Nelson’s Has Great Sailing
The Nelson Sailing Center is located in the Victorian town of Island Heights, just inside the mouth of the Toms River. For the novice sailor, the protected waters and consistent winds of the Toms River are perfect to develop their sailing skills. Barnegat Bay is minutes away with many great destinations for day and overnight trips.
Toms River has been compared to Annapolis or Newport as a center of sailing activity. Though it is not as busy or as commercial as those places, the sailing lifestyle is just as alive. The enthusiasm for sailing is shown in the fact that there are five yacht clubs that line the river, and there is an equal or larger number on the Bay proper.
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Sailing on Barnegat Bay
Barnegat Bay, especially the stretch South of the Rt 37 (“Seaside”) Bridge, offers truly some of the best sailing on the East Coast of the US.
It is Scenic, Protected, Breezy, and Clean.
Barnegat has an abundance of wildlife, beaches, rivers, lagoons, and coves, as well as nature preservation areas, and no high-rise development (except “Old Barney”).
While the full length of the bay extends to around 20 miles, the maximum width of the bay is only around 2 miles. This is enough to give a feeling of space, but not enough to allow large waves to build up. It provides easy access to the sea, for those who are qualified and adventurous, but it is free of commercial traffic, and it has gentle currents (except near the inlet). And the tidal range is mere inches. There are many rivers feeding into the bay which provide shelter and places to anchor and explore. The rivers and creeks are home to dozens of marinas and water-side attractions, including “dock and dine” restaurants.
Barnegat Bay has been described in sailing magazines as one of the most reliable wind areas on the East Coast. There is a good reason for that. The Island Beach peninsula is very narrow, so the sea breeze blows right across. On the other hand, the LI Sound, for example (often joking referred to as the “Dead Sea”) is blocked from the Atlantic sea breezes by many miles of land. On Barnegat Bay, the typical afternoon breeze comes up around lunch time and blows from the SE at 10 to 18 miles per hour. This is perfect. If you want to have a blast, head out into the open water of the bay, where the wind is often strongest.. If you want to have gentler breezes, try sailing in the Toms River.
Barnegat Bay is clean. The waters support fish and shellfish of all sorts. There are public and private beaches all up and down the bay. People swim in it by the thousands each year. One of the great pleasures of sailing on the bay is a stop at a quiet cove or at Tices Shoal for a refreshing swim. Unlike other popular sailing areas, the conditions below the surface at Barnegat Bay are not scary. On the Hudson, if there is a splash from a wave, one’s first thought is “close your mouth”. A swim in the Shrewsbury/Navesink or in Raritan Bay can leave you with a “slick”. Thankfully, Barnegat is still unpolluted. Let’s keep it that way. Respect the environment.