Guest Writer: John N. Jamieson

Learn to sail with more fun when you use these easy sailing tips. Make as many preparations ahead of time to enjoy a day or week or more on the water with less worry and more confidence.

Use a Check Sheet

Take a few minutes before you go sailing to check the safety equipment, sailing rigging, and sails. Use a check-off sheet. You can make this yourself. Include safety, sailing, and personal gear on your check sheet.

Make sure to add equipment required by Federal regulations. Include personal flotation devices (pfd) for each person; fire extinguishers that show a full charge (gauge needle in the green area), emergency flares within the expiration period, and required, current documentation. Remember that equipment has to be in good working order and cannot have reached its expiration date (i.e. in the case of flares or boat documentation/registration/licenses, etc...). That way, you will be prepared if boarded by the Coast Guard.

Inspect the Standing Rigging

Start at the bow and work your way aft to the cockpit. Check each fitting--stays, shrouds, roller furling gear, lifelines--to make sure they have cotter pins. These tiny "bobby pin" shaped fittings pin your rigging and lifelines together and hold the mast up on the boat. Replace missing or broken cotter pins before you set sail for safety's sake!

Catch Chafe in Your Running Rigging

Look over each part of you standing rigging for chafe or loose bitter ends. Standing rigging includes halyards, sheets, boom vangs, traveler control lines, mainsheet, outhaul, reefing lines, furling lines (from the furling unit back to the cockpit), and any lines that lead through organizer blocks or clutches. Pay particular attention at line-to-block contact points. That's where chafe often occurs. Replace worn lines or form new eyes as needed. This will keep a halyard or line from parting when you are out sailing.

Make Your Anchor Ready

Get your anchor, line, and chain ready to deploy in ten seconds. In an emergency you may have less time to get the boat anchor down and set into the sea bottom. Check that the anchor shank (long arm of the anchor) has no distortion or bends. Replace the anchor if the shank appears to be bent.

Inspect each piece of the ground tackle. This includes each shackle, the chain, and the rope part of the rode. Secure the bitter end of your anchor chain or rope rode to the boat (eye bolt, cleat, or other belay point on deck or inside the anchor locker).

Listen to the Weather Forecast

Check the forecast for the next 24 hours if day sailing. For cruising, obtain a longer range forecast with details on frontal systems to the west (fronts typically move west to east), wind, sea wave period, tide and current predictions. If rough weather looks possible, delay departure until bad weather has passed by. This will create less stress and fatigue on your sailing crew and rigging.

Rest and Hydrate

Get plenty of rest before you leave to go sailing. This will give you good energy for a day on the water. Sailing requires lots of physical activity and being outside can dehydrate a sailor fast. Drink plenty of water and boost your electrolyte intake with non-sugar drinks like Gatorade or Emergen-C. These replace minerals and vitamins and keep you hydrated too.

Pack Your Own Gear

Bring your own sailing gear, such as knife, pfd, sailing harness, foul weather gear, change of clothes, snacks, and emergency "ditch kit" (keys, credit card, extra cash, contact persons in case of emergency, prescriptions, funds to get home). This will provide you with peace-of-mind and comfort.

Prepare Your Charts

No matter whether you have the latest nautical GPS or chart plotter aboard, bring the charts to cover the entire sailing area. This includes familiar waters for day sailing. It takes just one spark to blow away your black boxes. Plot your sailing courses onto your chart ahead of time. Label each line with the magnetic course on top. Tape over the tracks to protect the chart. Use a large clipboard or artist sketch board with a oversized rubber band. This makes "cockpit" navigation fun and easy.

Pitch In to Learn the Most

If sailing on another boat, offer to pitch in to help with sail changes, reefing, raising or lowering sails, cooking, cleaning, or maintenance. Skippers appreciate someone who volunteers instead of waiting to be asked. It's a great way to get a reputation as a "go getter" and it helps you become a better sailing faster than just about any other method of learning.

Stay Aware to Stay Aboard!

Cast off that last line and you enter a different world. Remember the old saying "one hand for the boat; one for yourself". Slow down on a boat when you need to more fore and aft. Grab, crouch, and move. This keeps you on the boat and injury free whether you day sail, race, cruise or voyage to distant lands.

Learn to sail smooth and easy with these ten simple sailing tips. You will soon gain the confidence you need for safer sailing anywhere in the world!


Article by: John N. Jamieson

Captain John with 25+ year of experience shows you the no-nonsense sailing skills you need beyond sailing school! Sign up for his FREE highly popular "Captain John's Sailing Tips" Newsletter. Find out how you can get instant access to over 550 sailing articles, sailing videos, newsletters and more at SkipperTips

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