For most of us, stuck behind a desk all day staring at a computer monitor, nothing could be further away from our daily reality than the idea of getting out in the fresh air, getting exercise, experiencing the enjoyment and fulfillment that you get when you learn to sail. When you take up the challenge and learn sailing, however, this is exactly what you will gain from every sailing experience.
Every day is a different experience, and even a bad day out on the water is better than a good day in the office. So if you have had learning how to sail on your bucket list for a while, now is a good time to make a start and commitment to turning that dream into a reality.
Below are some sailing basics and handy tips to help you on your sailing journey. By committing and following the tips below, it could just change your life, so get out there and get started today…
What Not To Do When Learning To Sail
However, instead of looking at how to learn to sail, which in itself is a very broad topic, I want you to start by considering some of the things that you probably should not do if you are an absolute beginner who wants to learn how to sail.
The first thing is, do not think about going out to buy your own boat unless you have some sailing experience under your belt.
Whilst for those of us who sail regularly, it is an unfathomable mystery how it could ever be true but there are some people who, for one reason or another, never really take to sailing. And if you are one of the people, buying a boat is going to be an awful waste of money.
Let’s face it, owning and maintaining a boat can be an expensive exercise, so you really need to know that you are going to enjoy it before you fork out a heap of money.
And to really know whether you are going to enjoy sailing or not, you have to experience it. You can’t really imagine what it will be like until you are out there, with the wind in your face, seeing what it is like for yourself. I will mention a few tips later in this article regarding some ways you can try before you buy.
Another thing that I would really recommend you steer clear of as a first-time sailor is a full-on sailing holiday because once again, the same difficulties might apply. If you book a 14-day onboard holiday and discover after a couple of days that you are a rotten sailor or get sea-sick just by looking at the water, the next 12 days are likely to be purgatory!
A final point… watch the weather. If you have the option, you really don’t want to go out for your first day on the water when it is cold, raining, and blowing a gale. Yes, some may find it exciting, but many find it uncomfortable, miserable, and even a little scary, and can be turned off for good.
Of course, if you sail regularly, you can expect to go out on days that are less than ideal, but the good days make all the days of poor weather worth it. But if you are a beginner, set yourself up for success and go for your 1st sail on a nice day weather-wise if possible.
So How Do You Learn To Sail?
Okay, so with some basic ‘warnings’ out of the way, let us begin to look at some of the things you should do if you want to learn to sail for the very first time.
Join / Visit a Sailing Club
One of the very first things that you may want to consider is to join an organized sailing club of which there are dozens in most Western countries. If you live near to the sea or nearby a river, lake, or harbor, the chances are that you no more than a few miles away from the local sailing club… a place where you will find expert sailors with hundreds of years combined experience gathered together.
If you have not been sailing before, it may surprise you to know that most sailing folks are eminently approachable and friendly, the kind of people who are more than happy to pass on the basics of sailing and share their wealth and depth of their knowledge and experience to new people considering trying sailing for the very first time. Contrary to popular opinion, most sailing clubs are not elitist establishments, a fact which I have no doubt you will discover for yourself the first time you contact an appropriate club to establish how it works.
Here is another thing about learning to sail.
No matter where you are located or where you find a club, there are always more skippers and boats than there are crew members. This is good news for the beginner because it means that almost every skipper is always on the lookout for willing hands and more often than not, they will likely take you up on your offer to crew for them.
Once again, this is another advantage of being a member of an organized sailing club as this is where you will find experienced skippers who are happy to teach new crew members the ropes in return for the loan of a willing pair of hands! Experience helps, but is not always necessary… having the right attitude, being able to get in and pull some ropes or grind some winches counts for a lot.
For a list of clubs all around the world, please click here.
Educate Yourself On Sailing Basics
Another way to get up to speed is to read up on some of the sailing theory before you actually go out on the water. It is good to understand some sailing basics as it will give you a better understanding of what the terms are and how everything works before you step on a boat.
You can continue reading through this website, or you can buy other material such as books to get the knowledge. A good one is “Fast Track to Sailing: Learn to Sail in Three Days“, by Steve and Doris Colgate, who have taught thousands of people how to sail, and is their passion. Get more details on their book here.
You can also spend time educating yourself with the thousands of YouTube videos available. There are heaps of good videos to help you learn about all different aspects of sailing, including:
- how and/or why people get started with sailing in the first place,
- the basics of sailing,
- beginner through to advanced sailing technique tips,
- repairs, etc.
For example, see the video below to learn how Olympic Gold Medallist Tom Burton got into Laser sailing, and what it takes to be the best…
Do A Sailing Course
Another option is to actually do a sailing course. This is another great way to learn but can be a bit more pricey.
There are many courses available… just do a Google search and you will find options including Sunsail, American Sailing Association, US Sailing, etc. They have courses running all the time for students of all different levels, from absolute beginners right through to experienced and seasoned sailors.
Courses are a mix of online and instructor-led, so you have plenty of options to find something suitable.
If you are a parent and want your kids to get into sailing, another option is a summer sailing camp. These are popular in some parts of the world and can be a great fun introduction to not only sailing but other land and water activities. Plus it’s a great way to meet new people and for kids to develop great life skills. Read more about summer sailing camps for kids here.
It’s Not That Hard To Learn To Sail
Learning to sail is not at all difficult as long as you avoid the mistakes highlighted in the first half of this article, whilst following the advice in the second half. Like most things in life, there is a bit of a learning curve, but starting with the basics of sailing can be a fun experience.
If you commit to learning, the adventure, exercise, and enjoyment of sailing can quickly become a major part of your life, and you will never look back once it does!
So get out there and learn to sail today!