Sailing is an old and enjoyable sport that everyone can do regardless of their experience level. Many people learn it from family, friends or take lessons. Most times, sailing is passed down to different generations. So what about those who don’t have sailing connections?
Buying a boat is expensive, and it’s even costlier if you don’t know how to maintain it. For this reason, most people prefer to enroll for sailing lessons online or at their local yacht club. However, others who can’t access a yacht club have to learn to sail independently.
The good news is that it’s possible to teach yourself how to sail. Even though many people learn sailing from experienced sailors, you can teach yourself in a controlled environment. As long as you observe the safety protocols, you can quickly learn how to sail.
Can You Teach Yourself How to Sail?
Yes. You can learn to sail from online lessons on YouTube and other platforms. However, beginners are advised to start sailing in a safe water body in a small dinghy. Also, before you head out, ensure that you read about the currents, tides, and weather conditions.
Learning how to sail isn’t difficult. You only need a few practice runs or lessons, and you will be good to go. But please remember that perfecting this skill takes time. So, you must be ready to read, memorize and cover a significant amount of nautical miles.
How Long Will It Take to Learn to Sail?
The exact time it takes will depend on the sailing level you want to learn and the learning method. If you only want to learn sailing basics, a few lessons in the afternoons can help. But if you plan on cruising, you need several months of learning both theory and practical. In that case, it’s best to take a sailing course.
A structured sailing course can help you learn the ins and outs of sailing. However, please remember that even the best course can’t prepare you for the various conditions you will find outside. Note that weather conditions change and places are not the same. Therefore, you will most likely experience something different every time you sail.
Steps to Learn How to Sail
Step 1: Learn Boat Basics and Terms
An essential step in learning how to sail is knowing the terms and basics of sailing. Otherwise, it will be confusing for you when you are in the waters. You need to know the parts of a sailboat and understand their functions. Please do not attempt to sail before you learn the mechanics behind sailing. Once you know and understand the boat, you can figure out what is happening while on the water.
Your knowledge of the boat will help you know what to do when sailing. Some terms you need to understand include;
• Hull- the boat’s lower part which balances it and minimizes drag
• Mast- a pole found on the boat’s center that carriers the sails
• Keel- a tiny plank sticking out from the hull’s bottom. It prevents the sailboat from tripping
• Mainsail- a large sail serving as the boat’s engine. It helps propel the boat
• Rudder- this part is connected to the tiller to assist in steering the boat
• Jib- a small sail that adds power to the mainsail
You also should learn about boom, stays, cleat, winch, transom, centerboard, and block. While these terms sound simple, they are very vital. For example, stays are ropes/wires tethering the mass to the deck or hull. They help support the mast to prevent it from collapsing when there is a strong wind.
Step 2: Know the Sailing Techniques
Once you learn the basics of sailing, your next step is to research sailing techniques. You can use YouTube and Sailing Forums. Try to answer as many questions as possible, including how to sail upwind, what to do if your boat capsizes, how a boat should be when you sail, etc.
Make sure you understand what capsizing, tacking, furling, and jibing are. Also, please educate yourself on the types of sailboats and what differentiates them. For instance, keel type and sail plan make each boat type different and are an essential consideration when choosing a sailboat.
Step 3: Get a Boat
Now that you understand the basic terms and techniques of sailing and sailboats, you need to get yourself a boat. Buying a boat is certainly an option, but you don’t have to, especially when you don’t have that budget. It’s always advisable to start with a small open boat like a sunfish or dinghy.
If you prefer not to buy a boat, renting is an option. Many recreational or public lake areas offer rental boats. You can also find one in places that rent kayaks and rentals.
Step 4: Ensure Safety
With a boat in place, it’s now time to start sailing. But not so quick. You need to ensure that you are as safe as you can be. Ensure that you have safety gear, especially if you are the boat’s captain. The law directs all sailors to have a flotation device and a baler (you can use a bucket, pump, or scoop). You should also have a throwing line, a paddle, and a whistle noisemaker.
Additionally, inspect your boat to ensure that it is safe. And wear the proper clothing for the weather.
Step 5: Go Out
It’s finally time to drop your boat in the water and start sailing. Please ensure that you sail in a controlled environment and bring someone to stand in the show to keep an eye on you. If you can find a professional sailor, sail with them. Never go sailing alone.
Once in the water, practice sailing upwind and downwind. Learn how to control your boat’s speed and direction. Also, understand that the sailboat usually heels over one side when sailing.
Don’t be upset if you capsize. Figure out how to flip it over or call for help. If using a small boat, you can hang onto the centerboard. However, you will need some assistance, which is why you need to have an experienced sailor with you.
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