NSS Instructor TJ Kowalczyk tells us about his experience on the water as a sailor and instructor:

1. How did you first get into sailing?

One spring day I was walking around Boston catching up with my cousin from out of town. We saw the sailboats gliding about the Charles River and agreed that would be a great way to spend the afternoon.

A while later we walked past the Community Boating boathouse with a sign out front that read “Sailing for All” and decided it must be fate. At the front desk I started the exchange with:

“Hello. We are of ‘All’ and we’d like to go sailing.”
“Do you know how to sail”
“How hard could it be!??”

Of course, they went into their “walk in” sales pitch and we didn’t get to go sailing that day. But the next week my cousin sent me a link to a discount for lessons at Community Boating and a note that read:

“Next time I visit Boston you can take me sailing!”

I signed up, fell in love with sailing and here we are.

2. Have you had any disaster scenarios, failures, or simple problems in your sailing career that have given you a valuable lesson as a result?

I’m a big proponent of learning how to sail head-first. I go out looking for trouble and I often find it. I suspect I’ve experienced more failures and “disasters” than most sailors who’ve only been at it since 2010.

During these adventures I’ve done a fair bit of double handed sailing and racing with a friend who is a firefighter/paramedic and he’s got great perspective on so called “disaster scenarios”. When something goes wrong and tensions get high he’ll loudly call for a “fingers, toes and head” check. If everyone is still intact and aboard he follows up with “get your head in the game and work the problem.”

With your head in the right place and most “disaster scenarios” become learning experiences and later entertaining stories. I share some of my stories and sailing advice, along with videos, here at SavvySalt.com.

3. If there’s one thing you can tell new sailors when they are just introduced to the sport, what would you tell them?

Make time for reading. Watch sailing videos. Make time for classes.

But there is simply no substitute for time on the water. Especially time as the Person In Charge of a vessel.

4. What advice would you tell a new sailor to ignore? What are bad recommendations you hear about sailing?

I often hear more experienced sailors insist racing is a great way to get better at sailing. While this can be true, it is also the least true when you’re just starting out.

Once you’ve progressed as a sailor you’ll be poised to learn a lot more through racing. Or you can skip racing altogether; it’s not for everyone.

5. Who most influenced your life when it comes to sailing?

My cousin who I already mentioned; she all but dared me to start sailing.

Though it seems she was bluffing: she has yet to come out sailing with me!

6. Outside of sailing, what is something that you love to do; something that makes you feel alive?

I’ve always loved the water. I love swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing, rafting and pretty much every other way to enjoy the water. Sailing fits right in and for the last 5 years it has been my main focus; I expect sailing will keep me on the water for decades to come!


About TJ Kowalczyk

TJ started sailing in 2010 on the Charles River and was hooked immediately. Since then he’s gone from learning the ropes aboard dinghies to double-handed offshore racing and everything in between. His “question everything” approach to sailing has turned him into an encyclopedia of sailing trivia and a well informed instructor. These days TJ’s life revolves around sailing 9 months of the year and shares lessons learned from his sailing adventures at SavvySalt.com.

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