»Why is almost every robust, healthy boy with a robust, healthy soul in him, at some time or other, crazy to go to sea? Why, upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land?«
-Herman Melville, “Moby Dick”
Sailing started as a way of exploring the world. Although today’s sailors still maintain the explorers ‘ brave spirit from the past centuries, Sailing is no longer a key means of transport, international trade or war. People have been sailing for adventure and sport since the 17th century. [source: Athletic Scholarships].
Many modern sailors are sailing because they love to be on the water. Sailing is ranked as the U.S.’s 17th fastest-growing sport, and it is estimated that over 4 million Americans are recreational sailors[ source: The Boating Channel]. Sailing is an age-old attraction: 40 percent of sailors are between 25 and 44 years of age, and about 17 percent are younger than 17 years of age — [source: The Boating Channel].
And whether you’re inspired by famous explorers like Amerigo Vespucci or Vasco Da Gama, America’s Cup sailing race winners, or just love the feeling of wind in your head, sailing is a sport to saturate your side of adventure. Great winds!
Next we will learn about some of the most popular sailing styles, as well as discover some fun ways to find (and show off) your sea legs.
There are some common styles of recreational sailing that may suit you if you’re looking for a little fun and some high-seas adventure. We also have a few unusual ideas if you’re looking for something a little different.
If you’re a beginner sailor, you might want to start with small sailing boats such as dinghies, daysailers, and small keelboats. They are generally less than 25 feet in length and are easy to maneuver. These can be sailed by an individual (solo sailing) or by a crew member — [source: U.S. Sailing].
Many sailors start with small sailboats, and even as they become professionals, they continue to adventure this way. Dinghies are fun and lightweight— used by college and Olympic racing teams, and great for weekend warriors.
Nevertheless, some adventurers take their hobby of sailing to a whole new level and go cruising. Cruising is not just a hobby; it is a lifestyle. They’re cruising when you hear about someone sailing around the globe. Sailors who choose to cruise stay and fly for extended periods of time on their sailboats. Their ships range from simple keelboats to large, multi-hull yachts. Many cruising boats have many of the comforts of home below deck and may include beds, toilets, kitchen facilities, and even entertainment systems, depending on their size.
Boats can be chartered with skippers for those who want the thrill or relaxation of sailing without the job, and yachts can be chartered with crews. Sunset cruises and Caribbean sailing holidays are two common forms of family-friendly chartered sailing adventures. Sunset cruises are experiences of leisurely cruising and are usually chartered by relaxing small groups. If it sounds more like your style to sail in the Caribbean like the rich and famous, boats (with or without qualified crews) can be chartered by travel agencies. The Virgin Islands, Antigua, St. Barts, St. Martin and Grenada are some of the famous island destinations for Caribbean sailors.
Several resorts sell nude sailing daytrips as well as multi-day island-hopping cruise packages for sailors who want to break away from the norm. (Think about wearing extra sunscreen).
But if you’re looking for an alternative to the scene of heat, sand and waves, ice sailing— also called ice boating, ice yachting, ice surfing, and hard water sailing— transforms sailing into a winter sport. Ice sailing started in the Netherlands in the 1800s as a means of crossing frozen lakes in winter, and has grown in popularity as a recreational sport since ice sailing boats were introduced in the 1930s.
Did you know that it is not possible to take sailboats directly into the wind? Learn the five essential elements of sailing in the next portion.
You may want to brush up on your nautical vocabulary if you’re new to the world of sailing. Here are a few words you should know:
Units of measure:
Sailing’s fundamentals are easy to learn in a couple of lessons, but perfecting them can take a lifetime. There are five essential skills and techniques to learn about sailing: sailing environment, boat balance, front and aft trim, centerboard position, and good course.
To find a sailing school in the United States, visit the American Sailing Association.
Next we’re going to learn about healthy boating and some boating superstitions that have endured over the years.
Sailors are familiar with their knots. You should recognize that there are two general types: bend and hook. A bend is a knot that ends up fastening the rope. To tie the boat to a rail or post, a hitch wraps a rope around itself.
There are hundreds of knots on your practice list, but there are only a few basics that should be:
In order to keep recreational sailing a fun and safe sport, there are certain guidelines that sailors are expected to follow. Next, it’s important to be honest about your skill level. If you’re a novice or an accomplished professional, going beyond your abilities could put you and others at risk. Seventy percent of reported deaths occur at sea, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, because the boat operator did not have enough (or any) instructions for boating. Source: United States. Coast Guard, Coast Guard.
Your abilities will only carry you so far— to get you out on the water, you’ll need wind in your sails. Once you set off, be sure to assess the wind speed and direction. Test the forecast as well. While you plan, it may be sunny, but a change in weather may lead to a dangerous expedition.
You’ll also want to check your port, equipment and tools with determined skill level and wind direction to make sure they’re all in good condition, and remember if you’ve got everything you need on board before setting off. You are required by federal law to have safety equipment on board. You and your crew will wear life jackets and they should all be able to use the safety equipment of the ships. Make sure you know how to make an emergency call for immediate help— the moment you’re in trouble isn’t the time to figure out how to call for help.
Having a plan is also clever. You are likely to be out of reach of the land on your journey, and if you have an emergency, it may be difficult to find you for help. Set up a float plan and leave a copy before you set sail with a friend or nearby marina. At the very least, the plan should include:
Ability, weather, inspection and a schedule— verify. Be alert and aware of your surroundings once you launch your boat. You are less likely to crash with other vessels or objects by simply keeping a safe speed and looking around you (the top two causes of accidents). [source: U.S. Coast Guard]).
And leave the alcohol on the shore: at sea, drinking and running machinery is as risky as it is on the roads. Violators with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher may face civil and criminal penalties, incarceration for one year, or both. [source: U.S. Coast Guard]. Alcohol use is a leading factor in fatal boating accidents — nearly 20 percent of reported fatalities [source: U.S. Coast Guard].
Consult the U.S. for a complete list of rules and regulations. The guard of the coast Navigation Center.
A lot of sailors enjoy testing their techniques, strategies and tactics in races as their sailing skills improve. Races are organized around the world by sailing clubs and colleges. There are two types of sailboat races: team racing (or group racing) where two to four boats compete with each other and match racing where two boats compete head to head.
One of the most popular two-boat races is the America’s Cup, where the best sailors, mechanics and boat builders will show their skills. The rules are developed by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and are published every four years. Visit the ISAF for a copy of Sailing’s Racing Rules.
I was overwhelmed by my gut reaction to being asked to write about sailing. I love the water, so much so that I wanted to be able to live underwater as a child, but I would have sailed only once. To get this right, I’d have to do a lot of research and talk to people with sailing experience.
As a water lover, when I read that most sailors today sail because they love to be on the sea, I was instantly engaged. Yes, I’ve been addicted. I started to imagine a life at sea, sailing around the world from place to place— which, as it turns out, is called cruising. Although cruising is a lifestyle, not a sport, there are plenty of sailing hobbyists who set out instead of keelboats or yachts in dinghies.
While I wouldn’t suggest any set sail without extensive training and on-board experience, I hope to have learned all of the sport’s basics— and show anyone like me the difference between starboard, side, stern, and bow.
Stuff You Need to Know: