Learn to Sail: Helpful Suggestions to Get You Started

By Andy Whitcomb

May 15, 2017

Sailing is a great experience but there is a lot to learn before setting out on a wind powered adventure. Here are some tips for beginning to learn to sail. 

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 is an outdoor writer (http://www.justkeepreeling.com/) and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to takemefishing.org since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.