Frequently Asked Questions

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General Questions

What is SailMaine?

We are a community sailing organization based in Portland, Maine. SailMaine connects people of all ages and abilities to the coast of Maine through fun and affordable sailing education, recreation, and competition, which stimulate individual growth and create community. We teach people of all ages and abilities to sail, and offer recreational and competitive sailing opportunities in a friendly, open setting to the people of Maine and the Casco Bay region.

What are SailMaine's hours?

In June, July, and August while the Casco Bay Junior Sailing Program is underway, SailMaine Staff are available at the Casco Bay Community Boating Center from 8:30 AM until 6:00 PM. During the High School Fall and Spring seasons, we are on site from 9:00 AM until the end of practice for the day, usually 6:00 PM. Our shorefront office closes at the end of October for the season, but we can always be reached by phone or email.

What should we bring for sailing?

Sailing can sometimes be both cold and wet, so appropriate clothing is recommended. Rain gear is often a good idea, and even on sunny days with lots of wind, you may see some spray. During the summer, a fleece or jacket is nice to have on hand, as it is often cooler (sometimes much cooler) on the water than it is on land. Please bring comfortable shoes with good grip and a heel strap (not flip flops). We prefer closed-toed shoes like old sneakers, watershoes or boating boots. A bottle of water, sunglasses and a hat are good ideas, and sunblock is an essential. Lifejackets (PFDs) are required for all SailMaine programs; we are happy to provide PFDs if you do not have your own.

Where can I buy sailing gear?

Handy Boat in Falmouth, Hamilton Marine in Portland, Landing Boat Supply in Yarmouth, and West Marine in Portland are great places to grab sailing gloves, dry suits, foul weather gear and other sailing equipment. Sea Bags makes some fine totes to carry it all in.

What about safety on the water?

Safety is the top priority for us in all of our programs. While sailing has inherent risks, we work very hard to minimize them through thorough instruction and emergency preparedness. We do not permit on the water activities under the threat of thunderstorms or excessively high winds, though we do sail in rainy weather. PFDs (a.k.a. lifejackets) are required equipment on the docks and on the water in all of our programs. Capsize and rescue drills under the watchful eyes of our instructors are an essential part of our curriculum.

All of SailMaine's coaches, in addition to having outstanding seamanship skills, are First Aid/CPR/AED certified. Every coach boat is equipped with a VHF radio which is monitored ashore by shoreside staff. We have an AED, oxygen and other first aid equipment readily available in the office at the site. Our fleet of powerboats ensures we have on the water coverage for any contingency.

The SailMaine Junior Sailing Program has a sailor to instructor ratio of eight to one, ensuring both safety and quality individualized instruction. Our Adult and High School programs have similar staff and resource coverage that let us concentrate on sailing in an atmosphere of prudence and caution.

What kind of weather cancels classes?

For all programs, WE WILL NOT SAIL if there is too much wind, a likely threat of thunderstorms imminent, or visibility is dangerously low. We monitor weather conditions carefully, and guide our fleet to shore if dangerous weather is approaching. WE WILL SAIL if there is good breeze, even if it is raining or drizzling, in the absence of thunder and thick fog. The Junior Program's classes will always convene, no matter the weather.  We have plenty of shore side activities for the programs, so they can still be learning about sailing even if they're not on the water.

We rarely cancel adult classes but if we do have to cancel, we try to reschedule a make-up class as quickly as possible. Sometimes the instructor will hold the start of class inside in hopes the weather will improve. Please check our website and your email and voicemail before driving to SailMaine. You should assume that if we haven't called, class is still on (so bring appropriate gear)!  You can always call us to inquire if the weather is looking stormy and you haven't heard from us, we do get busy here!

Do you have a toilet and changing facilities?

We have port-a-potties at our site, and an enclosed, but outdoor, changing area.

Where should I park?

SailMaine doesn’t have parking; however, there is parking at 58 Fore Street (weave through the old brick buildings and follow the signs to Narrow Gauge Railroad).  Parking in this lot is $10.50 for the day.  There is on street parking on the Eastern Prom (just up the hill) if you don’t want to pay for parking and don’t mind walking.  There is also unrestricted parking near Shipyard Brewing on Mountfort Street – a 5 minute walk.   There is public metered parking lot (all day for $10) on Thames Street (get there by following Commercial to Hancock and using the public entrance (not the VA parking lot) into the lot.  You’ll know it’s the right lot if you see a pay station in the lot).  There are also several free parking spaces there which are reserved for Portland Trails that you can park in for free.  Or you can park in one of the closest parking garages (http://www.portlandmaine.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1429).

Do you offer a Senior Discount?

Yes we do. Seniors aged 55 and older can take 10% off our Adult Learn to Sail Program.

Do you offer other discounts?

Yes. Please visit our discounts page for more information on additional discounts and special pricing options.

Individual programs offer reduced pricing for multiple registrations from a single family and Portland residents. Please refer to each program's pages for specific information on these offerings.

For a scholarship application click here.

What is your cancellation and refund policy?

A full refund will be granted if request is made more than three (3) weeks prior to the program start date.

A 50% refund will be granted if request is made less than three (3) weeks prior to the program start date but more than one (1) week before the program start date.

No refunds will be granted if the request is made within one (1) week of the program start date. 

All registrations are subject to the above general Refund Policy, with the following important exception:

In Adult classes, if a cancellation/request for refund is received less than three (3) weeks before the start of a course and would result in the cancellation of that course due to low numbers, no refund will be granted. Please see the make-up policy for missed Adult classes or Adult classes cancelled due to weather.


Our Program Handbook, available online in PDF Format, cover most of the details of the High School Sailing program. Click on the link to view or download.

When does practice begin and end?

Each team practices three times a week for approximately three hours. Practice time is from 3:00- 6:00 pm.

How does the weather affect the program?

The High School sailors will sail in most weather — rain, snow, high and low winds — all except thunderstorms. We practice in all conditions because the team needs to be ready for variable weather when competing. Sailors should be prepared for all weather conditions.

"If it is a bad weather season do you make any type of refunds?"

There are no refunds because of weather. A variety of weather is part of the joy of sailing.

"When does the team compete?"

During both the fall and spring season, there are regattas for the most part every Saturday, but they can fall on a Sunday from time to time, especially in the Spring season. One day regattas are most common (either Saturday or Sunday) in high school sailing. A regatta will take place all day (9am-5pm — or more, if travel is involved). If you commit to a varsity team (which you do by signing up for the sailing team), you should be prepared to sail every weekend.

"How can a school have a team at SailMaine?"

Every team must sign an agreement prior to the season to be a part of each HS Sailing Season.  This is necessary to allow us to hire coaches, plan practice schedules, make boat assignments and attend to other preparatory tasks.

Your team must meet certain minimum requirements to be hosted as a team, though it should be noted that meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee team status at SailMaine.  Team status will be granted only by permission of the SailMaine Program Director and is subject to logistical limitations.

To apply for team status, please fill out the HS Team Agreement. It must be signed by your school’s Athletic Director and/or your team’s Parent Coordinator and returned to SailMaine by the registration deadline for that season.

Ensure a minimum of six (6) sailors signed up for the season by the registration deadline.

The maximum team roster is sixteen (16) sailors (15 sailors is ideal).

Have a meeting between the Head Coach, the SailMaine High School Program Director and the school Athletic Director to decide how to create the team roster. They will address such issues as:

  • Tryout policy—teams are welcome to use or adjust the SailMaine Tryout Policy.  This policy will govern Southern Maine HS. Tryouts will take place over first week of on the water practice.
  • School-specific concerns such as discipline policies, substance abuse policies, attendance, eligibility, etc.

SailMaine will collect registration forms and fees. Registration fee is $525

Acceptable forms of payment include:

  • Check made payable to “SailMaine.”
  • Credit card, via phone, or in person at the office

Fee Waivers and payment plans are available for any sailor on any team, and should be mailed directly to SailMaine. See our Financial Assistance page for further details.

NOTE: This does not guarantee your team’s spot at SailMaine. Team status will be granted only by permission of the Program Director and is subject to logistical limitations.

"What is the level of coaching and supervision?"

All of SailMaine’s coaches have long and deep experience in the sport of sailing and sailboat racing. Your team coach(es), will work (at minimum) with the team twice a week. He/she will also coach the team at home regattas. Since more than one team practices together on any given practice day, there are several coaches on the water who, regardless of team affiliation, collaborate together to run an efficient and effective practice regardless of team affiliation.

"What are the requirements to be a varsity sailor?"

To be considered for Varsity, the sailor must have completed at least one beginner sailing class (minimum two weeks long) in small dinghies (420s, Lasers, etc). Each varsity sailor must have capsizing experience and be comfortable sailing in 10+ knots. Varsity sailors may compete in Varsity and Junior Varsity events at the discretion of their coach based on team need.

"Do the High School Teams have try-outs?"

For logistical reasons, each individual school team at SailMaine is limited to a maximum of sixteen (16) sailors or fewer. Tryouts (if necessary) will take place during the first or second week of on-the-water practice. Teams may opt to move sailors to the development team based on ability whether or not they have reached their maximum capacity. A full explanation of the tryout policy is here.

"Do we need drysuits?"

Spring Sailing requires the use of a dry suit for a majority of the season. Water temps in April are in the 30′s. For safety reasons we cannot allow you to sail without a dry suit during the spring. Students are responsible for providing their own dry suit, and dry-suits will be worn at practice until an official email has been sent. Even if the air temperature is in the 50’s, the water is often still 30-40 degrees. Dry suits are not required for summer or fall sailing.
Here are some resources for drysuit purchase/maintenance:
Used Drysuits can be found on Craigslist and Ebay
Hamilton Marine does a great job repairing drysuits (ripped seals etc).
New suits are available at these local stores:
Hamilton MarineLanding Boat SupplyWest MarineEMS
Also Online:
Annapolis Performance SailingTeam 1 Newport

"Anything else to bring?"

LIFE JACKETS: PFD’s (Personal Flotation Device) are required of all sailors while on the water. SailMaine has life jackets available for all sailors.
PROTECTIVE SHOES — either sailing booties, other close toed shoes or sneakers. Crocs are not acceptable.

Suggested for Spring and Late Fall:

  1. Winter hat
  2. Fleece top layer
  3. Long underwear / fleece bottom layer
  4. wool socks
  5. Sun block
  6. Water bottle
  7. Sunglasses
  8. Sailing gloves
  9. Warm clothes to change into after practice

Please note: Sailors often dress for the weather at the beginning of practice and don’t consider the temperature dropping as the sun goes down. This is a regular “problem” for our sailors . . . please dress warmly!

"What is the Development Team?"

The Development Team is SailMaine’s learn to sail/learn to race program for eighth graders through high school seniors. The Development Team is for those who need more time and training to become competitive at the high school level.

"What’s the difference between a school team and Development sailing?"

  • The Development Team practices with its own dedicated coach, sailboats and coach boat.

  • Intramural sailors will not be on a school roster, nor are they considered JV. They do not count toward an individual team’s maximum roster size of 16, even if they are from that school and intend to join the team next semester.

  • Development sailors don’t practice with the high school teams. Development coaches will gear practice to the skill level of each sailor.

"Can Development sailors join a high school team in the middle of the season?"

  • There is no guarantee of this, but some sailors do excel quickly.

  • If the Development coach thinks this is the case, it will be discussed with the High School Program Director and the coach of the high school team the sailor would join.

  • Each high school team is allowed a maximum of sixteen sailors on their roster. If there is room, an exceptional Development sailor might be able to move to the team towards the end of the season.

"What is the Code of Conduct form?"

High School Sailing is a serious sport that requires a commitment to yourself, your teammates, and your coaches to conduct yourself in a sportsmanlike, responsible way at all times. We require your personal assurance that you will do so at SailMaine, and at any regatta you attend. The conduct form is your pledge to us that you understand the obligations you have to comport yourself in accordance with SailMaine’s policies regarding personal conduct and substance abuse. By signing it, you acknowledge that you understand what those policies are, and what the sanctions are for their violation.

"Who drives / chaperones at away regattas?"

Parents are responsible for making travel arrangements for their sailors to away regattas. Usually, the team’s Regatta Facilitator will help orchestrate the transportation of sailors to the various venues. The Google Group for your team is often busy before an event with talk of who is going and who is driving. SailMaine coaches cannot transport sailors. The coaches and parents work together to be sure the sailors are adequately supervised at the events. Parents giving a ride to the Coach as well is appreciated!

"Can parents go out on the coach boats?"

No. Just as parents are not permitted to walk the sidelines at a football or basketball game, or sit in the dugout at the team ballpark, we do not permit parents to ride on the chase boats at practice or during a regatta. An important part of the High School athletic experience is the ability of the young athlete to develop his skills with her/his teammates and coaches. Self reliance is also a critical part of handling a boat. We think it’s important to give these young women and men the chance to develop their talents without the pressure of their parents looking on at close quarters.

Junior Sailing Questions

"What is the Swim Test?"

To complete the Junior program Swim Test, all participants (once per summer, even if they have attended the Junior program in prior years) must demonstrate swimming ability and tolerance of cold water in conditions at least as strenuous as a class experience.

The goal of the swim test is to see how the participants respond to cold water and follow directions while swimming in Casco Bay. This allows the instructors to assess the sailor's manual dexterity and ability to follow directions in a tough environment (while tired and cold).

We do the swim test in the ocean, right off our dock on the first day of each session.

The instructors will ask each child to:

  1. Jump or slide into the water with their PFD (life jacket) on and swim 25 yards (approximately the length of  a length of one of our docks).
  2. Tread water for 2-3 minutes

"What should the sailors wear?"
They are welcome to wear bathing suits or regular sailing clothes (usually shorts and a T-shirt). We do not have a large changing area so please have your child wear his or her suit under their clothes.

"Are wetsuits allowed for the swim test?"
Wetsuits are only allowed if the sailor is planning to sail in a wetsuit for the whole session, usually for medical reasons—the idea is that the test is given in conditions at least as difficult as those present during an accidental capsize.

"What happens if my child is unable to complete the swim test?"
The instructors are always willing to work with the child privately and some even hop in the water with them! They are also welcome to try the test a few days in a row. Unfortunately, some kids are just not ready and therefore a full refund will be granted in the case of a failed test.

"Are the children well supervised on and off the water?"

The Junior program uses a comprehensive staff of volunteers, assistants, full instructors and program director to ensure exceptional supervision.  Our minimum student-to-instructor ratio is 8:1, not including volunteers.  We have a fleet of 8 powerboats at our disposal and instructors communicate via hand-held radio.  In most cases, kids are sailing the boats by themselves, but there is always an instructor nearby in a powerboat ready to assist when needed.

"What does my child need to bring?"

What to Bring:

-Sneakers or closed toed water shoes. No flip flops or open-toed sandals please

-Clothing- the ocean is cold and wet, and your child will get cold and wet without the right gear. Technical fabrics are better than cotton. Swimwear is encouraged, as are layers and rain gear.

-Kids should show up wearing sunblock, and bring some to re-apply every hour

-Food: Lunch is not provided for full day participants, so please pack a lunch and snacks for them every day

-Water bottle

-Any medication brought in with your child must be brought to the office staff by an adult guardian, in the original or prescription packaging.

-A towel and a change of clothes is a good idea

-Please label all of your child’s possessions- we accumulate a huge lost and found over the summer.

"Can juniors attend the program for a full day?"

Yes. Parents can sign their child up for a full day of sailing by registering for both AM and PM classes during the same session (classes must be at the same level; i.e., Beginner Opti AM and PM).   Sailors will sail with the morning group, stay on the premises during lunch (they should bring a bag lunch), and then sail again with the same level afternoon class.  There may be some repetition in the curriculum for the student, but given the complexity of the sport this repetition (otherwise known as "time on the water") is beneficial to the student.

"Are scholarships or other forms of financial aid available?"

SailMaine offers an active Scholarship program which seeks to make sailing affordable for any participant under 18. Simply fill out our scholarship application. You do not need to send any money at the time of registration if you are submitting a Scholarship Application at the same time. After the Application has been processed, we will contact you about your award and together come up with a plan for your family’s contribution.