I want to start with a statement that most would disagree with. Sailing rocks because it is affordable. Most look at the pretty boats moored at expensive marinas and just assume that our sport is out of their league. The "Yacht Club" sailing model with those gorgeous sailing machines in large marina's is not the only one out there. Sailing clubs and co-ops are affordable alternatives. They represent one of the many methods of sharing the cost of ownership.
In the Vancouver area we have several options. Most of these are based out of the Jericho Sailing Center. In the interest of disclosure I should tell you that I have been a member there for several years. The center operates much like a community center. Individual and club memberships are available. Each individual member owns their own boat, while the clubs share a fleet with their members. Two clubs I've been a member of, Viking and Discovery, include access to cruising keel boats as well as a small fleet of dinghies. Membership with the JSCA is much more affordable than storing a boat at a marina, but it does mean you are limited to a boat that you can winch up and down the ramp. The Hollyburn Sailing Club on the north shore of English Bay is another club setup fairly similar to JSCA with both private owners and a co-op fleet.
Shared ownership is another option. I know several families that own boats together and keep them at the Kitsilano Yacht Club. Again in the interest of disclosure I should say that I work at KYC as the Sailing Director. Most boats at the club are owned by more than one person and some have up to four partners. This makes the cost of ownership considerably cheaper. KYC also has a dinghy pass that allows members to sail the training program's boats.
Storing the boat on dry land is one of the ways to control cost. This works well for dinghies, but does put some limits on what you can own. If you want something you could do some cruising in there are several good options, all of which are light enough to be raised up by a crane or winch and stored on the hard. Personally I like the J24 the best. It has accommodations and a galley below and still manages to perform nicely under sail. Google Martin 242 or Siren 20 for two other options.
The point of this entry has been to talk about affordable options available to get out sailing. Personally I have sailed at co-op dinghy clubs here in BC and in Manitoba. There are clubs available on most lakes and rivers in the country. Good examples are the Glenmore Sailing Club in Calgary and the Toronto Island Sailing Club. You can find more searching the internet for sailing clubs in your area or check out the CYA webpage for sailing clubs.
I have really enjoyed sailing from a club. I like that I get access to a varied fleet, so I can choose a boat to suit my crew or the weather conditions that day. I also really like that I always have somebody to sail with. As soon as you join you are part of a group of active sailors and rarely lack a sailing partner. It's also really nice to have people to share the boat maintenance chores with! All in all I think sailing clubs are the way to go and I'm sure you can find one near you.