At last some (few) people are giving public voice to one of my private rants.
A previously - to me - obscure book, Saving Sailing by Nicholas Hayes (2007) blipped up on my radar screen in the pages of Latitude 38, thanks to Max Ebb and Lee Helm.
According to Hayes, the future of recreational sailing is not too rosy:
- Participation is down by 40% since 1997 and down by 70% since 1979.
- We have 1.8 million sailors in the USA now; in order to get back to 1979 levels, we'd have to add 4.2 million. Yacht clubs with suitable facilities for youth activities are not numerous in the USA to fill the void.
- If only one in five sailors belongs to a yacht club, in order to stay even, each yacht club has to generate five new non-members per each current member; in order to grow back to 1979 levels, each current member would have to grow 11.7 new non-member sailors.
For long-term growth you have to make it easy for people to get into sailing without relying on yacht club infrastructure. The yacht club pipe is to narrow and the sailboat racing pipe is even narrower.The answer lies in land use and the long and short of it is that the sailing and paddling communities are to blamed
...for not being right there at every stakeholders' meeting and planning workshop, having it out with the enviros and fighting for access ... some of those blue-hairs who run the park advocacy show think it's more important to preserve the view of the Bay from the freeway than it is to kids the chance to sail or paddle on it.Lee Helms is not speaking disparaging of all environmentalists. It's just,
...get them inside the city limits and they don't know how to balance things ... The main thing is that they don't seem the value of any form of boating and they do a lot of damage to urban park design in the name of open space monoculture. I see them wast a lot of resources blocking that would allow people to float on or touch the water instead of just looking at it. Those resources would be much better spent protecting the habitat where there are fewer people and it's way more cost effective.A twelve-step plan is attached to Max Ebb's Latitude 38 article. Not sure each of them has equal merit, but they seem to be internally consistent and reinforcing.
I'm cherry-picking my favorite parts to amplify my previous written and oral ranting:
Personally, I would refine and sharpen some of the points made above. But, in general I would feel good defending them.
- Show up at meetings that address waterfront land use planning. Take back the priority list from the advocates of waterfront parks habitat restoration. They seem to believe the Bay should be observed from a park bench or trail but never touched or floated on. Urban waterfront parks work best when they mix open space and water-related recreation. Carrying these principles to new park projects is critical.
- Support on-site storage for small craft. Cars of the future will not be very good at hauling boats around. Housing of the future will be less likely to have garages or driveways and there will be reduced options for storing even small boats or sail boards at home. Rental on-site storage keeps small craft ownership viable. Note that even if on-site facilities include parking, they still reduce driving miles because after-work or other combined trips do not have to go home first to pick up the gear. Build it and they will come.
- Infiltrate the most powerful open space and advocacy groups. It's for their own good. Audubon Society needs to realize that every kayaker becomes a birder and Sierra Club needs to realize that every sailor becomes a stakeholder in the natural shoreline. These groups should be the natural allies of non-motorized sailors and paddlers -- the trailerable power boat or Jet Ski (usually hauled around by a SUV) is the natural enemy. Join these groups and help set policies.
- Support no-wake areas and powerboat bans. Thrill craft activities is usually preemptive of quiet and non-annoying forms of boating and reduces the carrying capacity of small bodies of water. We don't need for the next fuel price shock to divert some of the market back to sail and power.
- Support mandatory licensing for power boat operators. Power boats are many times more hazardous than sailboats yet popular the perception is that beginners need lessons for sailing but not for power. This perception needs to be reversed.
- Forget about big boats. It's the wrong demographic for growth. Promoting big boat events [and marketing slips] may generate short-term gains for the industry and is always valuable for its own sake. And of course its vital for people in the big boat business. But it brings in little new blood compared to small craft access.
I'll just have to read Nick Hayes' Saving Sailing. I think he's hitting hard on the need to change human behavior with introductory individual and small group instruction. That's important. But that's just retail. What's needed and called for, as Max Ebb and Lee Helm point out, is wholesale expansion of access.