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Sailing Beginner – How to Sail For the First Time

In the last article of sailing beginner, I went over some sailing terms associated with rigging and raising the mainsail. In this sailing beginner article we are going to discuss how to sail from day one, this being the first day. Hopefully, the wind is only at 5 or 6 knots, which makes it easy to maintain control of the sailboat, especially when this is your first time at the helm.

Sailing Tip:Also to keep things manageable, I would suggest using only the mainsail for now, it’s best to wait until you have gained a certain amount of experience by using the sails individually at first.

You’ll have plenty of opportunity to use both at a later time. Assuming that the main is up, next you will need to turn the tiller towards your intended direction of travel until the sail finds the wind. By the way, a tiller is the steering control mechanism on smaller sailing boats. However take note, the tiller steers in the opposite direction you will want to go. For instance, if you push the tiller towards the starboard [right side], the boat will steer to the left or the port side. If you turn the tiller towards the port or [left] side of the boat, it will steer to the right or the starboard side. So unlike a car, the tiller works just the opposite! On the other hand, a ship wheel works exactly the same as the steering wheel on an automobile. So depending on how your sailboat is equipped with a tiller or a ships wheel will determine how you will steer with it.

Sailing Tip:I would recommend learning how to sail with the wind for a while before tacking or sailing upwind.

Just keep in mind that sailing downwind is much faster and easier than tacking! It’s a good reminder to be aware of the time and allow plenty of time to get back to your original destination. Your next task is to trim the mainsail to the wind by using the boom block. The boom block is a sailing term that is a set of pulleys that are attached to the end of the boom and allows you to position the boom in various angles up to 90 degrees perpendicular to the mast.

Running or reaching is the sailing term for traveling downwind and depending on the angle of the mainsail in relation to the wind, determines if you are running or reaching. If running, the position of the mainsail is approximately 90 degrees to the center line of the hull. However if you are reaching, then the mainsail is at an angle less than 90 degrees in relation to the wind.

Depending on your natural abilities, you may be happy reaching at first. By experimenting with angling the boom, you will gain the necessary skills for running or reaching. However, there a wide range of boom angles between a beam reach and running downwind. The sails are eased out away from the boat, but not as much as on a run or dead run (sailing directly downwind). By the way, reaching for modern sailboats is faster than running.

Next you’ll need to turn or come about. There are essentially two ways to accomplish this, by tacking or turning upwind is one way, or you can jibe or turn downwind which is faster than a tack turn. The reason being is that in a jibe turn you have the wind behind you pushing the sailboat through the turn, as opposed to a turning into the wind in a tack turn. I suggest you practice both turns the tack and jibe until you feel comfortable, as you will need this skill to tack or sail upwind.

Hopefully, this article on how to sail will be a basic building block in your lifelong endeavor of sailing. In my next sailing beginner article, I will be discussing tacking, until then Happy Sailing!



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