Marina Sunday Sailing Club pairs aspiring sailors with skippers who need crew

By Paul M.J. Suchecki

With summer quickly approaching, one of the best ways to get out on the water — and one of the best boating bargains on the planet — is the Marina Sunday Sailing Club, which pairs aspiring crew members with skippers who need extra hands on deck.

Although sailing experience is helpful, enthusiasm and eagerness to learn count for more. When I first joined this club, I had experience sailing small boats on lakes and a river but had only been at the helm on salt water thrice before. Over the two years that followed, I learned more about navigation, boat motors, picking up moorings and anchoring than I had in my previous 20. It didn’t take me long to get comfortable sailing to Redondo Beach, voyaging to the Channel Islands and cruising to Avalon and Two Harbors, going so far as to spend a week circumnavigating Catalina Island with skipper Carolisa Pomerantz.

Commodore Alex Pullos recounts his own unique learning experience of consistently sailing with a skipper who needed a hand because he’d developed bad knees: “After six months, I was sailing his boat, a Catalina 38, while he was just sitting in the cockpit being a tourist,” Pullos said.

The Marina Sunday Sailing Club meets at Burton Chace Park on the second and fourth Sundays of each month, where members brunch at 10 a.m. while the club allocates the crew for that day’s sail. For aspiring crew members, a single-day guest pass is just $10, and annual membership dues are only $100. Skippers pay $50 a year. Guests can audit two sails before deciding whether to join.

Day sails happen year-round, with extended summer cruises for members in good standing who have proven themselves ready.

“We’ll go to Catalina three to four times a year, the Channel Islands at least once, San Pedro, and Long Beach. We try to work in eight to twelve cruises a year,” Pullos said. “We’re going to do something different this year: Moonlight Madness Sails. During the full moons, we’ll go on night sails.”

The club currently boasts 15 skippers with boats and 50 additional members who act as crew. Pullos is hoping to bring in more skippers and crew this year, particularly younger members who want to sail but don’t yet have the financial resources to buy a boat.

Now in its 41st year, the Marina Sunday Sailing Club was the brainchild of three sailors — Dawn O’Day, Connie Scroggs and Ron Segel — who had each crewed extensively on day sails and trips to Catalina, maintaining their welcome as crew because of their exceptional dedication to sailing. They showed up when and where promised and were physically ready to take to the water when they did, qualities still inculcated in the club’s current members. It’s not that the club is a bunch of teetotalers, but alcohol consumption while sailing is discouraged for safety reasons. Still, the traditional end to a club day sail is a wine-and-cheese party.

The best way to get invited back is to keep honing your sailing skills and learning the vocabulary, which can be confusing. To start, remember that sheets are the lines that tighten or loosen sails, not a place to lay your head, and port is not a drink to ward off chills, but the left side of a boat or that nautical direction when facing forward.

The club is still around because the concept works: Skippers find crew who keep getting more experienced, and crew members get a chance to savor the delights of Santa Monica Bay and beyond for just a few bucks an outing.

The club’s meets next on Sunday, May 28. For more information, call (310) 226-8000 or visit marinasundaysailors.org.

On the Water columnist Paul M.J. Suchecki is a former commodore of the Marina Sunday Sailing Club.

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