Learning to Sail from Scratch – What You Need to Know

For hundreds of years, the sea has caught the attention of many from all over the world. However, breaking into the sailing world can be challenging as there is a lot of information to grasp in order to be successful. Whilst learning the basics of sailing will not take too long – becoming a professional can take years, but once you catch that sea bug, there is no getting rid of it – you will want to learn it all.

If you are thinking of learning to sail, here are a few basic tips to get you started:

  • It is important to choose calm, uncrowded waters to learn in – it is best to practice in the perfect conditions before you go into a sea full of traffic.
  • Don’t go for the largest boat you can find to learn in – start with a small boat and work your way up to the larger ones.  Also, start with a boat only rigged with one sail as this will make learning the basics much easier.
  • It is vital that you follow all safety procedures involved in sailing. There are certain safety precautions that should be taken when sailing, no matter how experienced you are.  Some of these safety regulations include: always inform someone you are going out into the water, ensure you have a flotation device with you – just in case and know how to swim.
  • Before you go out into any water – whether it is to practice or to sail, you should always do your research on the weather conditions. This way you can prepare accordingly – the first thing you should know about sailing, is to always be prepared.
  • You should know how to adjust the sail settings in order to take full advantage of the different weather conditions.
  • Also, remember to be cautious of the boom at all times – this way you will be less likely to be hit by it.
  • Practice, practice, practice!

When learning how to sail, you should also learn the correct sailing terms to use.

One of the most important things to know when learning to sail is to understand which way the wind is coming from in relation to where the boat is. Ensuring your boat is positioned in the correct place in relation to where the wind is blowing is crucial to how you set off and position the weight of the boat. One of the best ways to see where the wind is coming from is to tie small pieces of yarn to the boat’s shrouds in order to see which way they are blowing.

Learning to steer

If you decide you would like to learn to sail, one of the most important lessons is that of how to steer the boat. After all, you won’t get far if you can’t steer!

As the boat starts to move, you need to ensure that you are sat on the side that the wind is blowing over. This is important as the wind will sit against the sails and your weight will be needed on the other side to get the boat to move in the right direction.

Steering can be difficult as it tends to go the opposite way to you. If you wish to go right, you will need to steer the tiller to the left. In the same way, if you desire to move starboard, you will have to move the tiller to port. This will make sense once you learn the mechanics of the boat and how the rudder is hinged – which you will learn during your sailing lessons.

Positioning your sails

The most important, basic rule when it comes to your sails is that the closer you sail towards the direction of the wind, the tighter you will have to pull your sails. In the same way – the further you sail from the direction of the wind, the less you pull on the sails.

Adjusting the sails using the sheets is known as; ‘trimming’. You do this in order to create the best shape for the direction you are sailing in.

If you are interested in learning to sail, it is important that you take sailing lessons for as long as needed and read the how-to books. Sailing is great fun and it doesn’t have to be difficult.

In order to become a great sailor, there are three main skills that you need to understand:

  • How to steer
  • How to tell which way the wind is blowing
  • To be able to recognize when the sail is trimmed properly

Once you have learned and understood these three main skills, you are well on your way to becoming a professional sailor – the world really is your oyster.

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