Learn to Sail: Helpful Suggestions to Get You Started

Ah, the sailboat.  Romanticized in books and movies.  Harnessing the wind as power. Watching the sky, pulling on ropes, and yelling something about a “jib”... Of course, there is a little bit more to sailing than that. 

Long before buying or even renting a sailboat for the first time, the best way to learn to sail is to start by tagging along with a sailing friend on a sailboat fishing outing and paying close attention. Maybe there is a “yacht club” at your local lake.  There is much to learn regarding how to sail. For example, BoatUS.org offers a beginner’s online sailing courses and it takes about 3 hours to complete. A friend even took a class at MIT and found just the knot instruction challenging.  

To learn how to sail, start by familiarizing yourself with some of the sailboat terms:
Port : left .
Starboard: right.
Bow: front.
Stern: back.
Leeward: direction the wind is blowing.
Tacking: turning so that the wind is now on the other side of the boat.
Boom: what you will need to duck from when tacking.
And so on…

If you want to try sailboat fishing, here are a couple of things to keep in mind. Have everything ready before you set out. You will be multitasking enough on a sailboat without the complications or re-rigging fishing gear. Some fish are attracted to the wake of a boat. Trolling with rods mounted in rod holders can be done as long as they are not in the way of that potentially swinging boom. Stop or at least slow when a fish is hooked to help land it. Or just wait and try jigging, once you have sailed to your destination and anchored. And remember: sailboats tip. Pay attention to boating safety and make sure all gear is secured.

Start learning how to sail on a calm day, so watch your weather closely.  As your skill level increases, so can the wind in the forecast. And as with any boat, make sure your boat registration is up to date.
Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad. He says there are “people who fish”… and there are “fishermen”.  One of the few things he knows is that he is a “fisherman”...  To the point it could be classified as borderline illness.  Sharing this obsession is rewarding, therapeutic. He likes to encourage people to “stop and smell the crappie."  Enjoys catching fish, but gets a greater thrill out of helping someone else hook up.
Born in Florida, but raised on the banks of Oklahoma farm ponds. Now relocated to western Pennsylvania. He has fished, worked, lived all around the US.  He has a B.S. in Zoology from Oklahoma State as well...
And he met his wife while electrofishing. He has been contributing weekly to www.takemefishing.org since 2011.