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Sailing

Sailing on the ocean or lake on beautiful day can be a very fun and even relaxing experiences. If you are a water and outdoors person I highly recommend it. Although many people think getting started can be hard and expensive, it definitely not at all. To get started just find a Marina or boat school in your area (you can find them below) and take a short course or guided tour. From there you can learn more tips and techniques to improve your skills and maybe even get your own boat and enter local sailing competitions.

Below is a terrific introductory article where you can learn the basics and how to get started. You can help grow our learning community by contributing your knowledge to the article. Just click on the edit tab in the wiki article below.

Use the white subtabs above to navigate the other Sailing resources. We have a Sailing forum where you can get your questions & doubts answered, a page with Sailing how-to videos, a page with the best handpicked links to other sites, and a page with the best Sailing books and products.

Good Luck and Have Fun!
Duncan Davis

 

Introduction


There are only a handful of places in the world that still use sailboats for non-recreational use. This is due to the advancement of technology. Even poor places in the world can get a hold of a motor that will be more reliable than the wind.




Many sailing vessels will be relatively small crafts that will often have a motor as a backup means for transportation. The hobby involves trapping wind to maneuver a ship across a body of water.




The average sail boat will be found on large bodies of water. This includes but not limited to a sea, a lake, or ocean. Rivers are not normally sailed due to the speed at which the water moves. Adding wind power is unnecessary.




Brief History


Throughout history sailing has been instrumental in the development of civilization, affording mankind greater mobility and capacity for fishing, trade, and warfare. The earliest representation of a ship under sail appears on a painted disc found in Kuwait dating to the late 5th millennium BC. Advances in sailing technology from the Middle Ages onward enabled Arab, Chinese, Indian and European explorers to make longer voyages into regions with extreme weather and climatic conditions. There were improvements in sails, masts and rigging; navigation equipment improved. From the 15th century onwards, European ships went further north, stayed longer on the Grand Banks and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and eventually began to explore the Pacific Northwest and the Western Arctic. Sailing has contributed to many great explorations in the world.




Directions on a boat


Specific terminology is used when navigating a boat whether you’re steering it or walking around inside it. The terminology is used in nearly every part of the world. This gives a common language for sailor to use to relate to any ship no matter its make or model.




Fore




When heading to the bow/front of the boat you are heading fore. The way you are facing has no bearing on which way fore is.




Aft




Aft is the back of the boat. This is also referred to as the stern. When you head towards the stern or if things are located near the back they are aft. This also refers to locations inside and outside the boat. So if something is behind the ship, it is also located aft.




Starboard




If you are standing in a boat and facing towards the bow, starboard is to your right. A good way to remember this is the word starboard is longer than the word port, which is the opposite direction. Likewise, the word right is bigger than the word left. Therefore, starboard is the same as right.




Port




Port is the left side of the ship. By left this means, if you are standing in a boat facing the front port is on your left side. You can use the same memory device presented in starboard to keep the two directions separated.




Parts of a Sailboat


If you were to dissect a sailboat into its most basic parts, you will end up with three major categories of parts. These parts are the sails, the rigging, and the hull. Each of these areas is comprised of a number of separate parts.




Knowing the names of all these parts is usually the first step you take when attempting to take on this hobby. An experienced sailor who can teach you to sail will drill terms like this into you first. If you don’t learn these terms it may be impossible to teach you.


 



Sails


The main thing that makes a sailboat what it is is the sail. This consists of a large strong fabric. The sail is what captures and transfers the force of the wind into forward motion on a boat. Many sailboats will use a variety of sails to accomplish this.




The mainsail is the largest sail on your boat. It is the focal point of all the force transference on the boat. It is responsible for moving the ship.




The other sails job is to direct wind into the mainsail. To accomplish this it is important to learn what portions of these sails need to be moved into place. The following terms and descriptions will identify these portions of sails and/or their location.




The head is the top corner of a triangular sail. Every triangular sail has one. It will end in a point. This is not to be confused with a headsail.




A headsail refers to an entire sail. The term only signifies that this particular sail is positioned in front of the mast.




A jib is an example of a headsail. It is triangular in shape and placed in front of the mast.


The next two terms luff and leech refer to the two side edges of a sail. The luff is the edge is the leading edge of the sail. This means it is the edge that is closest to the front of the boat. The leech is the opposite of this. It is the back or trailing edge of a sail. It is closer to the stern.




The front and back corners of a sail also have specific names. The tack and clew refer to these corners. The tack is the corner that is closer to the front of the ship. The clew is the back most corner of a sail. This allows for very precise directions to be given about a sail.




The final part of the sail is the bottom most edge. This is called the foot of a sail. Now you can take all these elements and put them together.




On a jib, the head is where the luff and leech meet. The tack is where the luff meets the foot of the sail. This leaves the clew the point at which the leech meets the foot.


 



Rigging


The rigging includes all the parts that support the sails on the boat. They are the middle ground between the hull and the sails. The rigging will be the most used portion of a sailboat since it is the objects you’ll need to maneuver to make the ship function.




The following terms are general in nature. Many different sailing vessels will use a variety of other rigging setups. These are the most commonly used parts found on nearly every sailboat.




The mast is the tall structure that you sails are mounted to. It is often found in a central location on your boat.




To support the mast wire lines are needed. These lines that work the mast are called the standing rigging. Since there are multiple lines with different functions it’s best to break this section down even further.




The two main types of rigging that provide stability to the mast is the stay and the shroud lines. The stay is often connected to the top of the mast. It is then secured to a place fore and aft of the ship. The shroud lines give additional support to the lateral stability of the mast. The other lines that are used have more to do with controlling the boat. These other lines are generically called running rigging.




There are two specific terms for running rigging that are used and are crucial to know. The sheet is a line that controls a specific sail. Some sails may have multiple sheets attached. The halyard is the specific line that raises and lowers a sail in place.




Other import structures in the rigging include the boom. The boom is a structure that is connected to the foot of a sail. This not only spreads the sail, but gives the sailor an easy way to maneuver the sail in wide turns.




Another interesting piece is the spreader. A spreader is typically a bar that holds the shroud line away from the mast. This prevents the shroud line from getting in the way of the sailor and the sails. Now that we have a general coverage of rigging we can move on to the ship’s hull.


 



Hull


To give ship functionality, it needs a body. This is the hull. With a hull you can transport goods or people and have a platform to mount your rigging and sails. It is also the part of the ship that is responsible for floating.




The most basic part of the ship is the bow. This is the front of any ship. It is typically designed to come to a point. This allows the boat to cut through the water thereby reducing the friction it generates.




The back portion of the boat is the stern. Often you’ll find additional steering devices located here. A motor is often put here for times when a ship needs to maneuver in tight quarters like when pulling into a dock.




The centerboard or keel is a structure that sticks into the water providing stability to the side motion of a boat. Since sailboats are more often longer than they are wide, the ability to knock the ship on its side is very great. The keel adds friction in the water so that the boat resists an odd cross wind from turning the boat over. For smaller boats the keel is called a dagger and is often removable. In larger ships the keel is fixed and filled with ballast.




As with all boats a rudder is fixed to the stern of the boat. This gives the captain a way to help direct the hull of the ship. This gives the ability to make sharp turns since otherwise the ships hull would simple drag against the water.




To operate the rudder requires a steering mechanism. Large ships will use a mechanically based system. For smaller boats a tiller can be used. These are the major portions of the hull and can give you a basis on how to relate to a ship.




What You Need


Often sailing has been equated to the rich as a hobby. However, if you have access to the right areas there will be plenty of instructors who can teach you on their own boat.




The fee for this service will be based on an individual basis. Some of the key factors may include the type of ship you want to learn on, the location of where you want to learn, and the instructor’s personal fee.




These boats will come equipped with life jackets and all the safety gear needed to retrieve someone from the water. Make sure that a radio is on board. Communication is key on any boat. By having a radio you can talk with other vessels to avoid a collision.




Sailboats can be rented. However, as with most vehicles you will need to be licensed before anyone will trust you with their boat.




When it comes to beginners make sure you are dressed appropriately. If the area you learn in is cold dress warmly. If it is hot make sure that you have sun block. Also make sure that you have plenty of drinking water. Even though you’re on a boat on water, the water typically is unhealthy to drink.




Conclusion


The hobby of sailing is a true recreational sport. The two main approaches to the sport involve either exciting competitions or pure relaxation. This is a great activity that every member of your family can participate in.




Unfortunately, if you want to fully immerse yourself in the sport, it will be cost prohibited. You would need to purchase your own sailboat and equipment. Since safety is a big issue it is necessary that you keep lines and sails in excellent condition. If you don’t have property with a dock, you’ll have to pay a fee to store a boat at a mooring. Unlike speed boats and other motorized water vehicles, a sailboat is not typically transported over land.




For many learning the art is satisfaction in itself. It teaches both a valuable skill and physics that are found in nature. It is also a great way to connect with and enjoy coastal landscapes that few other options offer.