What to Expect When You Go Sailing With Friends

By: Learn To Sail, Sailing Tips

This Multi-Part Series will focus on what to expect when going out for a leisure sail with friends. This is different from what you might expect when taking your first sailing lesson or sailing with an instructor.

Part #1 Getting To The Boat

You arrive at the sailboat with excitement for your first day of sailing. You’ve listened to Jimmy Buffett and you have your sunscreen and sunglasses packed. Now what?

You get invited to go sailing with some friends and you are excited. How do you prepare? Pack a willingness to have fun and be ready to learn something and you will be fine. If you think you want to go in with some prior knowledge you could learn the parts of the boat, here or you could just get ready for a fun day on the water with friends.  Sailing does not have to be stressful and if you are invited on a daysail by someone who owns a boat they most likely know what they are doing.

Most sailors want to share their passion for sailing but they also understand that first-timers come in all different shapes and sizes. Some people want to bask in the sun and enjoy the day while others want to learn something about sailing.

Again, no pressure, enjoy sailing. Do as much or as little as your captain permits.

(Important: This is not what to expect if you are taking an ASA course. If you take ASA 101 Basic Keelboat Sailing, your first-time experience will be significantly different. This article is closer to what you will experience when you go out with an experienced sailor/friend for a daysail

Here is what you should expect when you get to a sailboat for the first time.

You arrive at the boat and you are ready to set sail.  

When I take new sailors out for the first time I immediately explain a few safety items.  PFD’s come out for everyone on board and I show everyone where they can find additional flotation devices.

“I have never lost anyone overboard but if I do the life jacket will keep them floating as I circle back for them”   I have spoken these words hundreds of times.  I also often say this to teenagers as I point to one or two of my sons. “That guy plays water polo and is an excellent swimmer and he is usually the first person to put a PFD on. If he puts it on and understands how much easier it is to float in the ocean then you should as well.” 

Safety is important so being prepared and cautious is never a bad idea.  

Are there times when we don’t wear PFD’s? Yes, while on bareboat charters on a big catamaran we typically do not wear PFDs. When on our 33 foot Ranger the life jackets come out.

The Parts of the Boat

On your first day out on the water, with friends, you will not be tested on the parts of the boat. After all, you are out for a daysail and not a class. Ask questions and familiarize yourself with the parts of the boat that you see. 

On my daysails with new sailors, I point out a few things that will be important: 

“This is a Tiller, some boats have wheels, this device steers us in the direction that we choose to go in. It is important to note that a tiller will actually take you in the opposite direction that you point it to unless you are going backward. “

Sailing Vocabulary

    • Tiller A lever used to control the angle of the rudder and thereby steer the boat.
    • Helm The tiller or wheel with which the boat is steered.
    • Aft Toward the stern or behind the boat

I usually point out the sails:

“This large sail above us is the mainsail. We could sail with this sail alone but we most likely will also raise the headsail that is called the Jib.  The jib delivers more drive. Again, we could sail with just one of these but together that deliver more efficient use of the wind.” 

Sailing Vocabulary

    • Main Sail The sail attached to the aft side of the mainmast.
    • Main Sheet The line used to control the main boom and thus also to trim the mainsail.
    • Jib A triangular sail set forward of the main mast.
    • Jib Sheet A line attached to the clew of a jib used to adjust its angle to the wind.

As we get ready to sail it is important to explain what we are about to do:

“These sails are “trimmed” by putting these lines around these winches. Don’t worry, there won’t be a test. Once we get going I will explain what I am doing.” 

Other terms you might hear on your first day on a sailboat.

Sailing Vocabulary

    • Winch A device consisting of a gear driven drum that is operated with a handle to provide mechanical advatagewhen hauling on a line: also used to snub a line.
    • Line A length of rope that serves a specific purpose on board.
    • Starboard side The right-hand side of a boat when looking forward.
    • Port side The left-hand side of the boat when facing forward.

Our first day of sailing begins when we toss the lines and are underway.