Student enjoying full sails and clear skies while sailing.

Sailing Courses & Expeditions

Camera BJ Klophaus

Sailing Courses

Set Sail for an Adventure of a Lifetime

Learn the fundamentals of seamanship as you journey into the mesmerizing world of sailing education! During a NOLS sailing course, you’ll develop new skills like how to manage lines, tie knots, maneuver and care for your vessel, and interpret tide tables. The type of boat you use will vary based on your course, from sailboats to keelboats, and for each course you’ll be able to meet new challenges and apply your growing leadership skills.

Why Choose NOLS for Sailing Education and Adventure Courses?

Gain invaluable skills, learn from expert sailing instructors, and develop confidence on the water with our sailing courses.

Students take the helm of a keelboat off the shores of New Zealand's South Island.

Expert Sailing Instructors

Our expert instructors are experienced sailors bringing years of sailing experience and unparalleled expertise to the table, along with an unwavering passion for teaching. Whether you're a novice, eager to learn to sail, or a seasoned sailor seeking to refine your skills, you can feel confident knowing that an expert NOLS sailing instructor will be by your side every leg of your journey. Their patient guidance and hands-on approach ensure you'll quickly grasp the intricacies of sailing and build the confidence to handle the seas with ease. Join us and sail under the mentorship of the best sailing schools in the business!
Students practice capsize drills at Beatriz in Bahia de Conception, Mexico.

Breathtaking Sailing Locations & Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Stewardship is at the heart of our sailing philosophy. Embracing Leave No Trace principles, we cultivate responsible sailing practices that respect and protect marine ecosystems. While indulging in unparalleled sailing destinations, brace yourself for breathtaking vistas. NOLS leads you to some of the world's most stunning coastlines and waters, offering a perfect backdrop for your nautical adventures. In harmony with nature, our courses allow you to appreciate and cherish the pristine environments we explore, ensuring their preservation for generations to come.

Master Essential Sailing Skills

We prioritize immersive and hands-on learning, ensuring you master essential sailing techniques. Hone expertise in boat handling, knot tying, and reading the wind in a comprehensive course. Delve into navigation theory and coastal navigation techniques. Enhance weather awareness for better voyages, and fine-tune teamwork and communication with fellow crew members. Learn collision avoidance techniques and gain the confidence to tackle real-world challenges while adapting to changing conditions. Guided by experienced instructors, you'll develop the intuition needed to navigate the waters with finesse.
A student uses oars while out on a sailboat in Baja California, Mexico.

Sailing Risk Management

Managing risk is our top priority, and we ensure that at our sailing school, you learn the necessary skills to handle potential challenges on the water. You'll achieve a comprehensive understanding of collision avoidance techniques, practicing safety procedures to minimize risks and maximize fun and wellness. Our instructors will guide you in mastering storm tactics and the basics of responding to unexpected situations at sea. With a focus on preparation and prevention, our sailing courses empower you to confidently navigate any situation that may arise during your nautical adventures. Trust in our expertise, and embark on a transformative sailing journey where risk management and skill harmoniously meet.

NOLS Sailing Courses

Whether you’re eager to sail New Zealand's Marlborough Sounds, explore Baja's coastal waters, or conquer Pacific Northwest's challenges you'll find your dream sailing course with NOLS!

A student stands at the wheel of a keelboat with the peaks of New Zealand's South Island in the distance.

New Zealand Sailing Course

Embark on an unforgettable experience sailing in New Zealand's Marlborough Sounds. Learn to sail 35- to 40-foot keelboats, mastering seamanship, and coastal navigation rules while exploring the area's natural beauty. Dive into the region's history and culture and visit indigenous Maori sites. This course emphasizes essential sailing skills, leadership, communication, and teamwork as you rotate through different crew positions. Conquer challenges, adverse weather, and develop judgment. Return home with cherished memories, newfound friendships, and a passion for lifelong sea exploration.
Two sailboats anchored near the shore in the bright aqua waters of Baja California, Mexico.

Baja Coastal Sailing Course for Adults

Experience the thrill of one of our most popular courses: Baja Coastal Sailing in the Sea of Cortez. Discover serene coves, vibrant reefs, and starlit beaches. Enhance your sailing techniques and leadership style with 22-foot Drascombe Longboats. Suitable for all skill levels, you'll learn coastal navigation theory, collision avoidance, reading the wind, and eco-friendly camping. Step aboard to explore the desert coastline, encounter diverse wildlife, and connect with local fishing communities. Rotate roles daily to develop leadership and decision-making skills. These unforgettable experiences will equip you to navigate life's challenges, empowering you to sail and lead wherever your journey takes you. Start your transformative adventure today.
A smiling student tending to the rudder while sailing on the Sea of Cortez in Baja California, Mexico.

Baja Coastal Sailing Course for Women

Set sail on the coastal waters of Baja California. Experience the rush of the waves, spot colorful marine life, and unwind under starlit skies on sandy shores. Join a group of self-identified women to enhance your sailing skills and leadership style. Suitable for all levels, learn coastal navigation, reading the wind, and anchoring in 22-foot Drascombe longboats. Explore tidal pools, desert life, and engage with local fishing communities, fostering cultural understanding and Spanish language practice. Leadership evolves through real experiences, from decision-making in tough weather to adapting communication amidst changing group dynamics. Gain valuable skills to conquer any horizon – embark on your sailing journey today.
A student smiling while steering a sailboat.

Baja Coastal Sailing Course for Young Adults

Embrace the early mornings, day sailing, and beach camping under starry skies. Learn sailing and teamwork while navigating the marine-rich waters. Students learn to sail Drascombe longboats, read the wind, and eco-friendly camping. Engage with coastal communities, practice Spanish, and embrace environmental stewardship. Leadership development is central to the sailing course, honed through decision-making in challenging weather, effective communication, and cultural understanding. Embrace diverse leadership roles within the close-knit group, equipping you to be a confident leader wherever your journey takes you. Start your transformative coastal voyage now.
Students enjoying sailing out in the Pacific Northwest.

Pacific Northwest Sailing and Mountaineering

Embark on an unforgettable Pacific Northwest Mountaineering and Sailing experience. Conquer high mountain passes and sail choppy seas, discovering the awe-inspiring Waddington Range in British Columbia, Canada, with its jagged peaks and icy glaciers. Master navigation rules, understand boat systems, practice boat handling, and hone leadership skills in the Strait of Georgia. Embrace challenges and nurture leadership skills amidst the demanding yet breathtaking wilderness. If you crave personal growth and a diverse wilderness experience, this transformative course awaits.
A student navigates from the helm of a sailboat in the remote waters of Vancouver Island's outer coast.

Pacific Northwest Sea Kayaking and Sailing Course

Experience the ultimate Pacific Northwest Sea Kayaking and Sailing expedition in the Strait of Georgia. Master ocean travel with paddling and sailing, discovering hidden lagoons and tide pools while camping on sandy beaches. Immerse yourself in the area's ecology, political concerns, and First Nations history. Daily leadership opportunities, kayak and sailboat handling, and thrilling navigation challenges build invaluable experiences for independent coastal expeditions. If you long to hone your skills for a lifetime of ocean adventure, this transformative course is your gateway.

Sailing Course FAQs

  • Q: Do I need prior sailing experience to join NOLS courses?

    Nope! Our sailing courses cater to all experience levels, from complete beginners to experienced sailors. Our expert sailing instructors will ensure you receive the appropriate instruction based on your skills. However, some boat experience and knowledge of sailing terminology and knot tying may be helpful for our sailing courses.

  • Q: What sailing gear do I need to bring?

    All necessary sailing gear, including PFDs (personal floatation devices) and foul weather gear, are available to rent or purchase through the NOLS store. However, we recommend bringing personal items such as appropriate clothing, sunscreen, and a hat. A detailed packing and preparation list will be provided once you enroll.

  • Q: How physically demanding are these courses?

    While sailing can be physically challenging, our courses are designed to accommodate varying fitness levels. We encourage participants to arrive with a positive attitude and a willingness to embrace new experiences.

  • Q: Can I learn to cruise during a NOLS sailing course?

    Our sailing courses provide a well-rounded education, and cruising skills are an essential part of the curriculum. You'll learn how to cruise comfortably and confidently, making your sailing experience even more enjoyable.

  • Q: Does NOLS offer private sailing lessons?

    Yes and no. Our sailing courses include comprehensive group classes, rather than private lessons. However, NOLS offers custom education that may allow for private lessons and certifications. Please contact us to learn more.