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Cal Sailing Club Rallies Community Support to Save Its Program

Community sailing is an important factor in maintaining and growing participation in this sport and pastime that we all love so well. To that end we try to share stories that showcase the activities and progress of organizations and clubs that focus on bringing new people to sailing, and ensuring they have the best possible experience. Cal Sailing Club (CSC) is one such organization. Earlier this year we wrote about CSC’s Super Sail Sunday. The dock was bustling with members getting on the water, and prospective members looking to sign up. It was truly inspiring. Now, however, the club feels its program is threatened after receiving word from the City of Berkeley that they intend to move the club to alternate docks to make way for three or four 40-ft boats. We spoke with CSC Co-Commodore Nicholas Waton, who says, “It would kill our program.” CSC has therefore embarked on a public-awareness campaign, and a petition that will be presented to the City of Berkeley.

“Our club is asking for help from the community as the City of Berkeley is currently thinking of displacing our keelboats from their location in the Berkeley Marina, from their historical berths on J-Dock, where we’ve been for 50+ years,” Waton says.

Part of CSC’s program includes free sailing opportunities for the community one day each month throughout the summer.
© 2024 Cal Sailing Club

Cal Sailing Club is a volunteer-run cooperative. It operates six 20- to 30-ft keelboats from the end of J-Dock at the Berkeley Marina. The club has operated from this location for over 50 years, for the express purpose of being able to maneuver into and out of the marina under sail. Waton says this maneuver is not commonly taught at sailing schools. “In fact our skippers are required to know how to dock under sail, and we do as little motoring as possible.” An informational document produced by CSC says, “The open water approach [to their current J-dock location] allows for a long setup, adjustments under way, and room to bail out safely, with minimal risks of hitting other berthed boats, practiced in all wind conditions throughout the year. No other location matches it. This skill set for docking under sail is similar to the skill set for recovering a person overboard, and maneuvering if the motor should fail.”

Waton says a move would mean their docking maneuvers would be more hazardous, “which might lead them to ultimately shut down this practice and we would no longer be able to continue passing this important skill and art to future generations.”

Where else can you learn to dock under sail?
© 2024 Cal Sailing Club

In addition to this skillful sailing art, the club has provided more than 2,500 free sailboat rides to new and aspiring sailors each year, and 2,942 sailing lessons in 2023 alone. Its membership currently stands at 1,100. “Everyone is welcomed, through low-cost and no-cost access to membership, ongoing free community events like monthly open house, and youth rides.” The club hosts an Open House every month from April through October. Last weekend’s Open House on April 27 coincided with the Berkeley Bay Festival. The Open House also marked the launch of their public-awareness campaign and petition.

“We gave 300 rides to the public (92 kids and 208 adults!). All completely free,” Waton tells us. “We had over 50 volunteers come together to make it happen.”

it was a perfect-weather day for CSC’s Open House last week.
© 2024 Cal Sailing Club

It appears that the City’s plan to relocate CSC is on hold, for now. But Waton says the club is not confident that’s the end of the matter. “We could be asked to move in the future.”

Berkeley City Councilmember Terry Taplin is a CSC member who, after meeting with the CSC board, proposed a resolution that would see the six J-dock slips in question dedicated to teaching safe boating, community and education, “so that we could keep our boats there in perpetuity,” Waton adds. The resolution was due to be presented this week, and will be voted on in the near future. We reached out to Councilmember Taplin for comment but were informed that the Berkeley City Council is on spring recess until May 7.

We urge you to look at what Cal Sailing Club does and show your support by first of all, signing the petition. And then, go sailing with CSC! From what we’ve seen, they have a fun program and a great group of volunteers making it all happen.

Take action here: CSC Petition

The campaign: Protect Community Sailing

Cal Sailing Club website:

CSC Open House:


  1. Andy Newell 1 month ago

    The City of Berkeley does not care about the marina or boaters. It is one of the more expensive and least well maintained facilities around. Almost everyone I know who races left long ago due to maintenance issues, dredging in the entrance etc. I finally gave up several years ago when the city decided to fence in the already full parking lot at L dock to park police vehicles.

  2. Dave Anderson 1 month ago

    What is Berkeley rational or typical response “Because”

  3. Marie Rogers 1 month ago

    Community sailing keeps the sport alive. The fact that young people are eager to participate is something the City should encourage rather than eliminate. Kudos to the volunteers who give their time making sure the kids have fun building safe sailing skills. I can’t think of a better opportunity for youngsters to learn cooperation and teamwork than on a boat!

  4. Scott Walters 1 month ago

    Many cities try to pander to any rich people they get a nibble on at the expense of livability and vibrancy of the city that made it interesting in the first place, essentially killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Trying to prioritize four rich people over thousands of members of the hoi polloi is predictable but pathetic. What does Berkeley think will happen in the long run here? There’s currently a boom with rich people buying giant motor yachts, but rich people quickly get bored of things and motor yachts are boring. There’s a reason that sailing has endured despite everything on the west coast. If I were Berkeley City Council, I’d want community sailing education. Hopefully a few people lose their re-election bids over garbage like this.

  5. Jean Ouellette 1 month ago

    Keelboat lessons have acquired additional importance as the South Basin continues to silt in, making the traditional thrice-weekly dinghy instruction impossible at low tides.

  6. Molly Morelock 1 month ago

    I was forced to vacate my long-standing slip at the end of J-Dock in 2021 to make space for a 40′ sailboat. That boat ended up smashing into the end of the dock and knocking off the faucet/water line while I was getting my boat ready for a beautiful day on the Bay. This resulted in 1,000s of gallons of water spewing into the Bay. CSC taught me how to dock/depart under sail and I never hit the dock, houseboat or other boats. This is something every boater should learn. Eternally grateful for CSC.

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