Sailing Basics 101: What You Need to Know

Learn the sailing basics can be pretty tough. But there are so many ways to learn how to sail. First, you can jump in a boat with a friend and try to learn from experience. Second, sign up for a formal course at a sailing school. And lastly, buy or borrow a small sailboat and do it all on your own. It may sound easy, but what are the basics when it comes to sailing?

Do you want to know more? Well, climb on deck and let’s dive right in!

The Basic Steps of Sailing

Know the different parts of a sailboat.

If you don’t know the components of a sailboat, you may be in trouble. For example, someone yells “prepare to tack” or “watch the boom,” and you’re standing there confused.  That’s why it’s essential to know main parts of a boat for both safety purposes and to be able to sail as efficiently as possible. You should also learn about the sailing equipment that you’ll use when you can go on sailing vacations.

Understanding basic sailing terminologies.

You have to understand sailing terms so that you won’t get confused. You can start by reviewing these basic sailing terms. Don’t worry about memorizing everything as many of these terms and concepts will become more evident as you learn on about how to do it.

Understand navigational buoys.

It is essential to look out for and honor navigational buoys—they’ll let you know where the safe water exists. Red floats are almost left continuously to port while green buoys are left to starboard. (Remember, Red-Right-Returning).

Discover how to maneuver.

Sailing in a set direction is reasonably comfortable, but eventually, you’ll have to change course. That often involves tacking and gybing. Take a moment to learn what’s engaged in these critical maneuvers.

Determine the wind direction.

If your boat doesn’t have some wind direction indicator (windex) at the top of the mast, tie a couple of nine-inch pieces of an old cassette tape, VHS tape, or oiled yarn to the shrouds—the rigging cables that hold up the mast. These will show you from which way the wind is blowing.

One of the sailing basics is using a cassette tape as a windex,  but some sailors find them just too sensitive for this purpose. If that’s the case with you, try using VHS tape or oiled yarn instead.

Practice tying knots.

For thousands of years, sailors have used times where it is cold or raining by doing things like tying knots. Knots are essential on a sailboat, it creates a temporary, non-slipping loop in the end of a line and dropped over a piling when you dock. These are sailing accessories that you should be able to do when you’re out there in the ocean.

Point your direction towards the wind.

The idea is to have the minimum amount of wind resistance when raising the sail, with the sail straight back. In this position, the sail won’t be snagging on any shrouds or any other hardware, either. This method isn’t always easy. The boat won’t turn quickly because it’s not moving (underway). So do the best you can, but be prepared to work for it!

Dock or anchor the boat.

Now you’re out there sailing, and you’ve got the boat under control. You can now learn how to go faster, dock or anchor the boat and use some of the equipment. Bringing a boat in to dock comes with practice, but in a similar way to parking a car, if sailors follow a set of simple steps, it all becomes second nature.

When docking a boat, two key considerations are required – knowledge of the vessel and identifying any potentially tricky wind conditions that could make the process difficult.

Conditions will have an impact on your ability to anchor so recognizing potential changes in tides and currents is vital. The best anchor sites are ones that are protected from the wind and rain, and many charts will show the characteristics of the sea floor where they are known – the ideal bottom is sand or mud.

At this point, you’re good to go. However, it’s good to remember that the water is a dangerous place. Master the sailing basics of safety. Staying safe makes it easier so you can keep having fun out there. Don’t forget to buy the best sailing shoes out there! Those bad boys will help you stand firm against the waves and wind when you’re out there sailing with your family.


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