Friday, September 22, 2023 Sep 22, 2023
79° F Dallas, TX

Boating Prairie Schooners

Some nautical tips for land-locked sealubbers.
By Edward Maybaum |

In North Texas, where water is sometimes a scarce commodity, a full-rigged sailboat may seem somewhat out of placeromping along in a spanking prairie breeze. But the sport of sailing has rapidly developed, and some of the largest fleets of small sailboats in the nation ply the waters of area lakes and reservoirs.

Sailboat dealers in Dallas report mounting sales and increased interest in sailing, and marinas and boat docks have proliferated on such lakes as Ray Hubbard and Lake Dallas. It may also be a sign of the times that sailing is enjoying a more wide appeal. Concerns about ecology and the pollution of the environment may have prompted many people to consider buying or switching over from gasoline or diesel-powered boats to wind-powered ones.

What type of boat should you buy? That’s a problem facing the new sailor, and there is no hard and fast answer. The best thing to do is to go where the boats are – visit a yacht club or marina and talk with some of the boat owners. Sailing is a friendly sport and most sailors will be happy to talk and show off their boats. Some of the dealers have demonstrators in which they will take you for a quick trip.

Once you’ve got the feel of a boat under your feet and been caressed by that fresh breeze over the bow you will want to determine the size and type of boat suited to you, as well as educating yourself as to the handling of a sailboat. (It’s a lot different from turning the key and steering around the shoreline.)

For the active person who enjoys swimming, board boats ($700-plus) are fine. For the less adventurous, day sailers ($3,000 average) that start at 14 feet in length, are fun and easy to sail. Catamarans ($1,500-$2,000) are designed for maximum speed in the water; and multi-hulls are exciting to sail but are not as comfortable, and they require more skill. Cabin cruiser yachts ($5,000-$100,000) start at 25 feet and range up to 50 or 60 feet.

Many of these boats are trailerable – you take them home at night instead of leaving them in the water. Your choice is almost limitless, and about the only factors that might affect your decision are finance and comfort. Few come equipped with essentials: marine toilet, ice chest, some winches, lines and sails. Just like an automobile, the more options you add, the more the price.

Newcomers to sailing usually ask the same basic questions: How does a boat sail against the wind? Will it tip over? What happens when there is no wind? Answers to these questions can be found in sailing classes. (We’ll give you the answers further on.)

At present, only Eastfield College offers regularly scheduled sailing courses. Dealers, the YMCA and some yacht clubs hold infrequent classes, so call them to find out when and where. Eastfield is holding six classes this summer. The first began early in June, and the last will begin on August 5. The classes meet twice weekly on Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday and last for three weeks. The course consists of one classroom session and five trips to White Rock Lake and teaches introduction to equipment, safety and sailing techniques. All equipment is furnished. The cost is $20. Contact them at 3737 Motley Drive in Mesquite. 746-2200.

Sailboat dealers have a boat tor almost any taste. Both “previously owned” and new boat inventories are limited. However, dealers have arrangements with some owners to whom they have sold boats to use them as demonstrators. And, if you’re willing to wait, boat dealers will order from the factory. The wait is usually two to six months for any new boat over 20 feet in length. If you buy a used boat, be sure to have it surveyed by a boat surveyor.

If you’re comparison shopping, be sure to check what is included in the quoted price. Some manufacturers do not include sails in the base price, others do. Things like electrical systems, life lines, galleys and marine toilets may or may not be included.

The following is a list of Dallas County dealers who handle sailboats exclusively. Where a “ship’s store” is indicated, you can buy hardware, line, rope, clothing and other items.

Captain’s Cove Marine, 5965 Marina Drive, Garland. 226-7100. Deals mostly with boats of 21 feet or larger. They are the only sailboat dealer operating from a marina and do a better job with the larger boats. Ship’s store.

Coleman’s Sailboats, 111 Continental. 747-4380. They have trailerable boats ranging in size from 15 to 22 feet.

Inland Sailboats, 4910 Cole. 522-0223. They can obtain any type of sailboat from board boats to dinghys, catamarans, trailerables, cabin cruisers and yachts up to 50 or more feet. Ship’s store.

Shirreff Sailboats, 712 N. Buckner Blvd. 327-5587. They specialize in trailerable boats from day sailers to cabin cruisers up to 25 feet. A major part of their business is rigging and outfitting boats for racing. Ship’s store.

Sun Sailboats, 1716 N. Loop 23, Irving. 253-4909. Trailerables under 25 feet.

Yacht Shop Inc., 11112 Harry Hines. 243-3897. They have a wide range of boats, from dinghys to float-ing bungalows, including catamarans, trailerables, board boats and day sailers. Ship’s store.

A friend of mine once said that a sailboat race is any two boats on the same tack. It’s true that when I find myself in that situation, I make small adjustments and try to get that last bit of speed out of my boat. That little extra spur of competition adds to the enjoyment, but sailing is also a tremendous form of relaxation.

Finally, the answers to our earlier (and the most often-asked) questions about sailing: A boat does not sail against the wind. By tacking – sailing at a 45 degree angle to the wind’s direction – a boat appears to sail against the wind. Second, a boat with no ballast (weights in the hull) can be easily turned over. A heavily ballasted boat, possibly with a deep keel, will not tip over. Third, when the wind dies, you just have to wait, unless you have oars, an auxiliary motor or catch a tow from a powerboat.