Sailing 101: Sailing- Do It the Right Way

Ahoy Sailors, you’ve got your checklist and you’re ready for a safe take-off and landing. Now let’s list out the big no-no’s while sailing the open ocean. Stay tuned, your next lesson will breakdown of the many different navigation tools that a sailor should have on board.

Sailing on the ocean looks peaceful and smooth to the onlookers resting on the beach. While this can be the case in the world of sea cruising for an experienced sailor, so are the dangers, surprises, and tragic consequences of poor decision-making. The many perils for which a cruising sailor needs to be prepared may include bad weather, ocean currents, squalls, rouge waves, wildlife, other boats, lack of preparedness, and the careful balance of maintaining the seaworthiness of the boat as well as the supplies needed by the crew. Here are all the mistakes you should avoid while sailing open waters.


1.) Getting Caught in Winches:

When a line wraps around a winch and is pulled in, anything between that line and the drum will also be sucked in. This is why experienced sailors always keep their hair tied back. It’s not just the wind-thrashing you’ll want to avoid; you can quickly lose a finger or have your hair ripped out by winch-pinching.


2.) Pulling on a Loose Line:

Something about the tail of the line makes us want to pull on it, to figure out where it’s attached. But if it’s a halyard, the loose end will quickly climb the mast, faster than you thought possible. About halfway up, the weight of the line running down the mast will most likely outweigh the rope running up. The only way to recover from this is a quick scramble to the top of the mast, and hopefully, that wasn’t the only halyard available, or you’ll have to free climb. It is important to always be aware of where your lines are at before you pull.


3.) Not Closing Thru-hulls Overnight: 

Closing all the valves that could let in the ocean water will keep a small maintenance oversight from sinking your boat. Thru-hulls that get opened and shut several times a season will also be less likely to freeze open (or closed).


4.) Flogging your Sails:

Sails will only last as long as the care and attention they are given. The quickest way to shorten a sail’s life expectancy is to flog it, letting it thrash in the wind.

When jibs are stored on head stays that aren’t folded tightly enough, a gust of wind can come up, pull a piece of leech free, and then there’s a considerable flag blowing the boat around. Not only will the jib become damaged, but the tranquility of the anchorage or marina will be disturbed. A tight furl will likely prevent any unraveling. However, remember that a secure sail still may not always be 100 percent guaranteed.


5.) Starting the Engine Without Checking for Lines 

Many sailors will start their engines to return to the dock. Always look over the side before the prop engages to ensure a random jib sheet or dock line has not fallen into the water.


6.) Steering the Wrong Way When Backing Down

It can be tricky to back up a sailboat. You may not be able to tell which way to turn the rudder. Push the tiller toward where you want the bow to go so the stern will move in the opposite direction. This is the exact opposite of wheel steering.


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