With resort sailing schools from Virginia to Vancouver, a novice can learn to work the ropes in a single afternoon.

Sign up for a quick two-hour session ($75) or a four-day course with full certification ($585) at Chesapeake Bay's Premier Sailing School, located at the British Colonial— style Tides Inn in Irvington, Virginia (800/ 843- 3746 or 804/438-5000;; doubles from $195).

Get your hands on the tiller in the clinic across the street from San Diego's Hotel del Coronado (800/468-3533 or 619/435-6611;; doubles from $265). A 90-minute one-on-one lesson aboard an 18-footer costs just $24 (weekends only).

Gather some friends and rent a 40- to 60-foot sailboat for the day at British Columbia's Westin Bayshore Resort & Marina (800/ 937-8461 or 604/682-3377;; doubles from $143). For $900, up to eight people can learn to jibe and reef from the ship's captain while cruising past the Vancouver skyline.