The NLSA's Brightlingsea Coastal Sailing Centre 

The Centre is based in a residential clubhouse with accommodation and cooking facilities for 16 in the small Essex town of Brightlingsea, situated on the Colne estuary between Colchester and Clacton and has a fleet of 6 Wayfarer dinghies and 2 Safety boats.  

With a long maritime tradition of fishing and boat building, Brightlingsea is a well-known centre for leisure boating, providing a huge expanse of sheltered estuary and coastal waters ideal for RYA dinghy and powerboat courses, dinghy day cruising and racing at all states of the tide. 

Brightlingsea's location on a creek near the mouth of the River Colne gives easy access at all states of the tide to a large and sheltered tidal sailing area with extensive areas of sheltered water in the Colne suitable for beginners even in relatively strong winds, but trips further afield also provide challenging sailing for the more experienced.  For day sailing there are many destinations within easy reach in most combinations of tide and wind.

For information about the history of Brightlingsea and the surrounding area, visit: and

Click here for the March 2024 BRIGHTLINGSEA Newsletter

Boats at Brightlingsea

At the Brightlingsea Centre, members and guests sail Wayfarers which can accommodate up to four people in their 16-foot length and are excellent sea boats with good stability. They have an easily-reefed rig but can also provide exciting and lively performance sailing, being equipped with spinnakers and trapezes.

Boat Maintenance weekends

As part of the ongoing maintenance of the boats at Brightlingsea, twice a year in the Spring and Autumn, we run weekends at the Brightlingsea Centre to carry out repairs and routine maintenance.  

It is a great opportunity for members to learn practical skills.  The weekends are free to members, and board and lodgings are provided free to members in return for some elbow grease, if you could spare a day or two, your support is always welcome.

Sailing and Powerboating at Brightlingsea

The Brightlingsea Coastal Sailing Centre is an RYA Recognised Training Centre and is operated as a joint venture between The North London Sailing Association (NLSA) which owns and operates the clubhouse and The North London Youth Sailing Trust (NLYST) which owns and operates the boats and sailing equipment.

The Centre's "on the water" operations each year take place between April and October.

A series of weekend and longer duration cruising and informal training activities are offered during the operating season each year as well as RYA dinghy and powerboat courses.

When not in use by the NLSA, the Centre can also offer sailing activities or RYA dinghy and powerboat courses for organised groups from other sailing organisations using either the Centre's Senior Dinghy Instructors/ Powerboat Instructors, who are currently registered by the Centre, or if under the supervision of an RYA Senior Dinghy Instructor/Powerboat Instructor who has been registered to operate at the Centre by the Centre's RYA Principal following Induction Training. 

during April and October each year and when necessary at other times, the Centre organises weekends for maintenance work on the boats and the clubhouse.

For further information contact the Bookings Coordinator, Christine Williams, at

NLSA Dinghy Cruising Weekends

NLSA runs a number of sailing weekends and longer duration cruising and informal training activities each year between April and October for members and their guests.  All sailing is supervised by a volunteer Senior Instructor and full safety cover is provided.  

Sailing is often day cruising to one of the many destinations on the Colne or Blackwater estuaries or informal training such as for example, anchoring, sailing without a rudder or tidal racing practice.

If there is sufficient demand and a volunteer Senior Instructor is available, weekends can be organised especially structured for member families including children between 8 and 14.

For further information on dinghy cruising activities at Brightlingsea, click on the booking link below or contact the Bookings Coordinator, Christine Williams, at

The following activities are run most years:

"Introduction to Coastal Sailing" Coaching Weekends

These coaching weekends, led by an experienced volunteer Senior Instructor, are tailored to give newer members a gentle introduction to the differences between sailing on inland waters and at the coast.  Experienced members familiar with sailing at Brightlingsea will also be present to offer guidance and support if needed. 

Those sailing for the first time in coastal waters will have the opportunity to practise their Level 2 skills in tidal conditions so that by the end of the weekend they will be more familiar and confident in coastal sailing.

We aim to run two such weekends each year.  The first takes place near the beginning of the spring, summer and Autumn coastal sailing season for those who starting sailing during the previous year and now wish to extend they sailing experience.  The second takes place towards the end of the season for those more recently new to sailing.

Cruising to Burnham-on-Crouch

A challenging three or four-day event with a 6 hour open seas sail of 17 miles each way in Wayfarer dinghies from Brightlingsea to Burnham on the Friday, then exploring locally along the River Roach on the Saturday, before another long day's sailing back to Brightlingsea on the Sunday or Monday. 

This event is suitable for confident sailors with good coastal sailing experience, preferably including attendance at previous events or RYA courses at our Brightlingsea Centre.

Overnight accommodation is at the Royal Burnham Yacht Club.  Depending on suitable tides, this trip takes place at a suitable date during the summer period.

"Ladies who Launch" weekend

This exclusively female weekend will be led by Liz and Jessie Faulkner, both Senior Instructors familiar with our Brightlingsea Clubhouse and Boats, and the Local Waters.

The sailing during the weekend could be a mixture of day cruising to one of the many destinations on the Colne or Blackwater estuaries or informal training in the River Colne, closer to Brightlingsea, depending on the overall wishes of the group.

The West Mersea "Round the Island" Race.

This very active day's racing involves first sailing the boats the 7 miles to West Mersea for the start, then taking part in the race around Mersea Island over a circuit of about 16 miles, including lifting the boats across the "Strood" causeway that links Mersea Island to the mainland and finally, after the finish at West Mersea, sailing the boats 7 miles back to Brightlingsea, so a total of about 30 miles for the day. The race usually takes place over a weekend of September and is organised by West Mersea Yacht Club.

In 2024 it will be on Saturday 21st September.

For more information visit West Mersea Yacht Club

RYA Courses at NLSA Brightlingsea

Brightlingsea Coastal Sailing Centre organises a wide range of residential RYA dinghy and powerboat courses which are very good value, compared with commercial rates elsewhere, and in additional there are further discounts for NLSA members.  

For further information on RYA courses at Brightlingsea, click on the booking link below or contact the Bookings Coordinator, Christine Williams, at

The following RYA courses are run most years:

RYA Level 3 "Better Sailing" Course

The Better Sailing course is intended to practise and consolidate Level 2 sailing skills. It introduces some of the activities the more advanced modules have to offer, helping to build confidence and support the development of good technique and independent sailing. It is also an excellent introduction to tidal sailing. 

RYA Level 4 Advanced "Seamanship Skills" Course

The Seamanship Skills course is intended for those who have already achieved the practical skills and absorbed the background knowledge required for Level 3. 

The course includes, among many other things, skills such as sailing without a rudder or a centreboard, sailing backwards and anchoring. The emphasis is on increasing self-reliance and decision-making so the sailor can manoeuvre a dinghy in a seamanlike manner and make seamanship decisions in moderate conditions. 

RYA Level 5 Advanced "Dinghy Day Sailing" Course

This is a 2-day course and before it, you should be able to perform your sailing skills to the standard Level 3 - 'Better Sailing' or Level 4 - ' Advanced Sailing'.  

With both practical and classroom-based theory, where you are taught how to prepare and plan for a day sail, including pilotage and decision-making.  You will become familiar with the tidal flow of the area, safety considerations and precautions that need to be taken for a trip and how to be prepared for all eventualities.  By the end of the course, you will be able to execute a day sail, depending on the conditions.

RYA "Powerboat Level 2" Course

The 2 day Powerboat Level 2 course teaches boat handling and seamanship in powerboats.

For those who are already familiar with sailing and handling dinghies, it is generally not necessary to complete the 1 day powerboat level 1 course before joining the level 2 course.

Powerboat level 2 courses generally take place for a group of 3 students per instructor and can be organised when required.

RYA "Safety Boat" Course

The 2 day Safety Boat course is for holders of Powerboat level 2 certificates and introduces the techniques used when providing safety and rescue cover for training and racing fleets and for assisting in race management.

Safety Boat courses generally take place for a group of 3 students per instructor and can be organised when required.



Beach Huts

Bateman's Tower



NLSA's Residential Sailing Centre

In 1986 an exciting chapter unfolded for NLSA with the very fortunate acquisition of a seaside gem, a coastal sailing base in Brightlingsea, Essex, marking a significant milestone, setting the stage for the club's expansion and commitment to promoting sailing beyond the reservoir, to out on the open sea. 

This iconic building underwent a transformative redevelopment in the mid-90s, enhancing its facilities to provide what is now a more comfortable and modern experience to enjoy. 


Groups of up to 16 members can be accommodated at the Centre, a converted historic building. Accommodation is in bunk beds in simple but comfortable dormitories or in two-person cabins, and the house is centrally heated with showers and drying facilities. Weekends are run on a group self-catering basis, with everyone contributing to the domestic activities. 


Teaching takes place in the main room of the house which works as a classroom and dining area.


Full cooking facilities available to cater for up to 16 people.

Dorm 1 

Six-person room - made up of 3 sets of bunks.  Comfy mattress and pillows provided 

(Bedding not included)

Dorm 2

Six-person room - made up of 3 sets of bunks.  Comfy mattress and pillows provided 

(Bedding not included)

Shower rooms

Two cubicles with electric showers provide hot water on demand.

Outdoor seating

Seating outside is available suitable for debriefing, or refreshments.

Safety Equipment 

Buoyancy aids and waterproofs are provided

Classroom materials

Nautical teaching aids are used in training and briefing sessions.

Fish and chips

Classroom lessons

Afternoon teas

Social events

For alternative accommodation in Brightlingsea -  

North London Youth Sailing Trust

NYLST (North London Youth Sailing Trust) was set up in partnership with the NLSA to organise, provide or assist in the organisation or provision of facilities that will enable and encourage pupils of schools and places of further education and youth training in those London boroughs and their adjacent areas which are north of the River Thames, to learn and undertake sailing and allied activities and thereby to assist in assuring that due attention is given to the physical education and development of such pupils as well as the development and occupation of their minds.

Alternatively, visit