Following the Wind—A Beginner’s Guide to Sailing
If you live near the ocean, sailing is a great way to spend a summer afternoon. Whether you’re a landlocked beginner or an experienced sailor, read these tips before heading out on your maiden voyage.
Know Which Way the Wind Is Blowing
There’s one skill you really need to sail, and you can practice it without leaving the land. All sailors need to be able to tell what direction the wind is coming from. You’ll then need to orient your sails to catch the wind and take off in your preferred direction.
Most sailboats have a wind vane that you can check for guidance. Learn to develop your own wind sense with a simple test: wet your finger and hold it up into the air. The side that feels cold is the direction that the wind is coming from.
Perform Equipment Checks Before You Sail
Sailing out into the ocean is always a risky endeavor. A sudden gust of wind could carry you far away from the shore.
To stay safe, always run through your equipment checklist before you embark. You need life vests, an emergency horn, and a radio or other means of communication. Don’t skip this vital step; let it become a fun part of your maritime routine.
Keep Your Engine Well Maintained
Marine engines are similar to car engines; they require fluids and regular maintenance to stay in peak running condition.
If you’re not mechanically inclined, ask someone to inspect your volvo penta marine engine or the engine of your particular brand, every few months. You should definitely get it checked out after your boat has been in storage for the winter. That engine is your only way to get home if the wind blows in the wrong direction, so make sure that it’s in good condition before you being your voyage.
Take Sailing Lessons
No amount of online research will replace real-world, practical experience. Book hourly lessons at your nearest marina, or invite an instructor onto your boat with you. They’ll literally show you the ropes and help you get used maintaining your equipment. Basic steering is easy to figure out, but hands-on instruction will make sure you aren’t missing small details.
Even experienced sailors should consider attending a class after a few years of being rusty. Maritime safety is extremely important, and you might even learn a few new techniques.
Like any other sport or activity, sailing takes practice. Sail with an instructor until you feel truly comfortable. For safety reasons, always sail with a friend; you’ll have company for the journey and help in case something goes awry.
Lizzie is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.