So You Want to Learn How to Sail? 12 Tips for Beginners

Welcome to the world of sailing! I applaud you for wanting to learn how to sail. This water sport is one of the most accessible sports in the United States. Sailing can be quite exciting but also scary if you’re not well prepared and are out on the water when bad weather strikes. I’ve been sailing for countless years and if you follow Sailing Pro on Facebook, you may recall that I coach, too. Take it from me, before stepping foot into a sailboat, you need to keep the following in mind.

  1. Become well versed in sailing safety. Always have a personal floatation device (PFD) — also known as a life jacket — on board and better yet, wear it, for starters.

  2. Know before you go. Trust me, at any level, the last thing you want to do is be on the water in a storm. Avoid problems by researching weather before you head out.

  3. Dress accordingly. Consider comfort and make sure you have the right sailing footwear, be it a sailing boot or shoe.

  4. Take a few lessons with a trained professional. Few people learn how to sail from a book. While a lot can be learned from sailing books and the Internet, there’s nothing like getting that in person training.

  5. The less crowded and the calmer the water is while you’re still learning, the better. And, avoid sailing on windy days.

  6. Become familiar with sailing terms. What’s a buoy, jibe, or stern? They are just three sailing terms you’ll want to know.

  7. Get educated on the sailing laws in the areas you wish to sail. The United States Coast Guard offers a reference guide. California for example requires mandatory boating safety education for some segment of the population and just reading sailing books does not cut it.

Gill Front Zip Buoyancy Aid

Gill Front Zip Buoyancy Aid

Magic Marine Tool Bag

Magic Marine Tool Bag

  1. Know what to bring. Each personal on board will need a PFD. Having a toolkit with spare parts is a plus. Pack an anchor, a boat hook, and a compass. Some sailors choose to pack water, snacks, sunscreen, personal medicines, and gloves.

  2. Don’t sail alone. When you’re first starting out, never sail alone. Ideally, go with a skilled sailor who can advise you.

  3. Boat type matters. A lot of new sailors tend to find that smaller boats are easier to work with. They’re typically more responsive than larger boats and make understanding the basics of sailing much easier. I see a lot of sailing schools teaching beginners on classic 23’ sloop boats.

  4. Watch out for the boom. Rutgers University keeps the definition of a boom short and simple: it’s a spar that takes the foot of a sail. It’s pretty common for sailors to get injured from the boom when they are not mindful of it. When it swings, it can knock you in the head or even overboard … not fun.

  5. Practice and enjoy the sailing life!  


-  Art Vasenius, Sailing Pro Shop Owner


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