Washington, D.C., is known for its iconic landmarks, historic sites, and vibrant culture. But did you know that this bustling city also offers a unique opportunity to explore its beauty from the water? Sailing on the Potomac River is a captivating and serene way to experience the nation's capital. Sailing has been a part of Washington's history since its inception. The city's location along the Potomac River and Anacostia Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay made it a natural hub for maritime activities. The Potomac River, with its calm waters and proximity to the city, became a popular choice for sailing enthusiasts.  

Sailing the Potomac: Where to Start?  

Whether you're an experienced sailor or a beginner, there are various options for you to set sail on the Potomac River. Where to go sailing in Washington, DC? Take a look here:  

Sailing Clubs in the area:  

1. Sailing Club of Washington (SCOW):  SCOW is an all-volunteer sailing club that was chartered on July 12, 1966 "to provide the membership with the opportunity and instrumentalities to become expert in the art of sailing for their individual and mutual education, benefit and enjoyment." Over 50 years later, SCOW continues to adhere to its purpose, providing its 400+ members with an environment for fellowship and continuing education in the art of sailing.  

SCOW offers basic sailing lessons, private use of SCOW boats by members, club sponsored social activities and racing, and a place for members to come together and enjoy the sport and recreation of sailing.  

Membership is open to anyone who has an interest in sailing and is willing to help out. The club is staffed entirely with volunteers who manage the training, skipper certification, boat maintenance, and other activities that keep the club running. The SCOW sailing fleet consists of three 25 ft. Catalina cruisers and six 19 ft. Flying Scots. SCOW is one of the most active clubs in the region. SCOW sails out of the Washington Sailing Marina in Alexandria, just south of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.  


2. DC Sail: DC Sail is the community sailing program of the National Maritime Heritage Foundation. DC Sail promotes and sustains affordable educational, recreational and competitive sailing programs for all ages in a fun and safe environment. DC Sail empowers its participants to develop self-respect and sportsmanship, foster teamwork, and cultivate sailing skills and an appreciation for maritime-related activities. In addition, DC Sail enhances the DC community by using sailing to bolster community spirit and volunteerism.  

Sailing opportunities are available for adults and youth aboard small boats as well as a 65-foot schooner, American Spirit. Proceeds from these programs and year-around fundraising initiatives support the DC Sail Youth Scholarship Program, offering kids the opportunity to learn to sail, boating and water safety as well as an appreciation for our fragile waterway systems.  

DC Sail provides sailing lessons for adults as well as children through Kids Set Sail and the High School Racing Program. DC Sail also organizes the Cantina Cup Regatta and the Halloween Regatta. DC Sail has a fleet of seven 19’ Flying Scots and 18 Flying Juniors, which are available to DC Sail members for rent. DC Sail is based at the Wharf and the Diamond Teague Park Piers in Washington, D.C.  


3. Potomac River Sailing Association (PRSA): PRSA was founded in 1935 to provide a focal point for small boat sailing on the Potomac. If you are new to the area or new to sailing, there is no better way to meet others with similar interests than through PRSA. PRSA holds more than 40 days of bona fide one-design racing each year: more than 150 races, with roughly 2,500 dinghy starts, plus weekday evening races, clinics, training seminars, and various other fleet-sponsored activities. PRSA sails out of the Washington Sailing Marina in Alexandria. Club members own their own boats. PRSA is a great place to get into racing as skippers are always looking for crew. 


4. Pentagon Sailing Club (PSC):   The Pentagon Sailing Club was started in the early 1980’s by a group of US Military Officers and Department of Defense Civilians that worked together in the Pentagon. Today membership in PSC is open to all members of the Department of Defense Community, US Military Active and Retired, USCG as well as civilians from all walks of life. The PSC has over 400 members and continues to grow. PSC sails out of the Capital Cove Marina on Bolling Air Force Base. PSC has a fleet of four Catalinas that they use for training, including ASA certification and racing. PSC also organizes several social events.   


5. Dangerfield Island Sailing Club (DISC):  The Dangerfield Island Sailing Club is a local racing club run entirely by volunteers who enjoy sailboat racing on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. DISC has both spinnaker and non-spinnaker fleets, and welcomes anyone who wants to sail as a skipper or as crew.  


You can also find sailing lessons at two of our local area marinas: 

6. Washington Sailing Marina: The Washington Sailing Marina, located on Daingerfield Island, just south of south of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, is home to over 600 Potomac boaters, a renowned summertime Sailing School, four local collegiate teams, and several sailing clubs. WSM also has Flying Scots, Aqua Finns and Hobie Cats for rent.


7. Belle Haven Marina: Belle Haven Marina, located just south of historic Old Town Alexandria along the George Washington Memorial Parkway and adjacent to Dyke Marsh, is a quaint, scenic marina owned by the National Park Service and operated by Belle Haven Marina Inc. Weather permitting, a limited number of Flying Scot and Sunfish sailboats, jon boats, canoes, single and double kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards will be available for minimum of two-hour rentals. They also provide basic sailing lessons for adults and children.


There are also several yacht clubs active in the area. 

Check out the Capital Yacht Club, National Potomac Yacht Club, the Old Dominion Boat Club, and the Port of Washington Yacht Club.