Even the most experienced sea wolves were once complete landlubbers. If you are looking to master the art of sailing, don’t be afraid. Learning how to sail can be hard at first. But thousands of men, women, and even children have managed to become proficient with steering boats and handling sails. And so can you. Imagine the adventures and discoveries that wait ahead. Raise the flag and hoist your sails!
Things to know before you get on a boat
Sailing can be risky, especially for beginners. You need to get familiar with the boat and the basics of sailing before you decide to get out on the water. A little theory will help you to get the most out of your practical experience.
There are three common ways of learning to sail:
Enroll in a course at a sailing school. Choose the most beginner-friendly one.
Ask a friend with sailing experience or hire a professional to help you get some hands-on training.
Buy or rent a small sailboat and figure everything on your own, with the help of books and Youtube.
Get familiar with the sailing lingo
Sailors have a language of their own. There are hundreds of nautical terms to describe everything, including types of boats, parts of a sail, and the range of sailboat movements. For example, the right side of the boat is called the starboard side, and the left side is the port side. The boat’s front is the bow, and the back is the stern. The mast is the vertical pole in the middle of the boat supporting the sails. The boat’s rigging is the set of wires that holds the sails and mast in place.
A good idea is to get a dictionary of sailing terms. Don’t worry about trying to memorize them all at once. You will pick most names and concepts naturally as you progress. Buying a couple of boating magazines or watching some education videos for beginners is enough at first.
Get to know the ropes
Or, more appropriately, the sailing lines. Before you get your boat out in the open, learn to rig it. Rigging means putting on sails and making other preparations using lines. A line is any rope on the boat that has a purpose or use. All lines have different names according to the jobs they do. Lines that control the sails are called sheets. For example, you use the mainsheet to trim the mainsail. But if you want to hoist the mainsail (pull it up), you will have to use a different line called the halyard.
Try basic sailing techniques
Learn to control the sail and harness the wind. The directions the boat can move and the positions of the sail that allow such movement are called points of sail. Learn to tell which way the wind is blowing using special equipment. For experienced sailors, it becomes second nature. The specific angles at which the wind interacts with the boat have their names. For example, if the wind blows into a side of the boat at 90 degrees, it’s called a beam reach. Depending on your position relative to the wind, you will have to ease or trim the sails.
Sailing includes using a lot of lines. Learning to tie basic sailing knots is a great activity to practice when you are not on the water.
Learn to dock
When you’ve got the sailing basics under control, practice docking and anchoring. They require using other equipment besides the sails.