While sailing you get fully exposed to the elements of nature, are physically active and can enjoy the peacefulness of the open sea. You can make it as active as you want: spend your time with friends actively trimming the sails or sit and relax while having deep conversations about life.
Sailing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while limiting your carbon footprint compared to many other travel modes. You use the wind to move the boat across the water (except for some fossil fuel usage to leave the harbour or when the wind suddenly stops blowing). If you’re lucky you get to see seals and porpoise (some kind of dolphin) even on the North sea in front of the Belgian coast. While as a newby you might opt to start sailing in summertime, you can perfectly go sailing in the snow or on a sunny winterday.
So if you’ve always dreamt of sailing: this is your call to action! Book a weekend renting a boat with a skipper or take a sailing course and discover the magic of sailing. In this blog I give you a high-level overview of options you have to get on the water: renting a boat, taking courses in a school or finding some locals that love to take you along (almost) for free. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you still have questions after reading this.
If you go sailing from the Belgian seaside you can just take a train to Ostend and take the coastal tramway if you need to get to Nieuwpoort, or take the train to Knokke / Zeebrugge.
An easy access to the Mediterranean is the direct TGV from Brussels to Marseille. There’s many options to go sailing from Marseille and Hyeres.
I learned to sail with a tiny Optimist sailing boat as a small kid, and throughout the last decades had phases of more and less sailing in my life: Optimist, Zoom8, Spirou, Newbat, 420, Laser, hobie cat, J111 racing,… No matter the boat or sailing class, I’ve always felt connected to the sea and to the many people that taught me or I spent time with on the water!
For some of you, sailing might still have an image of being expensive and exclusive, but unrightfully so. There’s many ways to get on a sailing boat and some are almost free:
- Rent directly and affordable via a “airbnb style” website:
- Go sailing via a sailing school: Most likely only in French or Dutch
- Altair – private school with good quality courses
- Vlaamse vaarschool – affordable sailing courses (starting from 185 EUR for 2 day initiation course)
- PR Sailing – if you want to make it a more spectacular experience: charter a VO65, an old Volvo Ocean racer, or take sufficient sailing training and join an Atlantic crossing with some professional sailors that are training for their race
- Go for a beachclub sailing school with small catamarans, e.g. RSBC in Knokke
- Amicale Atouvents – In Marseillan in the south of France there’s a group of volunteers that introduce people to sailing for a symbolic 5 EUR per half day (to cover the insurance). You call one of the numbers, ask and meet up. Always nice if you bring some picknick or drinks to share with the skipper!
- Marseillan has been a magic place for Tine and myself: we parked our camper next to the canal du midi and from the first moment until a week later we got to meet many people, including a qi gong teacher that took Tine, August and myself along on his sailing boat and shared with us the essence of love.
- There are many of these type of small sailing fraternities: look around in the harbour closest to you for small announcements and reach out if you want to join to help people as crew.
On top, it’s a means of transport that dates way back: supposedly the earliest evidence of sailing dates back to prehistoric times, around 8,000 years ago. The first sailing vessels were probably simple rafts made of reeds, logs, and animal skins.
Try it out and see for yourself 🙂