Sailing Tips

When it comes to Sailing, we've been there, done that, now serving 100 tips in 16 categories ranging from Advanced Sailing Courses to Yacht Clubs.

Do I need a boat certification for my new sailboat?

Investigate Boat Certificates Needed in Your State

If you just bought your first sailboat, you might be tempted to load it up on a trailer and get it in the water the first chance you get. But, that could get you into trouble in some states. The laws relating to boat ownership differ from state to state so the first thing you should do is investigate what is required where you live. You can do this at There you will find online tests for boat licenses and any other types of certifications you must obtain before sailing. Even if your state does not require a safety certification, consider taking a course and obtaining one anyway. You may prevent an accident and even save a life--and that life could be your child's or your own. Luckily, with the advent of the Internet you can now take many boat certification courses online. You can also study boat safety requirements and read official state handbooks. If you ever get stopped while boating by the authorities, having a boat certification--even if your state does not require it--may help you out.

How do I obtain sailing certifications?

US Sailing Association Offers Progressive Sail Training

Sailing is something you have to learn in steps. If you don't master the basics such as winch safety, anchoring and trimming a sail, you'll never understand how to manage difficult sailing situations such as heavy wind, a rudder breaking or bad weather. If you don't know how to manage the helm, you'll never feel comfortable going farther away from shore. That's why the US Sailing Association has determined seven levels of standardized training which must be taught by certified instructors. When you begin at the first level, Basic Keelboat, you'll begin a log book in which you'll record all your course completions and the stickers sent to you by US Sailing. This information will also be submitted to a national database and your official log book will serve as a passport for renting or chartering boats locally and around the world (once you receive the proper certifications).

After Basic Keelboat you will progress to Basic Cruising certification, allowing you to advance to larger boats with hull sizes as big as 35 feet. You'll spend more time docking and learning the handling maneuvers of larger boats. Once you earn this certification, you'll be ready to take your family on a day trip.

After you get enough experience day-sailing larger keelboats, you can move to Bareboat Cruising, Passage Making and Coastal Navigation certifications. By this time you'll be an experienced sailor capable of dealing with difficult situations like current and wind. You'll also be skilled at dead reckoning techniques, chart reading and deteriming fixes (your position).

If you choose a sailing school, make sure your instructors have been certified by US Sailing. If they have, they will then be able to offer US Sailing certifications upon successful completion of courses and you can feel safe that the curriculum was adequate. For more information, visit

Is there a sail training school in the Bahamas?

Get Certified at a Bahamas Sailing School

Only 100 miles from Florida's mainland lies an easy sailing destination for anyone seeking a Bahamas sailing school. Once populated by swashbuckling privateers, this area is now one of the most placid sail cruising areas for intermediate to advanced sail training. The water in the Abacos is clear with good navigational aids, and is a popular destination for families and couples. Offshore Sailing School guarantees that you earn US SAILING Certification in whatever course that you take. At Offshore's Bahamas sailing school, you can take a Catamaran Live Aboard Cruising Course, A Live Aboard Coastal Navigation Course or if you have a need for speed, Offshore's unique Fast Track to Power Cruising course.

With Live Aboard sail training, you can combine the pleasures of cruising a larger yacht with US SAILING Certification in both Basic Cruising and Bareboat Cruising. Bareboat Cruising Preparation qualifies you to cruise without a hired crew. Basic Keelboat certification is required for this course. Taught on luxurious 38- 46-foot cruising yachts, you'll enjoy amenities such as hot showers, air conditioning and share learning experiences with no more than three other classmates. The experience will be unforgettable.

Ready for something more advanced? Obtain advanced US SAILING Certifications in Coastal Navigation, too. Or, in just five days you can get certified to take the helm and skipper a 46-foot power catamaran.

How do I charter my own sailboat course?

Chart a Course on Your Chartered Boat

If you've been studying sailing, you might think you are ready for a charted trip. There are a myriad of sailing charters from which to choose, including many types of boats and many destinations. But, don't set out to charter a boat using only GPS navigation technology. You must also learn the art and science of charting your own course. GPS navigation systems do help sail boaters but they cannot tell you about certain water hazards; only charts can do that.

Only a few tools are needed to chart on a paper chart. Use pencils so you do not make permanent marks, especially since you are new to charting. Practice charting for a long time before you attempt to do it yourself on a private boat you have rented. You will need a plotter, dividers and drawing compasses. Most people find two-handed dividers easier to use. If you find an academic course on plotting it might be best to take it so your skills will be topnotch before you charter a boat. A parallel ruler will allow you to measure the distance between two points. To measure distance on a chart, you need to compare the distance between two points with the latitude scale on the side of the chart.

Reading symbols at night is tough so make sure you have a light. You may also want to use a magnifying glass during the day. Tidal information will likely be covered on your chart but you can also use a tidal atlas for the sailing area you plan to chart. This is why a GPS system is not enough; it cannot give you tidal information. Additionally, electronic instruments do make charting a course on a chartered boat easier but never rely solely on them as they all fail at some point.

Finally, carry a lead line tied to a piece of lead as a backup to determine depth. You can mark the line with colors to devise a depth system that suits you and the sailboat you have chartered.

Can I sail my charter boat the same way I sail the boat I own?

Charters Require Different Sailing Techniques

If you want to book a private boat charter, you have your pick of locations: Greece, France, Tortola, Belize, Tahiti and more. But, you should be aware--if you are at the helm--that different countries may require different sailing techniques to sail successfully. One area in which you'll need to be particularly careful is in anchoring. When you complete the tasks needed for a sailboat rental, your mind is likely to be focused on safety--GPS systems, mooring lines, operating the basic sailing mechanisms. And, you should be focused on safety. But, sometimes that leads to a lack of focus in other key areas.

Anchoring problems often occur in the night when sailors are sleepy. An example is wrapping the dinghy painter around the propeller. If this occurs, the bow of the boat can be pulled under the water to the point where the engine stalls. You might be an expert at anchoring your own sailboat, but a rental might be a different story so cover all details on anchoring before you leave the dock.

When on a charter boat, try to choose a place to anchor that is alongside another boat with similar characteristics. Also, in protected waters when there is a breeze on a hot night, consider taking the anchor line to the stern from the bow so the stern will head into the wind. This will allow the sleeping area to be cooled. Remember, these kinds of tricks may not be on the mind of the person renting the boat, so you must take responsibility to ask about different situations and how they affect the boat you charter.

What is a yacht charter?

Sailing Yacht Charters

Historically speaking, a yacht is a pleasure boat of any size and type. This definition holds true in many countries today, too. The sport of racing sailboats is sometimes referred to as yacht racing. In the U.S. you will find that a yacht usually refers to a luxurious boat that is about 40 feet or bigger. Other sea lovers only call a sailing boat a sailing yacht if it particularly graceful, well proportioned and the ultimate in seaworthiness. Whatever the definition of a yacht, many people have had the best vacation of their lives by chartering a yacht. The beauty of yacht charters is that the captain and crew are provided with the yacht. Whether you love the technical aspects of sailing or not, you'll likely have a good time on a yacht. For obvious reasons, these types of sailboat rentals are more expensive than other private boat charters like flotilla charters and bareboat charters.

To find a vacation yacht charter, you can search the Internet or meet with a travel agent. If you want to book your yacht vacation online, you can also use a broker. A good broker is familiar with all the types of yacht charters and companies that are out there and can help you find the best one for you. This will cost you more but save you lots of time in conducting your own research. Remember, if you are new to yacht charters, you'll have to find at least three companies that you initially like and then narrow your choice from there. That could take a fair amount of time.

If you want to book a yacht charter, look for one that:

*offers a flexible itinerary.

*offers up front cost information.

*offers all your provisions including ice, fuel, water, snorkeling gear and other amenities like kayaking.

Some people with sailing experience can book a private yacht charter. In that case, your yacht should offer a GPS navigation system, chart plotter and autopilot.

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