Sailing in New York Harbor

On a near flawless midsummer's day by anyone's standards -- be they seaman, land-lubber, man, woman, or child -- a family from Switzerland prepares to explore their new city of residence by sailing through the gusting winds and swirling waters surrounding it.

Guiding the Rizzuto family on their maiden voyage is a man from Texas named "Rolling," a potential bad omen seemingly lost upon his crew.

"I've sailed everywhere in the world but this is the greatest view," instructor Charles Rolling said.

Manhattan Sailing School students review their sessions with Rolling as "life-changing" more than they do any other teacher.

"If you can sail here, you can sail most anywhere," Rolling said.

The largest and oldest of New York's four sailing schools taught 1,500 adults plus a group of teenagers and dozens of 8-to-13-year-olds to sail last summer in this harbor, where fresh water meets its saltier relative and ferries pleasure boats, barges, and seemingly every other watercraft in operation today navigate ebbing tides, shifting currents, and changing winds.

The natural geography of this harbor and its combination of westerly winds and a sea breeze made New York the sailing capital of the world in the 1800s. While commerce in this city no longer relies on wind, sailing schools like this one ensure recreation still does.

"It's better than going to therapy for adults," said Commodore Michael Fortenbaugh. "You go out sailing for a day and you come back and you're totally refreshed."

Fortenbaugh founded the Manhattan Yacht Club nearly 30 years ago and nurtured it into the largest adult sailing school in the country.

A move to Jersey City halved the number of his boats in the water this summer, but Commodore Mike recently sold out his fleet for the rest of the season. Customers seemingly buy the school's promise to install sea-legs below, fear astern, and a life at sea ahead by charting a course as the Rizzutos did around the once (and commodore mike hopes future) sailing capital of the world.

"It's just like driving in the city," Fortenbaugh said. "It's a little more complicated than driving in the country."

See Dari Alexander learning to sail in 2014.