Although learning the basics of how to sail is relatively easy, it can take a lifetime to master the art. There are many levels to learn, and you’ll need to keep exploring the various types of available boats and be prepared to learn about a wide variety of topics. To get started, here are some of the basics you need to know before jumping onto your first boat.


Common Terminology

Aside from standard boating terms, there are also terms that sailors specifically commonly use when they’re sailing. These include port, starboard, leeward, helms, gybing, and tacking. Having a good grasp of these terms will allow you to navigate various aspects of sailing confidently. Plus, you’ll be able to follow conversations and instructions from more experienced sailors.


Sail Points

The terms used by sailors refer to the various positions and directions that a boat can and cannot maneuver. For instance, close reach and broad are terms that describe the wind’s direction and how to adjust the sails for optimal performance.


Boat Anatomy

Having a good grasp of the various terms used by sailors will allow you to quickly identify the parts of a boat that are unique to it. For instance, if you’re not sure what to do when an instructor gives you a directive, learning the names of the various boat parts will help you avoid getting wet on your first day.


Learning Resources

YouTube videos and other instructional materials can also help you connect the terms with the real world. Having a good grasp of the terminology will allow you to feel more at ease on your first day.


Although it’s possible to learn to sail without lessons, professional instruction is the key to making it faster and more effective. Start with a small boat that’s simple to use and has a clear cause-and-effect statement. On the first day, you’ll learn basic sailing skills such as gybing and turning.


Know Your Knots

A good grasp of the various knots used on a boat will allow you to manage the vessel and improve its performance correctly. Having the proper knots will also help you tie various accessories such as fenders and cleats.

Using Your Sails

The way the sails are used and shaped will also affect how well they perform. For instance, if you’re sailing upwind, make sure that the sails are flat or tight. On the other hand, if you’re sailing downwind, make sure that the sails are full and curved.


The basic theory behind sailing is not complex. However, applying it correctly can take years of practice. Once you learn how to use the telltales, which are strings of yarn connected to the mainsail and jib, you’ll be able to see how the wind is affecting your performance.


Know the Laws

Understanding how to interact with other boats on the water will help avoid getting into a collision. The rules of the road are based on the type of boat and the activity it’s involved in at the time of the interaction. For instance, if you’re a sailboat, the other boats should move to the right.


Regardless of the rules, the ultimate goal is to avoid a collision. Having the proper equipment and skills will allow you to enjoy the sailing experience without getting carried away by the details.