Sailing 101

Your guide to setting sail on an adventure!

Sailing Tips & Advice For Beginners (or Experts).

Sailing is riddled with unfamiliar terms and foreign concepts, but it is really easier than you think. The rewards outweigh any trepidation you may have about learning to sail, guaranteed.

What Does a Sailboat Do?

Although there are different types of sailboats they all generally do the same thing – they move toward the direction of the wind (upwind), away from the direction of the wind (downwind), or across the wind (perpendicular). When traveling upwind or perpendicular the boat is acting like an airplane wing. When traveling downwind you are being pushed by the wind.

Sailing Safety Tips

As a beginner you should not sail alone despite the fact that many experienced sailors do sail unsupervised (although even that is not recommended). Whether you are with a friend, small group, or by yourself, these tips are will be helpful:

Stay with the boat, always. It is true that it is easier to find a boat than a person. You should never leave your sailboat, unless you’re looking to recreate a scene from Castaway.

Pay close attention to time. If you go out for 45 minutes keep in mind that the ride back to the docks could easily take twice as long. When making your plans be sure to consider when the weather will change and what time it gets dark.

Put your life vest on at the first sign of trouble. The first sign of trouble could be that you don’t feel well, or that the weather is changing. Act sooner rather than later, even if you think it is just precautionary.

Never raise the mainsail while the boat is on the dock. Raising the mainsail will cause the boat to move, which can (and likely will) cause damage to the hull. It is also possible that people will laugh and point at your rookie mistake (it’s all in good fun though).

Sailing FAQs

How can I tell where the wind is coming from? The easiest way is to look at the water. The waves will always be traveling in the direction of the ocean. You can also stand on the boat and turn different directions while paying notice to the direction your hair flows as you rotate.

It is really loud, am I doing something wrong? No, you’re not. The sails flap and make a lot of noise. The loud sounds are normal and not a sign that you are doing anything wrong.

How do I know I’m ready to sail alone? If you have to ask the question you’re probably not ready. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so give yourself the proper amount of time to learn.

What should I do if the boat flips over?Capsizing your boat is part of the sailing process and isn’t anything you should be embarrassed about. In fact, if you’re learning to sail you better expect to flip a few times. Some seasoned sailors might even insist you do it on purpose a few times. It is most important to not become tangled in the rope and straps, and then follow these steps:

(1)  Swim alongside the boat to the centerboard. Do not let go of the boat or you risk it being blown away from you.

(2)  Rotate the bow of the boat upwind.

(3)  As the boat begins to right itself, you can grab the side to continue pulling it upright.

Read more about how to right a capsized boat.

About The Proper Clothing

If you are sailing in the summer months you should be prepared with quick drying clothing. It may be hot inland, but it is usually cooler on the water. In the winter months you should wear a wetsuit. Sunscreen, sunglasses and clothing that protects from the sun’s rays is always important when out on the water.

Top Sailing Destinations

Sailing is enjoyed around the world during all seasons. The best sailing locations include:

  • Grenadines
  • The Bahamas
  • Catalina Island, California
  • Croatia
  • Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  • Newport, Rhode Island
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • French Rivera, France
  • Key West, Florida
  • Minorca, Spain

When choosing a sailing destination remember that while wind is a requirement to power the sailboat, it can also be a hazard. It’s imperative to check the weather forecast and research the tides.

But … I Don’t Have a Sailboat?

No one said you needed to have a sailboat to enjoy a day of sailing. Consider taking lessons (boat included) or renting a sailboat. If you don’t think you’re ready to go out alone you can rent a sailboat with an experienced captain – all you have to do is sit back and relax.


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