Did you know how to sail prior to cruising? This is probably one of the first questions we get asked when meeting new people. Before we were considering moving aboard a sailboat we thought that we had to be born into the sailing world or at least have started from a young age. However after talking with a few sailors we quickly realised that anyone could learn if you have the interest to do so. Sailing is easy but to master all the skills and nuances of an old salt it takes a lifetime. We knew nothing about sailing at first but the steep learning curve had us going in no time. Here are a few ways to get sailing and start having some fun.
Watch lots of YouTube videos
The Internet and especially YouTube is full of information about pretty much everything. But you also have to take everything with a grain of salt. Every sailor has an opinion and it can be overwhelming when looking for one answer but you find multiple. There are so many people sharing videos about different techniques of sailing for various situations and sailboats. You will learn everything from the basics to trickier manoeuvres. Don’t forget to actually put all this knowledge to work. Get out on the water and try things out. If you don’t have your own vessel, there are always captains looking for crew. More about joining a crew on other boats below.
Take a course
If you want to charter a sailboat or catamaran some companies will require you to have certain certifications. These are also great for learning different skills from navigating to how to captain a boat. They do come at a cost and you might have to go to a specific location or get the instructor to come on onboard your own vessel. Two well known sailing schools are the ASA and RYA which offer a wide range of courses.
Go out sailing with other sailors
Something we did prior to purchasing a sailboat was to get out sailing. Maybe not as many times as we should have but at least a handful. We noticed that more often than not sailors love to take you out on their sailboat for a sail and to show it off. Also many times they’re alone and would love the company or an extra hand. We used to just take a stroll along the docks at a marina and spark up a conversation. This often led to us going out for a sail that same day. Furthermore many marinas or sailing clubs have weekly races. And an extra deck hand is often needed. That’s a great way to learn the ropes and technicalities of sailing. Don’t be shy, there’s so much knowledge to be shared and so many great sailors to meet.
Buy a sailboat
This is the route we took to jump on the fast track to learning everything we could. After going out for maybe 5 sails we ended up buying a 1981 Hunter 33. The first time I took it out I was petrified. We had our jib sheets run between the mast and shrouds. Not a good start. But fortunately a fellow sailor volunteered to go out with us for our very first sail or shake down. We took baby steps which is probably the reason why we are still sailing 5 years later. Too many go out in conditions that are too scary for them. In small increments we pushed our comfort level with ever increasing waves and wind. We also had the safety of our marina to come back to for the first two seasons. Learn with your boat but don’t scare yourself off. Don’t be afraid to ask for tips and put your pride aside. After an hour of what was big waves for us we came back to the dock and cracked a beer open. Now we laugh at how small those waves actually were.
Join a Sailing trip
There are various vacations offered onboard sailboats. Charting with a captain allows you to learn without jumping in the deep end. From day trips to multiple weeks there’s something for everyone. Some offer a fully catered vacation meanwhile others will have you involved with all the work required to run a sailboat. This is a great way to see if this lifestyle is meant for you. Also you can test out different types of sailboats.
With so many different ways of learning how to sail, getting started has never been easier. Find which one fits your type of learning and maybe even try more than one. And remember it’s easy to get started. The more you get out there the more you will learn while increasing your chances of running into some scarier situations. At the time they are frightening but the experience gained is invaluable. Baby steps go a long way. Learn to walk before you climb the highest mountain. And have fun, it’s a great lifestyle which comes with its challenges and rewards.
Anne Alexandra Fortin
Cory and Alex share their adventure with weekly videos on their YouTube channel “Wildly Intrepid Sailing” and share stories on their website www.wildlyintrepid.com . Their dream is to travel the world and to live without any regrets.