Small Boat Course

The Small Boat Sailing course is a great starting point for learning how to sail. You will learn to rig and sail a 14-foot dinghy. No sailing experience is required, and beginners are encouraged to attend. The minimum age for Renton Sailing Center’s course is 12 years.

Here is some information that will make the course successful and rewarding for you and the other participants:

  • Dates/Times: Courses are held May through September. Course dates and times are published in our Course Flyer and in the City of Renton’s What’s Happening catalog.
  • Registration: Sign up for RSC’s sailing courses through the City of Renton’s Community Services Department on-line, or call (425) 430-6700. When registering on-line, click ‘Register for Programs,’ ‘Outdoor Recreation,’ and then locate our sailing courses.
  • Float Test: You are required to demonstrate basic swimming ability in order to participate in the course. You must bring your certified float test on the first day of the sailing course. Take the Float Test form to the Henry Moses Aquatic Center, Hazen Pool, Lindbergh Pool, a City of Renton beach, or any Red Cross-certified lifeguard in order to demonstrate your skills and get the float test signed.
  • Capsize Recovery Drill: On the first day of the course, we will do a capsize recovery drill so you know what to do if you capsize while sailing. We will use the “scoop method” that is described in Learn Sailing Right. Please watch this video ahead of the course to visualize how it works.
  • Location: Courses are held at the Renton Sailing Center in Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park, located next to the canoe launch at the north end of the park. Free parking is available. Please do not leave valuables in your car.
  • Weather: A prepared sailor knows the weather forecast. Each day before class, check the forecast for overall weather, temperature, and wind. Some good local sources of information include:
    • General forecast: Weather Underground (search for Renton Municipal, WA)
    • Wind: WindAlert (search for Renton Airport). You will find a detailed forecast of the wind velocity, direction, and gusts.
    • Note: Your safety is our priority. While we will be on the water in rain or sun, we will stay onshore during heavy winds or lightning.
  • Clothing & Personal Gear: The Renton Sailing Center does not have a classroom, so we will be outside for the entire day. Here are some tips for your comfort:
    • Wear or bring a long-sleeve shirt and pants, sun hat, sunglasses with a keeper strap, and sunscreen even if it is overcast. Plan to reapply sunscreen throughout the day.
    • Wear closed-toe, non-slip shoes. Running shoes are fine, but flip flops or bare feet are not permitted.
    • Wear gloves. Many of our sailboats have very small diameter control lines and you will want gloves to prevent rope burn. Sailing gloves can be purchased at a marine chandlery such as West Marine or Fisheries Supply. Alternatively, you can wear cycling or fitted garden gloves.
    • Bring plenty of layers of clothing to keep warm.
    • Avoid cotton clothing. Cotton is not recommended as it will not keep you warm when wet.
    • Bring a change of clothing and towel each day in case you get wet.
    • On the first day, wear a swimsuit under your clothes as we will complete a capsize recovery drill. You may wear a wetsuit if you prefer.
    • Wear a life jacket. RSC provides a Type III personal flotation device (PFD) for each participant and it must be worn at all times when on the dock or sailing. You may bring your personal Type III PFD if you have one.
    • Consider purchasing a small dry bag for your personal valuables or plan to leave them at the dock.
  • Snacks/Water: We will take some short breaks during class. Bring plenty of snacks, as the course will be somewhat demanding. Also bring a water bottle in order to stay well hydrated. There is a water fountain nearby.
  • Textbook: Purchase the Learn Sailing Right Beginning Sailing Textbook from US Sailing. It will be a quick read before the class, provide you with a basic understanding of sailing, and make the course more enjoyable. Participants will receive a Little Red Book from US Sailing. This allows you to apply for a Small Boat Sailor Certification through US Sailing. This certification may be recognized at other US Sailing centers around the country.
  • Boats: You may sail three different types of dinghy ― the RS Vision, RS Quest or Catalina Capri 14.2
  • Small Boat Sailing Merit Badge: Registered Boy Scouts can complete all or most of the requirements of the Small Boat Sailing Merit Badge through this course. Some of our instructors are Merit Badge Counselors registered with the Boy Scouts. Those wanting to achieve this merit badge should bring a “Blue Card” approved by their Scoutmaster. Be prepared to discuss the nine points of the BSA Safety Afloat Plan, as it is not part of the US Sailing curriculum. It would be helpful for Scouts to have already read the Small Boat Sailing Merit Badge book ahead of the course.

Basic Keelboat Certification Course

The Basic Keelboat Sailing course is a is a terrific introduction to the world of keelboats. You will learn to rig and sail a 24-foot vessel. Once you have some experience sailing dinghies, this is a fun way to build on your skills and advance to new adventures. The minimum age for Renton Sailing Center’s course is 16 years.

Please see the following requirements and helpful tips under the Small Boat Sailing Course for information that will make the course successful and rewarding for you and the other participants:

  • Dates/Times
  • Registration
  • Float Test
  • Location
  • Weather
  • Clothing & Personal Gear: You do not need to wear a swimsuit on the first day of class as you will not be doing a capsize recovery drill.
  • Snacks/Water
  • Tests: Practical skills demonstration and written tests are part of this certification course.
  • Textbook: Course registration includes the Basic Keelboat Textbook from US Sailing. It will be a quick read before the class, provide you with a basic understanding of keelboat sailing, and make the course more enjoyable. The course includes a US Sailing Logbook and one year membership to US Sailing.


Renton Sailing Center offers occasional clinics for its members in order to build a deeper understanding of a particular skill or topic (e.g. racing, spinnaker, reefing, LifeSling, rudderless sailing, heavy and light wind, anchoring, navigation). Keep an eye on RSC’s calendar for these opportunities.