Safe sailing techniques you should know

July 28, 2015

Interested in sailing but not sure how to get started? Here are some techniques you should know before you hit the water.

Safe sailing techniques you should know

Important safety features

Always wear a buoyancy aid when sailing, and always hold on with one hand when moving around a boat.

  • If your boat capsizes and is lying on its side, free the sheets then climb onto the centreboard. With your feet close to the hull, take hold of the gunwale (the rim of the boat) and lean back — your weight should pull the boat upright. Move round to the stern, keeping hold of the boat, and climb back in.

How to maneover a tiller

Some boats have steering wheels, as on a car. Others have a tiller, a long pole attached directly to the rudder.

  • With a tiller (but not with a wheel), you steer to the right by pushing to the left, and vice versa. Do this very gently and smoothly, especially when changing tack, or you run the risk of capsizing.

Proper tacking techniques

  • You can't sail a boat directly into the wind; you have to zigzag to and fro, like a slalom skier. This means sailing close hauled on, say, a starboard tack (with the wind hitting the right-hand side of the boat first) then turning the boat through the wind to sail on a port tack.
  • As you pass through the wind, there will be a moment when there's no force in the sails. For this reason you should build up speed before you make your move, so that the momentum will carry you through from one side of the tack to the other.

Keep the following in mind:

  1. Sailing close hauled, the skipper pushes the tiller to "come about".
  2. The boat loses power as it turns to face directly into the wind.
  3. As the boat completes its turn, the sails pick up the wind again.

Docking the right way

You should come into a dock or mooring with the wind as nearly ahead of you as possible.

  • Come to a stop by slackening the main sheet, so that the sail flaps. If you must dock with the wind behind you, lower the sail when you're 15 to 20 metres (50 to 75 feet) away, so that the boat loses momentum and coasts in, guided by the tiller.

Sailing has never been easier. Keep these tips in mind for a safe and enjoyable sailing experience.

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