Sailing season is almost upon us, and that means a lot of people will get their first chance to go out on the water. Here are some beginner sailing tips for making sure you have a safe, fun, and successful voyage.
1. Pick a day with favorable conditions and dress appropriately. Depending on your area, good conditions come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Generally, you want fairly calm seas and lighter rather than stronger winds. Sunshine and 0% chance of precipitation is a plus! Remember that it is often windier and cooler out on the water than it is on shore, so dress appropriately.
2. Have the right boat. When you’re learning, a smaller, more responsive boat makes it easier to understand the dynamics of sailing. ASA 101 courses are taught on 22′ keelboats, which are bigger and sturdier than a dinghy, but small enough that you can really feel the forces of wind and water acting on the boat.
3. Be aware of the boom. The boom is the big, heavy bar at the foot of the mainsail. It swings across the boat whenever you tack or gybe, and you really don’t want it to hit you. It can injure you and even knock you overboard, but it’s easy to avoid as long as you’re paying attention. Whenever you hear talk of tacking or gybing, make sure you’re down in the cockpit, well out of the way. Experienced sailors also know how to control the movement of the boom, mainly by “sheeting in” when preparing for a tack or gybe, as allowing it to move freely causes unnecessary wear on the boat. By a combination of common sense safety and good sail-handling, you can ensure that there’s no danger or unpleasantness.
4. Go with someone who knows what they’re doing. We recommend an ASA instructor. An experienced, trained teacher of sailing will make a world of difference–the difference between a frustrating, unfulfilling experience, and a safe, fun, highly educational experience.
5. Know some basic sailing terms before you go. (We’ve previously covered important sailing terms here.) Learning basic terms such as “tack” and “gybe,” the difference between port and starboard, and the points of sail, is recommended. This will make it easier for you to contribute to sailing the vessel. Once you’re safely back at the dock you can expand your nautical vocabulary to include key phrases such as “beer,” “rum,” and “more beer and rum, please.”
If you do these five things, you’re setting yourself up to have a great time sailing, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned plougher of the high seas. The best way to combine them all into one experience is to sign up for an ASA sailing course at one of our 300 schools nationwide. Find a sailing school near you here.