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How to Sail: Beginners Guide to Sailing

How to Sail: Beginners Guide to Sailing

So, you’re venturing forth into the world of sailing for the first time. That’s amazing! Sailing is a way of life and you’ll soon learn a different definition of what freedom may have meant to you in the past. There is nothing quite like experiencing the wind billowing your sails onwards, the same wind you can feel caressing your face. Nothing like it in the world. Before we continue exhorting the many virtues of sailing, however, there are a few things you should know before attempting to head out to sea. Like any good sailor will tell you, the sea is not to be underestimated or taken lightly and getting to grips with sailing know-how is crucial for your own safety but also for the wellbeing of your passengers and other sea crafts you may meet. You don’t want to end up spending your time at sea fixing the mistakes you’re making. You’re there to have fun and to do so, you need to know what you’re doing.

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But where to start? Here at Book2Sail, we’ve compiled a small list of sailing tips to get you started. We hope this will whet your appetite for sailing even more.

Make sure you take all the necessary licensing courses

young friends getting sailing lessons of an instructor on a boat

source: Sunsail

This goes without saying and is different in every country. To operate a sea craft, you will need to take an instructional course, which is provided for a fee. During this course, you will be taught international safety codes and regulations and it is illegal to sail without it. At the end of the course, you will be given a license that allows you to (finally!) start sailing.

Start with calm waters

young sailing enthusiasts learn sailing on calm waters in a small sail boat

source: Division of Boating and Waterways – State of California

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This will help you gain confidence to tackle rougher waters later on. Try to choose as secluded a place as possible to avoid crowds in the first few days.

Choose a small boat, rigged with one sail

small beginner boat sailing down a river

source: National Water Sports Centre

Don’t complicate matters on your first attempt at sea. Start simple and progress only when you’ve mastered the simplest craft possible.

Do your research very carefully

sailing wind weather wizard


Before you decide to make plans to go out sailing, check weather, wind and tide conditions. Remember, what might appear to be a beautiful day for sailing could just as well be the worst if the tides are not forthcoming. And although you do need wind to sail, too much wind for your type of craft could be its ruin. So plan ahead and know what your boat can handle before setting out.

Draw up a pre-departure checklist

This will avoid terse moments when, during the trip, you remember you forgot to stock up on a basic item (and no, we’re not referring to beer here).

Check examples of the sailing checklists.

Know your terminology

sailboat terminology for beginners


Knowing how to sail is only half the work. If you’re more than one skipper on the boat, knowing the terminology used on sailing boats will help with coordinating tasks which might need rapid intervention. Confusion will only hinder your progress and could ultimately result in an awful experience. Words like boom, rudder, starboard, leeward and so on should have become part of your everyday lingo (or almost).

Jibing & Tacking – if you don’t know what they are, you’re doing something wrong



sailing Jibing for beginners


sailing tacking for begginers

source: Faraway5 Adventures

Jibing is the act of taking you away from the wind while tacking takes you into it. Knowing the manoeuvres for each of them is essential in the steering of your sailing boat. If you’ve assigned an assistant skipper, make sure he knows the cue-to-call for each of the two.

Once you have it all under control, relax and let the wind and the sea do the rest

sailing couple relaxing

source: Sunsail

Now you’re allowed to open that can of beer (or to start panicking if you’ve forgotten it behind).

Sailing is one of the life’s most liberating pleasures. Many sailors admit that they feel most at ease and comfortable in their skin when they’re on their sailing boats, guiding and being guided in equal measure. Perhaps it’s the feeling of being one with Mother Nature that man finds so appealing. Whatever its, we at Book2Sail believe whole-heartedly that if you haven’t sailed at least once in you’re life, you’re really missing out.

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