Sailing Basics Tips

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What sailing terms should I learn first?

Research Sailing Basics Before You Get in the Boat

Part of understanding sailing fundamentals is learning sailing definitions and sailing terms. The following are some terms you should know before you begin a basic sailing course:

Stern: The back part of the boat, also called the 'after'. The transom is the flat end of the stern. The stern quarters are the back corners of the boat.

Bow: The front end of the boat. The Bow Line is a mooring rope that runs from the bow to a point ashore. The Bow Line is sometimes called the head rope.

Starboard: The right side of the boat when facing forward.

Port: The left side of the boat when facing forward.

Jib: Also called the 'foresail' because it is in the front of the boat. Some sailboats have several types of jibs that are used for different purposes.

Mainsail: The most important sail on all boats. This sail sits behind the mast. Most are triangular but other shapes do exist.

Boom: At the bottom of the mainsail, the part that controls the sail.

Gooseneck: The fitting that allows the boom to pivot both side to side and up and down.

Hull: The rounded part of the boat; comes in a variety of materials.

Keel: The fin under the hull, which is used for stability and lateral resistance. A Keel Boat is any boat with a Keel.

What should I wear on a sailboat?

Sailing Comfort Basics

It's hard to learn a new hobby. But practice makes perfect, and this is no different when it comes to sailing. Frustrating sailing experiences come from not doing enough research ahead of time or not taking a basic sailing course that teaches you the best sailing habits. You might end up so cold you can't have fun. You might wear the wrong foot wear and end up slipping on the boat's wet surface. You might forget to make sure your sunglasses are held on with a string. You might buy the wrong gloves and get terrible blisters. Some of these will simply be tough learning lessons while others might jeopardize your safety. That's why you should begin by obtaining an introduction to a sailing course that will give you the proper sailing fundamentals. Here are some ideas to get you started:

*The clothing you wear will depend on where you are sailing and the temperature. A wet-suit is best for foul weather. A dry-suit is a waterproof suit with seals at the neck, ankles and wrists. If you allow yourself to get wet or cold your energy levels will quickly deteriorate. If you are going to sail in a higher temperature area where you might perspire, chose a breathable fabric that will whisk away sweat. This kind of clothing can be purchased at a marine or sports store.

*Always bring and wear a life jacket. A cap will prevent heat loss from the head on cool days. If you have long hair, keep it up so it does not get caught in rigging. Take a lot of water, even if it's cool. You can get dehydrated even when the sun isn't shining. If you sail on a cruiser, invest in a safety harness that will keep you securely attached to the boat. Some waterproof jackets come with harnesses built in.

How do I maintain my sails on my sailboat?

Don't Forget to Take Care of Your Sails

Sails are made of tough material. But even though sails are well constructed, they are designed with synthetic materials that have very little stretch. Sails are made by sewing a particular shape into a sail so that any stretch they have is minimal. You want to do everything you can to protect that construction. This is part of good basic sailing. Just like a car engine, sails power the boat so you should exercise great care with them.

When not in use, keep sails out of the sun. UV rays will deteriorate sail cloth over time so they should be in the sun only when in use. You can wash your sails with a mild soap to keep them free of salt and dirt. Don't just stuff a sail into a bag when you are done sailing. This breaks down the filler and reduces the life of the sail. The wrinkles in a sail can take up to an hour to work out, and they also prohibit proper air flow over the sail.

Smaller sails should be folded--accordion-style--or rolled after use. The clew should be on the outside of the roll for the mainsail, and the tack should be on the outside of the roll for the jib. Folding a sail will also save space on a small sailboat.

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Joe Wallace