What top ten sailing tips will help you enjoy sailing in the most fun and safe way? You might be surprised to know that it all starts long before you step aboard your sailboat. Use these little known secrets for day sailing, weekend cruising, or for coastal and offshore sailing.
1. Pack the Right Clothes.
There’s a saying that goes something like this “There is no such thing as bad weather-only bad clothes”. Makes a lot of sense-in particular in a dynamic environment like sailing. Put together a small duffel bag with the “must have” sailing gear. Include a foul weather jacket, complete change of clothes, wide-brimmed hat. That way, if you get spray or rain or stay out longer than expected, you will stay dry and warm (or cool) in most any sailing weather.
2. Bring Your Own “Grab Bag”.
Make up a personal “must have” bag. Match the contents to the type of sailing you do. Your grab-bag will be the one thing you grab in an emergency. If you need to leave the boat for any reason, you need common items like extra keys, wallet, cell phone, change, and identification in order to get home safe and sound. Pack your personal grab bag now to give you peace-of-mind for safer sailing.
3. Carry a Sailing Knife.
Sail World carried a tragic story a short time ago about a young teenage girl. Her sailing dinghy capsized. She had attached herself by a hiking harness to the boat. When she capsized, the boat turtled (turned over–bottom up) on top of her. She was unable to untangle herself from the harness and drowned.
It’s understandable that folks tend to shun knives and similar equipment on their belts. It’s a bit weighty, adds bulk on a hot day, and many like to sail unencumbered. Find a small compact knife that will fit into a sheath or has a clip that will fasten to your sailing shorts. Carry it when you go sailing. Not below packed in a bag–but on your shorts or pants. If you need to use it for cutting rope or in an emergency, it will be with you, ready in the blink-of-an-eye.
4. Build Up Wrist Strength.
Did you realize that wrist injuries and soreness plague sailors? You use your wrists to steer the boat, crank on winches, hoist or lower sails, lower or raise the anchor, move forward or aft on the boat, or brace yourself below in the cabin when heeled over. Use a soft ball like a tennis ball and squeeze; hold for ten seconds; release. Repeat this while you walk or sit several times a day. This simple exercise will help build up this often-forgotten vital muscle fast and easy and lessen the chance of injury aboard any sailboat you sail aboard.
5. Listen to the 24-hour Weather Forecast.
Expect to be out longer than you plan. Turn on the Weather Radio and listen to the forecast for the next 24 hours. How will the wind shift? Will this create a long hard slog to windward back to the marina slip or pier? If you go out for a day-sail, consider sailing to windward early on so the sail back will be an easy reach or run. Look for anchorages along your sailing route in case the weather turns foul. Become weather wise to keep your sailing fun and safe for you and your sailing crew.
6. Know Your Anchoring Techniques.
No piece of vital sailing gear gets ignored more than the boat anchor. Make sure that the anchor aboard any boat you sail on will be ready to lower within 10 seconds. Check the parts of the anchor from the bitter end of the anchor rode where it ties to your boat, all the way down the rope rode, anchor chain, anchor shackles, and all parts of the anchor itself (ring, shank, flukes). Keep this #1 life-insurance gear in tip-top shape for worry-free sailing worldwide.
7. Inspect Your Sailboat from Bow to Stern.
Start at the bow and check the anchor, lifelines, turnbuckle fittings, cotter pin integrity, standing rigging like boom vangs, traveler lines, mainsheet and Genoa sheets. Look for chafed line, missing cotter pins, bent anchor shank or distorted turnbuckle barrels. Take five minutes to check your boat before you get underway to save you the headache of an unexpected fitting failure underway.
8. Use Nautical Charts Along with Electronics.
Read the opening screen of any electronic GPS or chart plotter and the disclaimer warns about total reliance on that gear. Purchase the paper charts you need for your sailing area. If you day sail, carry aboard a large-scale (magnified) chart of your sailing grounds. If you coastal cruise, you need navigational charts of the coastline, approaches to harbors, and inner harbor areas. Offshore sailors need the same and more. Paper charts back up the electronics. Electronics can never replace paper charts. Stay safe and sound when you carry the paper charts you need for sailing safety.
9. Practice Boat Maneuvers and Control.
Spend part of each sailing day and practice one specific maneuver. Toss a fender overboard and tack or jibe to see if you can sail your boat up to the fender, stop alongside the object with the sails luffing, and retrieve the object. The more your practice intricate maneuvers the better you will be at sailing in tight quarters, turning your boat around in an emergency, or coming alongside a float, pier, or mooring buoy under sail alone.
10. Read and Learn About Sailing Each Day.
Legendary sailor and author Hal Roth once said “A good sailor is always studying and learning and asking questions”. Whether you are stuck in a place far from the coast, waiting for winter to end, or find that you just don’t have time for sailing right now–never, ever stop learning. Each day, set yourself a goal to learn something new about sailing. Learn a new sailing term, read up on the latest sailing equipment, or visit a sailing forum like Sailnet or Sailing Anarchy to see what experienced sailors have to say. Discover something new each day to become more comfortable and confident in sailing.