort than discomfort in sailing with strangers for two, three, as much as seven days on a forty-foot boat. People tend to bring their best, and truly contrary mates are rare indeed. Messenger adventures are particularly busy, so time passes quickly, and working together as we must naturally greases the ways of getting along. Lastly, Messenger is a large boat, and we limit participation to avoid uncomfortable closeness.


The high cost of sailing

If you're new to sailing you might think Sea Trials or Off Shore or even Bonneville is too expensive. Well, if you can't afford it, you're right. But if you think we overcharge, well...if you only knew. Operating sailboats for the kind of trips we do is very expensive (insurance alone is about six times that of comparable recreational boats) and labor intensive. Big sailboats are complex machines: start with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, self-contained electrical, plumbing and sewer systems. Add a diesel engine, fuel and drive systems, rigging, electronics and safety gear that makes them sailboats and you have quite a project, and it all has to work right and be ready and clean for every trip. And contrary to a common misconception, these boats are not personal recreational boats that take passengers to cover costs of ownership. Our two boats have no other purposes than those described on this web site.

Our primary measure of success can be found on the Sailor's Reviews page. We endeavor to show you a great time: adventure, education, scenery. Our two captains' combined sailing experience exceeds forty years, US Coast Guard licensed for nearly thirty years. The more you learn about sailing the less likely you are to think any trip we do is too expensive. And if you come with us, you'll step off the boat at the end of the trip with no doubts.


Do you take kids?

Small kids add nothing to sailing. Rather, they often require the full attention of an adult, leaving the boat short handed. Medium sized kids are usually still not big enough for all the tasks of crew, and they tend to be bored and annoying. And like the littler ones, they often take an adult away from the crew. Big kids might be okay. Depends on their interest and maturity. Could they hold their own in a crew of adults without the presence of their parents?

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