One of the things that we get asked all the time is ‘How do you learn how to sail? Where is a good place to start?’ It’s a complex question really because every sailor is different and we all have our own reasons for wanting to get out on the water. For some people, for instance, being on a boat is as natural as being on land.
They’ve spent their childhoods growing up in marinas, learning how to tie soft shackle knots and hopping around decks with catlike agility. For these people, skill on the water is a natural, innate thing. But, what about the rest of us? Can you start from scratch and still become a master sailor?
Of course you can. The sea is an accommodating mistress. Treat her with care and you’ll have the time of your life learning how to give her what she needs. Besides, we’ve all got to start somewhere and taking formal lessons is a great way to instil high sailing standards. You’ll learn how to stay safe, how to maintain your boat, and how to maximise its full potential.
This guide to sailing essentials for first timers will help you get to grips with the things that you need before you make a start.
Pick a Suitable Training Course
The first step is to find a local sailing course that can teach you the basics. We recommend joining a qualified sail training centre, like Yachting Australia or the Royal Yachting Association. It is really important that you only work with licensed and accredited providers. You can ask for details of this at your first meeting. Don’t forget that learning how to sail a bigger boat, such a multihull, requires specialist training. Get in touch with the team at Multihull Solutions for information on the best multihull sailing courses in your area.
Protect Yourself from the Elements
If there’s one thing that we can’t stress enough, it’s the importance of staying comfortable. Spending time out on the water can be a huge rush, but having soggy feet and freezing cold fingers kind of takes the shine off of the experience. Before you start lessons, invest in some high-quality sailing gloves, a waterproof jacket, and some thick, warm jumpers. Store them all in a waterproof duffel bag that is easy to carry on and off the deck.
Look After Your Body
It might sound like an obvious piece of advice, but you’d be surprised at how many trainee sailors skip breakfast and spend their lessons feeling cranky. Learning how to sail is much like learning any skill; if you’re not distracted by an empty stomach, cold hands, or wet feet, you’re going to find it easier to focus on the task at hand. So, turn up for lessons fully prepared. Get a good rest the night before, eat a hearty breakfast, and bring a packed lunch along if you’re going to be hard at work for the whole afternoon.
Put Together a Starter Kit
Just like your first day at school, starting out on a sailing course requires you to have the right tools. It is a good idea to get yourself a small pencil case, where you can keep pencils, erasers, rulers, and other bits and pieces. You will be making notes and taking down the most important parts of lessons, so be prepared. You’ll need a reliable compass and if you can get your hands on one, a handheld GPS device. While it’s fine to prefer digital tools, learning how to use both analogue and computerised equipment could help you to avoid sticky situations when cruising offshore.
Read and Read Some More
Any long time sailor will tell you that books are no preparation for being out on the water, particularly when confronted with a situation that you’ve never handled before. You can’t learn to captain a boat using books alone, but they are a valuable resource. The more information that you read and digest, the easier it will be to put into practice when your instructor gives you the manual lesson. So, become knowledge hungry. Read up on tide patterns, predicting the wind, basic repairs, and how to anchor in tight spaces. Get to know the sea from up-close and afar.