Sailing 101
June 16, 2014 6:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm joining friends on their 28' sailboat for a week this summer. I haven't really ever sailed, and I'd like to read or watch some materials to get me up to speed on the basics and concepts beforehand, so I'm not this guy. What would you recommend?
posted by benbenson to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This doesn't look too bad to skim for the basics. Really, 28' is a pretty small boat, so my advice would be just listen to what you're told and watch your head. Have fun!
posted by notaninja at 7:06 AM on June 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

How do you want to understand your sailing? With physics, or something a little less heavy?

Most of the basic sailing intros you've already found will be good enough for your first week.

On the boat pay attention and ask some intelligent questions. Don't get in the way, but ask to join in. You'll learn the rest from the people on the boat.

As for equipment, dress for the weather (good and bad). Non-marking shoes. Pack no more than a single watertight holdall, bring spare plastic bags for wet stuff, a quick drying towel. Bring a usb battery pack - you may not have electricity while the engine is off (or when moored).
posted by devnull at 7:09 AM on June 16, 2014

Firstly, remember that "port" is left since they both have four letters. And "starboard" is right since it has two "R's" in it.

I picked up a very basic sailing book before a family sailing trip on Lake Erie on a similarly sized vessel - The Complete Sailing Manual, by DK Publishing. I found it helpful.

A good captain will understand your skill level and will give you firsthand instructions and the reasoning behind it. Listening to the Captain is a good start for a successful trip.

And I hope your experience is as good as mine. I love sailing. There's something about using the wind to move a boat that makes one feel so much more involved than just adjusting the throttle.

ALSO - if the Captain allows you to steer, remember to pick a point on the horizon and steer to that. That will ensure you make small adjustments at the wheel rather than the larger ones we're accustomed to when driving a car.
posted by glaucon at 7:47 AM on June 16, 2014

I wouldn't bother with the reading and studying quite yet. Just go, wear shoes that won't mark up the deck, pack good layers, clean socks, ziplock bags, and sunscreen, watch your head around the boom, do EXACTLY what you're told, and stay out of the way.

The most I would do is just google around for basic sailboat terminology. That way you'll have skipped a few days of confusion.

If you're still super into sailing after the trip, then get to researching. There is SO, SO much to learn, always and forever.

Enjoy being "railmeat!" You'll have a great time.

Oh, and I just learned a new way to remember port vs. starboard: "There is no PORT LEFT in the glass."
posted by functionequalsform at 8:18 AM on June 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

For learning how the ocean "works" and how a boat works in the ocean I recommend the book Oceanography and Seamanship. (dig around until you find a used copy that isn't as expensive) It's split into these parts: Origin & Nature of the Oceans; A Little Meteorology; Ocean Circulation; Principles of Wave Motion; Ocean Waves; Ship Dynamics; Heavy Weather Seamanship; Emergency Procedures. You can pick out the parts you're interested in (like for example, Stability (of a ship)) and gain a decent vocabulary to know what to pay attention to and what questions to ask..... if you're really into it.

But really, sailing is an experience thing, so the best thing to do is go, have fun, and learn "on the spot." Pay attention, be tidy, do what you're told. (on preview, what functionequalsform said)
posted by barchan at 8:25 AM on June 16, 2014

There are good recommendations above. To which, I'll add a rule of thumb that will keep you from bumps, bruises, losing things overboard, etc.

"One hand for oneself and one for the ship."

As a beginner it's helpful to always have a hand at the ready to steady yourself, grab a railing, etc. It's just fine if the other hand has a beer in it, but avoid taking "lazy man's" loads and carrying too much or too many things with both hands. If you suddenly need to steady yourself it's far better to have a free hand than to slip or drop something overboard.

Have fun!
posted by annaramma at 9:24 AM on June 16, 2014

Water will be in short supply. Don't expect to shower daily, don't leave the water running while you brush your teeth, etc. If you will want to shave, bring an electric shaver.

You'll spend most of the daylight hours in the sun. Bring lots of sunblock (non-greasy), a hat, lightweight long sleeves and pants.

You'll likely spend lots of time as railmeat, like functionequalsform says. Expect to come home with bruises.

Bring books or something else to occupy your time. It's a small space to spend that much time with others, even close friends, and you'll need some way to entertain yourself.

This site seems to have some good information, terminology, etc.
posted by jshort at 9:26 AM on June 16, 2014

The US Sailing course books are good; start with Basic Keelboat.
posted by nicwolff at 9:55 AM on June 16, 2014

Are you all staying on the boat for a week? My dad has a 28ft sailboat and the cabin is small, so be prepared for a lot of close-quarter togetherness and don't bring a lot of stuff as storage is at a premium.
posted by cecic at 10:57 AM on June 16, 2014

My kids and I spent a week on my parents' 32 foot boat this spring. The things I noticed particularly, as someone who hadn't sailed in a few years:
- there's no privacy. It's kind of a weird space where you pretend that you can't hear/smell what's going on in the head (toilet) and when folks want quiet time, you go into your own bubble even though you're sitting two feet from each other.
- ask the skipper for a quick instruction on his/her boat. They won't be asking you to do anything technical, but if you want to haul on a line now and then, let them know.
- boats heel over. It will feel like you're going to fall in the water. You won't.
- The job of anyone on the boat who isn't the skipper is to pay attention and follow directions. If the sailing gets rough and you don't have a job, stay out of the way.

Otherwise, have such a great time. Sailing is one of the best things.
posted by linettasky at 12:43 PM on June 16, 2014

Use sunblock. Wear a hat with a brim. The danger areas for sunburn are the head and neck, the tops of the thighs and the tops of the feet.

More and more, sailors are wearing PFDs all the time while underway. If you are not a strong swimmer, you might consider getting an auto inflatable PFD from West Marine. They are a lot more comfortable than the old type.

Don't confuse noise and flapping of the sails during maneuvers as danger. They do that.

Drink plenty of water.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:40 PM on June 16, 2014

On the basis of my recent first experience with sailing: bring Dramamine, just in case.
posted by ootandaboot at 7:59 PM on June 16, 2014

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