Sailing Tips for Beginners

Sailing Tips for Beginners

Sailing looks so easy in the movies. The sun is always shining, the crew are in shorts and the weather is beautiful. Back in the real world however, a little more preparation and planning needs to go into your time on the water if you’re to have a fun, sail safe. If you just finished learning to sail then here are a few tips which we hope will make your day amazing.

woman sitting on the edge of a yacht in the sunshine

Pick a day with good weather for boating

Try to avoid sailing in heavy seas

One thing you’ll realise pretty quickly when you learn boating is that the marine weather can make the difference between an awesome day sailing, and an awful experience. Sure you’ll need to learn how to cope in all types of weather conditions, but it’s best to work up to it.

The wind is what springs to mind first, but depending on where you’re sailing, the sea state (basically how big the waves are) is a very important factor too. Marine weather forecasts generally get more accurate the closer to the day you get, for better and sometimes also for worse. Once you’ve got a date in mind, start to check the sailing weather forecasts about five days out, and keep checking daily until the day arrives. If it’s still looking promising on your date of departure, check the hour by hour forecast and see what your local marina has to say too.

Even if you’re just planning on heading out for a few hours, be sure to check the next few hours too in case you run late; you want to avoid being out in rapidly deteriorating conditions! If you do end up going out to sail in heavy seas, be sure you have your sailing foul weather gear (more in this to come).

two yachts sailing close together

Avoid heavy traffic for an easier boating experience

Start sailing when there are fewer boats in the water

If you drive a car, when you were learning do you remember the first time you were out in heavy traffic? Pretty stressful right? The same is true with sailing, you’ll probably always experience some traffic as you leave a marina so try to make it easy for yourself by picking a quiet time to slip lines. Also avoid hoisting and lowering sails until you’ve got plenty of sea-room. The last thing you want is to be messing around with sails whilst closing in on another boat.

men in yellow foulies standing on a boat
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Make sure you have the right sailing clothes

If there's a chance it will be rough, bring sailing foul weather gear

Don’t be fooled by a beautiful bright sunny day. You may be in a t-shirt when getting the boat ready but when you get underway it can become decidedly more chilly. You also stand a pretty good chance of getting wet (wash from a passing wave, or from a rain shower) so be sure to bring along waterproof top layers; both top and bottom. A couple of other things to bring along when you go boating:

  • Hats are a good idea. Ideally with a strap to secure them, baseball caps have a tendency to flip off when caught by the wind!
  • Sunglasses, again with a head strap
  • Shoes: a pair with non-marking soles and good grip
  • A good pair of gloves
  • Sunscreen
  • Gloves
  • Water bottle
man eating an apple on a boat

Don’t forget to eat and drink before you go out

And make sure to bring snacks and food on the boat with you

In all the excitement it’s easy to forget to keep hydrated and to eat. Make sure you have an adequate supply of food for everyone on board, and ensure snacks are easily accessible and quick to grab from down below. It’s important to eat regularly to prevent you starting to feel weak and tired. Counterintuitively too, you need to keep eating and drinking even if you feel a little seasick. Sometimes what you’re feeling is hunger rather than sickness so try to keep munching on plain biscuits and sipping water.

close up of a sailing boom on a yacht

Stay safe while sailing and watch out for that boom!

Boats are hazardous places, with things just waiting for you to hit your head, stub your toe and slip over on. The boom is probably the most obvious, and I’d argue the most important thing to keep well away from. Be mindful of it when walking around on deck, and especially when tacking and jibing. An accidental jybe can cause the boom to swing from one side of the boat to the other, rapidly, and it will take out anything in its path, including you, so be careful!

close up of a book

Learn the sailing basics before setting off

If you’re a total beginner, then learn a few sailing basics beforehand and we would strongly advise taking some sailing lessons. A quick Google search will reveal numerous results for sailing for beginners. Try to memorise a few basic parts of the boat(including which side is port and which side is starboard) and the two main types of sailing manoeuvres which are:

Tacking: This is when you turn the bow of the boat through the wind, so. You’ll notice that the wind switches sides, and the sails will stop flapping, meaning that you’ve carried out the manoeuvre properly - well done!

Jibing: A downwind manoeuvre, this is when you turn the back of the boat through the wind so again the wind switches sides. This manoeuvre, compared with a tack, is more technical to perform and more dangerous as the boom moves across the boat much faster.

Do you know what a broach or Chinese Gybe is?

Make sure to find a good sailing partner

Go boating with someone you know and trust

Nothing will give you more confidence than heading out on the water with someone you know and like. Not only is it more fun when you sail in good company, but you’ll be more likely to be open to learning about things like marine charts and sailing navigation and also asking more questions if you’re sailing with someone you’re familiar with and whom you trust. Needless to say, the more experienced they are, the better :)

man holding guide sheets on a yacht

One hand for you, one hand for the boat

There’s a general rule of thumb that you should always be holding on, so make sure you have one hand for yourself and one hand holding onto something sturdy on the boat. Ropes, blocks, steering wheels and winches are a bad idea, so make sure you go for something fixed that doesn’t move when you’re not ready for it!

life jackets stowed away on a boat

Know where the safety kit is

Your skipper will give you a safety briefing before going out on the water, be sure to listen carefully and make sure you know where the medical kit is. If something should happen to your skipper you need to know where to go to get the right supplies to help them.

Once you've got the ropes, learn to navigate

Once you get the basics of sailing, you can quickly start using an easy sailing navigation app like savvy navvy to help with planning your routes. With handy marine charts and an intuitive design, our marine navigation app will save you time before and during your adventures at sea - just think of us as google maps for boats!

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