Real Community Sailing in Renton

Real Community Sailing in Renton

Joe Burcar and I were privileged to speak at The Renton (Seattle suburb) Sailing Center’s monthly meeting a couple of nights ago. Privileged, I say, because listening to Rebekah Padgett and the dozen or so sailors attending, turned on a lightbulb for me.

Community sailing takes root at meetings like this.

Sure, big community sailing programs draw a lot of attention, including mine, but perhaps this is where sailing’s future health can be found and where more of my attention should be focused.

Think oceanic, sail local. Really local.


Joe Burcar

Joe was a board member of The Sailing Foundation, and the theme he focused on was partnering. Padget and her team are doing that, working with other programs in the area that are interested in partnering and with The Sailing Foundation. Cooperating with the city of Renton they have dock space, boats (including keelboats), an education program and above all esprit de corps.

Joe and I talked about the history of sailing here in the Pacific Northwest and how we see the future of the sport in the area. But the most interesting part of the talk for me was hearing the intention, and difficulties, of getting kids sailing. The Renton club needs more families involved, but it’s hard to entice them with all the competition for kids’ attention. I can vouch for that.

One thing is clear, the Renton Sailing Center is a great alternative for anyone looking to get out sailing. You’ll find the welcome mat out. I’m going to take their offer on heading out for a sail one of these days.

Here’s the story of the Renton Sailing Center by President Rebekah Padgett:

Founded in 1965, Renton Sailing Center (RSC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community sailing organization dedicated to the sport of sailing, with a family-like atmosphere to support the interests of sailors of all abilities.  

Located at the north end of Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park in Renton, RSC is has over 50 member families.  While most of the members live in the greater Renton area, they extend from Olympia to Everett and Port Ludlow to Fall City. 

RSC has provided small boat and keelboat instruction for many years, and over a year ago became a US Sailing Community Sailing Center.  It has been offering US Sailing Small Boat instruction ever since.  This year the Center held its first women only small boat sailing class, and it hopes to continue its focus on women. This summer RSC became a US Sailing-accredited Basic Keelboat Sailing School.  In 2017, RSC has every course full, for a total of 41 Small Boat students and 8 Basic Keelboat students.  Courses are offered through the City of Renton Community Services Department.

The Center supports an internal small boat racing/skill-building series that begins in May and goes through the summer.  It also provides sailing clinics to increase members’ skills.  Other activities include open sailing, a shoreline cleanup in conjunction with the International Coastal Cleanup, BBQs, a mentorship program for new members, and more.  

Occasionally members participate in outside races in Lake Washington, and one crew even completed Stage 1 of the Race 2 Alaska in 2016, from Port Townsend to Victoria.  

RSC held its second Experience Renton Sailing event in early June, where participants sign up for a free introductory sail.  This year was a record 61 participants, with 39 adult participants and 22 youth.  Most of them were first-time sailors from the Renton community.  RSC is proud of the growth of this event and that it was able to provide so many community members an opportunity to try sailing.  This epitomizes what  Renton Sailing Center is all about.

In the past, most of the vessels were donated, but RSC has been upgrading its fleet and currently has two Capri 14s, four RS Visions, a Hobie 18, Hunter 170, Ranger 20, Ranger 24, and Catalina 27.  

The entire organization is run by volunteers, including the instructors.  And all members are expected to contribute time and skills to the Center. 

Current members of the Board are President Rebekah Padgett, Vice President Kirsten Parks, Treasurer Rebecca Ward, and Secretary Katey Lent, as well as Maintenance Chief Dean Peoples and Members-at-Large Buzz Chase and Will Wagner.  

Some members have gone on to own their own boats, racing locally, living aboard, instructing at local sailing schools, or even heading out on a circumnavigation with current and past members as crew. 

RSC may be an unobtrusive little sailing center at the south end of Lake Washington, but it gives people who don’t have deep yachting roots a chance to try out the sport at an affordable rate, a supportive community, a place to build skills, and it even launches big dreams.

Learn more about RSC at and follow them on Facebook at Renton Sailing Center.

Please share this piece on social media and with anyone you know who might be interested in a very local, very real, sailing club.

What’s Ailing Sailing

What’s Ailing Sailing

You know what’s more addictive, infuriating and pointless than talking about the current presidential primary circus? Talking about what’s ailing sailing and racing.

Yet, that’s what I’ll do. Give a guy a blog and keyboard…..

The first question is, IS sailing ailing? After all, the marinas are filled with sailboats. At this time of the year there are races nearly every day somewhere in my home waters of the Pacific Northwest. Cruisers head out to near and far destinations every day. And the high school sailing scene is healthy and growing, the Sail Sand Point community boating center is thriving and the sailing schools around town often sell out. Talk about sailing with someone and 9/10 times their eyes light up and they say they’d love to sail.

Ah, but it IS ailing.

This photo and the shot of the Coronado 25 "Better Days" were taken at the Leschi Marina on Lake Washington in Seattle.
This photo and the shot of the Coronado 25 “Better Days” were taken at Leschi Marina on Lake Washington in Seattle.

For several years, less than 1% of new boats sold in Washington have been sailboats. Yep, on that score we’re statistically pretty insignificant. I’m not sure what it is in the rest of the country but I’ll be the numbers are similar.

And those boats in the marinas? Take a good look at them. How many look like they’ve been sailed in the last week, month, year, even decade?

The racing fleets? In terms of participation, most of today’s races in the Northwest are mere ghosts of what they were “back in the day.” The “day” being the 1970s-1990s when there were fewer people to draw from, the equipment (including the boats themselves) wasn’t nearly as user friendly or fast, and the clothing wasn’t nearly as warm. Today there are 70 boats when 20 years ago there were 150 and 10 years before that there were 300.

Bless those people who think that sailboat racing is doing OK. It’s simply not.

There are bright spots to talk about, and I certainly will in the future on this blog. And I’m hoping that readers will share information about the bright spots I know nothing about.

My goal isn’t to rail against things (that’d be about as productive as commenting on Trump). I want to figure out why sailing’s ailing and if something can or should be done about it. Bear with me as I piece my thoughts together as they come to me and as time allows.

Here are some of the tacks I’ll take in the coming posts. Working titles, sequence and existence of the following are subject to change and the whims of the author.

Ailing, Not Dead

The Boats are Not The Problem

Culture is the Problem

Why the hell should it cost so much? Or does it?

Any idiot can work on a boat, and many do

Can somebody please kill the America’s Cup and 007?

Kids, They’re Not the Future, they’re the Present

Racing: Yeah, I’ll be talking about handicapping among other things

Clubs or Pubs?