Sailor or Not, The Sailing Club of Washington Welcomes All

For those mainly in it to meet people, an abundance of opportunities await at Sailing Club of Washington, read about them here!

A 19’ Flying Scot, filled with members of SCOW getting ready to sail on the Potomac. (Photo: Chris Damond)

Alexandria, VA – Daingerfield Island, located off the George Washington Memorial Parkway just north of Alexandria, is a secluded stretch of land with breathtaking views of the Potomac River, the final approach to Reagan National, and, particularly at night, the District skyline.

The island is also home to the Washington Sailing Marina, where the Sailing Club of Washington (SCOW) hosts its activities.

The club is a 100% volunteer-run organization with a fleet of nine sailboats that invites members to relax and sail on the Potomac through numerous events, including informal Wednesday night races and weekend regattas. But the sailing aspect of the club is by no means the whole picture. It also acts as a platform that facilitates another of the organization’s goals: socialization.

With such a friendly environment, this isn’t hard to do at all. As member Rachel Hoover says, “I have always felt really welcomed in, and that’s one of the most special things about SCOW: it isn’t cliquey.”

There’s something for everyone. SCOW has over 400 members, and while a good portion of them don’t know how to sail, many are still interested in sailboats and being on the water.

The author steering the rudder of a Flying Scot. (Photo: Jake Joyce)

For those mainly in it to meet people, an abundance of opportunities await. Weekly social sails are held Thursdays at 6 p.m., which encourages interaction through leisurely sailing and onshore gatherings with plentiful amounts of food and drink, courtesy of SCOW. Open to the public, these Thursday evening get-togethers are also a great way for potential members to get a sense of the community that makes up the club. [Editor’s Note: During the pandemic, members and guests have brought their own food. From SCOW, “When things open up, we hope to be able to provide food, but right now, bring your own.]

Anyone can also partake in monthly membership meetings, which are held several times throughout the year, and include speakers who shine a light on different features of the club.

Membership is inexpensive: a yearly payment of $60 for the individual or $110 for a family bundle. It includes access to other events like races, regattas, picnics, and weekend Potomac River activities, which are full of social opportunities.

The Daingerfield Island shoreline looking toward the District. Families often gather on the lawn to picnic and relax. (Photo: Chris Damond)

It doesn’t even matter if you’ve never sailed before; the club is open to all. Come, be part of the crew, and learn. The members will embrace you with open arms. As Commodore Brian McPherson says, “Everyone’s willing to help, without being a know-it-all.”

Participation in the crew not only teaches one to sail but also acts as a team-building exercise that strengthens comradery, further strengthening the club’s tight-knit community. And for those looking to take their sailing skills to the next level, SCOW offers basic lessons (for an additional fee) taught on the six 19-foot Flying Scots. Advanced training to become a skipper of the three 25-foot cruisers is also available. The end goal: to help participants become skipper certified, allowing them to sail the boats that SCOW provides free of charge.

SCOW members start to gather for a Thursday night social sail. (Photo: Chris Damond).

Training has been a part of the club since it formed in 1966 when a group of sailors bought their first boat, which they realized was much cheaper than renting, and founded the club. Over 55 years later, SCOW has evolved into something much more than teaching people how to sail. While there are numerous reasons people join and love it, perhaps one member sums it up best: “Lifetime friendships.”

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