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How to Sail for Beginners

Updated on October 4, 2014
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Before you become "Jack Sparrow" and get yourself into a boat you have to know every single piece of the boat and equipment.

You need to learn the standing and running rigging on your boat and their functions before you can even think about setting sail.

Wind direction is also something that you need to be familiar with and if you do not have a wind direction indicator on your boat, get one!

Step 1

You need to know the direction of the wind when you are on the water. If your boat does not have a wind direction indicator than get one or make your own with cassette tape.

Research tide and weather conditions before you go out.

When sailing the wind direction is extremely important as this could be the deciding factor as to whether you should set sail or not.

The wind direction can change once you are out at sea and this could have devastating effects if you are caught unaware.

Capsizing is not a pleasant experience and this can easily occur, should you not know the direction of the wind.


Step 2

Perform a detailed visual check of all the standing rigging.

Check the ropes and pull all of the ropes out of their cleats and off their winches. There should be nothing binding any line and everything should be free to move.

Again once you are out at sea, there is no time to find everything you need and if you are not prepared, you could end up in the water.


Step 3

Point the boat in the direction of the wind.

If you are in shallow water than push the boat out away from the dock and anchor it into the sand and the boat will automatically point itself into the direction of the wind.

Put on the tiller and make sure that it is properly attached to the transom.

Hoist the sails.

The sails will catch the wind and you will be able to sail but you need to have a checklist for everything and you need to know the direction of the wind.

It is vital to know which way the wind is going to avoid capsizing or falling overboard.

Step 4

Attach the tack of the mainsail and the jib to their shackles on the boom and bow of the boat.

Hoist the mainsail by pulling down on its halyard all the way until it stops.

The luff must be tight enough to remove folds. Cleat the halyard.

Both sails should be luffing freely now.

Sailing for beginners
Sailing for beginners

Step 5

When sailing remember that sailboats cannot sail directly into the wind.

A sailboat must sail 45 - 50 degrees off the wind and then change direction by tacking.

Step 6

Always let someone no that you are going out, ensure that you have a floatation device and know how to swim!

You also need to let your passengers know that they have got to be safe and warn them about sails and what to do in an emergency.

Ensure that you do have a radio to make contact for any emergencies and let someone know which direction you will be heading to.

If something does go wrong then you will not be left stranded at sea and it will be easy if someone knows your co - ordinates.

Learn to capsize the boat so that you know what to do at sea
Learn to capsize the boat so that you know what to do at sea

Step 7

Capsize your boat to learn what to do in that situation. Make sure you do this in a controlled environment.

It sounds crazy but you do need to know what to do in any emergency situation and capsizing is the most common accident.

To learn how to control this you need to capsize your boat in a small area of water and of course in a safe zone.

You will feel what it is like to capsize and you will learn how to handle the situation.

Step 8

Be aware of the boom at all times for the safety of you, your crew and passengers. Know when it is going to swing and be alert at all times. Respect the boom.

This could knock you or your passengers unconscious and off the boat, which could lead to a number of disasters that will haunt you for life!

Respecting the boom is a serious rule and get your passengers to be aware that it will swing and could be harmful.

Be aware and be alert and learn to duck!

respect the boom
respect the boom
Learn to sail before you go out to sea
Learn to sail before you go out to sea

Step 9

Practice, practice, practice! It is the only way to learn how to do it properly. Go on courses, read books and learn from people with experience.

Once you have learnt every little detail about the sail boat, then you need to learn about how to captain one, then you need to learn about all the dangers and safety precautions in order to go out to sea confidently.

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