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The Basics of Sailing

The Basics of Sailing

on August 15, 2021

The sail begins with sailing skills and sailing basics. Start your sailing adventure today, learn the points of sail, read this blog, and you will be sailing off in the sunset!

basics of sailing

The basics of sailing


Sailing is fun and a full-on physical activity. A great Outdoor activity, escaping a life of stress, relax and enjoy! Sailing seems difficult at first, but once you have a better understanding, you will be good to go! Before we sail off into the sunset, let us learn some sailing basics first. Ar e you ready, sailor?

A sailboat is mostly propelled by the sails, and the wind plays an important role; the sail acts to the wind by catching the wind and pushing the boat forward. Looking at the sailboat, there are 2 sails: The Mainsail and The Headsailalso known as a jib.

The mainsail is the large sail behind the mast, and the headsail the smaller sail in front of the mast. (A mast is a tall upright post or structure carrying the sails)

On the boat, you should have Wind indicators such as flags or wind instruments to tell you the direction of the wind.

sailors Compass wind direction

Looking at the waves is also a direct indicator of where the wind is coming from; however wind instruments are a must-have. Knowing the direction is very important using the traditional method by looking at the sun is another way to know the direction: the sun rises in the east and sets in the west however, for more accurate reading, a Compass or any other electronic gadgets will work best.

ocean waves, sail trip

Taking the boat directly in the wind means it is time to pull up the mainsail, which is at the back of the boat, then turn the boat slightly away from the wind about 45 degrees, then pull up the headsail which will power the boat forward. Ensure your sails are tight and not flapping. Taking a training course on how to sail is highly recommended. The sailing school or sailing club is the best place to start basic sailing maneuvers.

The perfect wind speed to sail comfortably in 5 to 12 knots, knowing wind speed is important during the course of sailing, for long-time sailors it becomes easy to read the wind speed by just looking at the water. This amazing ability to read wind speed, just shows how one can connect with nature. Wind meters to read wind speed is another item to add to the must-have list before we sail.

effective angle,  larger boat, sail

Required safety equipment for a sailboat both small boat and large boat.

Sailing is fun and a great way to explore nature and wildlife before we start to explore the amazing feeling of sailing we need to make sure that all required safety equipment is on board and in working condition. Safety equipment is for smaller sailboats and larger sailboats

  1. Life Jackets should be worn at all times by every person on board the vessel, the appropriate size is required for the intended user.
  2. Type IV Throwable device – Ring buoys, horseshoe buoys: To be thrown to a person in the water.
  3. Visual Distress Signals – Such as Flares that can be used in day and night time or Electric light which is only used at night time. These signals can only be used when there is a real emergency or if you find yourself in immediate danger.
  4. Sound Signal device – Bells or Whistles are great for sound signaling. Sound can attract help and also in case of poor visibility the sound signal will create awareness.
  5. Navigation Lights – These lights should be used between sunset and sunrise – also when there is poor visibility due to rain or any other cause.
  6. Inflatable Life Rafts – This is used when people are forced to abandon ship.
  7. First Aid Kit – in case of any injury onboard.
  8. Fire extinguisher – inform those on board how to use the fire extinguisher, and keep it in a place where it is easy to reach.

 boat Safety equipment, life jacket

Sailing terms you need to know

The first thing when you learn to sail is, to learn the sailing terms, it is important to understand when a sailor speaks about the bow, stern, leeward, port side, starboard, windward side, tack, port tack, etc.

As a sailor, it is important to learn the sailing terms used when on board and just for the fun you should inform your friends of the terms and their meaning. This just makes sailing more fun and interesting.


Facing forward, this is anything to the left of the boat. (Port side = Left-hand side)


Facing forward, this is anything to the right of the boat.


 The bow is the front of the boat and the stern is the back of the boat. So when we say “Facing forward” in sailing terms would be facing the bow.


 the big wheel where you steer the boat or tiller which is a stick that is used to steer the boat.


this keeps the boat from being blown sideways by the wind and holds the ballast that keeps the boat's right side up.


The term is used when the sailboat leans to the side, this can be either side and is caused by the force of the wind, for most people this is an exciting thrill.


Tack also known as "taking" means to change direction by turning the bow/front of the boat through the wind it also means the course you are on for example port tack – meaning the wind is coming over the left side of the boat.


This term is used when changing direction, the boat/vessel brings the stern (back) of the boat through the wind.


The preferred term for “rope”


The Windward side is the side closest to the wind, when the boat/vessel leans over, windward would be the highest side. The Leeward side would be the exact opposite side, when the boat leans over this would be the lowest side.

Windward direction and leeward side

Parts of a sailboat

  • The hull is the bottom of the boat, supports the rigging.
  • The rigging includes various parts of sailboats, the lines, sheets, and halyards., mainsail, headsail (jib), boom, and mast, etc.
  • Rudder - Wikipedia - The primary action of the rudder is to steer sailboats.


Related Blog



Sail Trim:  is the way the sails are used and shaped, Sailing well is all about sail trim. Points of sale procedures to maintain a proper sail trim.

Jibbing and tacking are the two basic sailing maneuvers, Jibbing and tacking will either take you into the wind or away from the wind, the direction of the wind plays an important role, your sails depend on it.

Points of sail: 

A boat's direction of travel, the corresponding relative to the wind. (Point of sail correspond to 45 degrees segment of a circle starting from 0 degrees into the wind)


this is a zone you do not want to be in, Irons is a term used when the sailboat moves straight into the wind and loses motion/power this will cause the easy movement without power to stop which is called “Coast” Irons is also known as the NO GO ZONE

Close Hauled:

 The term is also known as Beating – this when you sail close to the wind approximately 45ﹾ, your sails must be pulled in nice and tight.

Close Reach: 

Sailing with the wind slightly in front of the wind. Sailing in between close-hauled (beating) and beam reach.

Beam reach: 

this term is used if the wind blows straight over the side of the boat 90ﹾ off the wind. In this case, your sails would be out halfway.

Broad Reach:

 135ﹾ off the wind, sailing a bit further downwind.


Sailing downwind meaning the sailboat/vessel is sailing in the same direction as the wind, 180ﹾ off the wind.

Sailing point of sail, broad reach, close hauled,

Points of sail are critical to operating a sailboat safely and efficiently. Boats cannot sail directly into the wind or the “no-go zone.” If the wind is coming from the left of the boat, you're on port tack; if it's coming from the right, you're on starboard. As you sail farther away from the wind direction, ease the sheets for peak performance.

boats, sails, boat turns

Safety tips for sailing
  • Float plan: Always share your float plan with the coast guard
  • Wear a Life jacket
  • If you are sailing alone, weather yourself to the boat with a harness, if you fall over, you will not be separated from your boat.
  • Never sail during storms, always check the weather forecast before you set sails.
  • Look out for other boats, if you are a beginning sailor, avoided areas with high boat traffic.
  • Always have spare sails on board, the reason for this is, if one of your sails is damaged you can easily replace it.


Share your sailing adventure and sailing experience with us?

Marine life is beautiful, and there are so many things you can do if you have a smaller boat, that is perfect too, your boat does not have to be large to have some fun, so start small and take it from there. Many sailors share their stories of the beautiful scenery that they have experienced, from wales to a group of dolphins, Tuna fish, sharks, all sorts of school fish, this just sounds amazing, every time some speaks about their sailing adventure, I just want to get on the boat and let the sails take me into the ocean.

Sailing is an exciting adventure, set your sails and travel the ocean and explore! If you are reading this post, it’s likely that you have a keen interest in sailing. Whether for personal enjoyment or as part of a family outing, there are some great reasons to get on board with one of life’s most rewarding outdoor experiences. The experts at Sailboat Charter will tell you all about safety equipment, safety tips for sailing so read on if interested! Planning a sailing trip? Are you a first-time sailor?

Share your story sailor - we would love to hear from someone who's new to the sport!

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Buy online with Marine Supplies US the boat store near you! Enjoy your sailing experience with the right sailing accessories


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