Travel the Seas by Sailing

Travel the Seas by Sailing

Many sailors agree that the sights and sounds of the wind and water make sailing an unforgettable experience. Learning how to make a boat move effortlessly through the water can give you great satisfaction. By starting small and learning from professionals, you can soon get to a point where you are guiding your own craft through the water. Even if you don’t live near the ocean, you can still enjoy sailing on smaller bodies of water. You can also prepare to tour the world in a sailboat.

Professional Instruction

There’s a lot to know about sailing, including the terminology, safety practices, rules of the water, and the basics of how to operate the craft. That’s why it’s a good idea to take a course or two in sailing taught by professionals. Many packages include in-depth instruction that spans a day or two. If you intend to focus on more advanced goals such as sailboat racing, you’ll need advanced instruction; otherwise, an introductory class should suffice.

The Science of Sailing

Wind is responsible for a sailboat’s movement through the water. Sails full of wind form what’s called an airfoil, which moves the boat across the water with lift that’s similar to the lift of an airplane’s wing. When sailing, your job is to trim the sails, or move them into position to maximize this lift. Raise the sails using the halyards, or lines, then trim them using the sheets, lines that attach to the bottom corners of the sails, to move the boom, which is the pole along the bottom of the sails. Steering is managed by moving the rudder using the tiller. When sailing into the wind, you’ll need to steer in a zig-zag motion known as tacking.

Sailing Jargon

Knowing sailing jargon will help you cruise like a pro. For instance, the keel is the heavy wing on the underside of the boat that helps balance it. The front of the boat is the bow, and the back of the boat is the stern. The port is the left side of the boat, and the starboard side is the right side. Sailors say an object is aft of another object if it is behind it. Something in front of another object is forward of it. The cockpit of a boat is the space in the stern where the steering wheel sits. The anchor and chain locker are stored at the bow of the boat. The jib sail is the sail located at the bow.


The right sailing equipment is a necessity for safety and navigation. Aside from the boat and its gear, including life jackets, you’ll want to make sure to pay some attention to your own personal gear. Always dress for the occasion by wearing layers. Good deck shoes will help you grip the deck and have non-marking soles. Polarized sunglasses will help you be vigilant about the water and wind conditions. Sailing gloves should offer heavy-duty grip on the palms, and some have exposed fingertips for added dexterity. A windbreaker can serve as a barrier for wind and water and also help to keep you warm. It’s not a bad idea to bring a logbook, too, where you can record the number of hours you spend sailing and the places you travel.

Knots to Learn

Sailors need to know many knots, which are used for different purposes. Securing lines to cleats is a common necessity when sailing, and a cleat hitch is the best knot to tie in this situation. The cleat hitch involves wrapping the line around both horns once, making two figure-eight turns around the cleat, and tucking the free end of the line to secure it. The bowline knot is used to tie a loop in the rope that you can quickly untie by taking tension off the rope. Make a small loop in the rope by making a half twist, then pass the end of the rope through the loop and back around the longer length of rope.

Buying a Boat

Anyone who has taken a few sailing courses, tried out the sport, and decided it’s a good fit can definitely benefit by buying a boat. Owning a boat can be surprisingly affordable, especially if you start small. Choose a simple sailboat, possibly a used one in good shape, for your first boat. Some people with the skills might also consider building their own sailboat.

Common Questions

  • Will a sudden gust of wind capsize a sailboat? When this happens, just maneuver the boat into the wind. The sailboat might lean, but it shouldn’t capsize.
  • What about seasickness? When learning how to sail, some people do get seasick. Staying close to shore so you can see the land often helps with seasickness.
  • What happens if someone falls overboard? Throw the person in the water a flotation device, if necessary. Then, maneuver the sailboat to turn around and pull the person back on board.
  • Is it hard to work the sails? Sailors need upper-body strength to manage wind-filled sails, so it can be a bit of a workout, but pulleys and winches can make the job a little easier.