Is It Hard To Sail A Boat?

Is It Hard To Sail A Boat? | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

As one of the oldest sports in the world, sailing might seem so complicated but it’s not. Sailing is easier than you might think.

Have you ever read those boating magazines? Well, read them and you might think sailing a sailboat is one of the most difficult things. Fortunately, that’s not the case. It’s quite possible to learn the basics of sailing in an afternoon but only if you have a skilled instructor to teach you. Even if you do it all alone, it’s something that you can grasp within a few days of lessons. Once you learn to sail, you’ll probably wonder why it took you so long to begin this very exciting lifestyle.

So is it hard to sail a sailboat? The straightforward answer to this question is no. You’ll need three basic skills to become a competent sailor. One of the most important things is being able to tell the direction of the wind. You should also be able to steer the sailboat accurately. Lastly, you should be able to tell whether or not the sail is properly trimmed. All in all, you should learn how to sail so that you get out on the water and enjoy the relaxing and stimulating freedom that comes with sailing.

For this reason, here are some sailing tips that will make you a more competent sailor and enjoy one of the most captivating adventures in the world.


Table of contents

Find a Place to Learn

There are various commercial sailing schools in the United States such as Offshore Sailing School. Most of them are located along shores of popular waterways and in marinas. You can also Google "sailing lessons" and get other places for sailing lessons. You can also consider sailing clubs, which are normally in metropolitan areas and even in unexpected areas such as Arizona and Nevada.

When taking sailing lessons, make sure that the schools are certified either by the U.S. Sailing or the American Sailing Association. Beginner courses generally cost around $500 per head and often last days, which makes it a lot easier to find weekend packages.

The Basics

Keep in mind that sailing is one of those sports and hobbies that have lots of jargon, traditions, and myths. However, you’ll be much better if you perfectly understand the basics.

Learn about the Wind

Sailing is mostly about how the wind moves. The wind forms an airfoil in the sail to propel the boat. Although learning about the wind can be tricky at first, it will soon become second to nature. Better still; most sailboats have technological gadgets to help you learn about the wind. For instance, the wind vane at the top of the mast will show you the wind direction.

Learn How to Accurately Steer

Steering a sailboat is, without a doubt, the easiest part of learning how to sail. It takes most people around five minutes. Keep in mind that sailing in a set direction is fairly easy but changing direction can be challenging. This generally involves tacking and gybing, so you must learn how to maneuver the boat.

Steer the Trim

If the sailboat is sailing in a straight line, you can simply ease the line that controls the sail (the sheet) until the luff or the leading edge of the sail wagers marginally in and out. You can simply pull the sheet in slightly until the waging stops and the sail is trimmed. If you want to change direction just follow the same procedure in the opposite direction. You can use the sheets to angle the sail so that it fills the wind. You can also use the tiller to move the rudder and the angle to make sure that the sailboat is perpendicular to the wind.

Learn How to Tie Off a Line

You need to learn how to secure a line to a cleat. To do this, you should start with the horn, which is farthest from the load. You can wrap the line around both horns. Do not do it several times if you do not want to jam.

Get Equipped

The instructor will always come dressed for the occasion and you should do the same. In addition to the safety equipment and navigation gear that will probably be provided, you should have the following items:

Shoes – A great pair of deck shoes should be grippy and non-marking. Here are some of our favorite shoes to wear when sailing.

Gloves – You should go for heavy-duty sailing gloves that can protect your hands from adverse weather conditions.

Sunglasses – You should get polarized sunglasses cut glare to help read the wind and see how the water is moving. Make sure that the sunglasses have lenses to increase the contrast when there are changes in water conditions.

Windbreaker – Having a jacket that can stand up to wind is a must. You have to protect your body from water and wind while also providing a little warmth.

A NotebookThis is to help you keep track of your sailing lessons, the classes you’ve completed, and the hours you’ve spent on the water. This can also be a great way to demonstrate your experience and show that you took sailing lessons, as well as your accomplishments.

Learn the Different Parts of the Sailboat

It wouldn’t make sense if you want to learn how to sail without knowing the important parts of a sailboat. Knowing these parts will not only enable you to sail the boat efficiently but is also integral for safety reasons. You should, therefore, know important parts such as the bow, boom, cleat, halyard, hull, jib, keel, rudder, mast and many more.

Learn the Different Types of Sailboats

Knowing the different types of sailboats is also important just in case you may want to buy a sailboat in the future. As a beginner, you may not sail your own sailboat but knowing the available types will help you decide what works best for you. Here are the most common types of sailboats.

Sloop – This is the most common type. It has a single mast rigged up with a jib and it’s ideal for an upwind sail.

Cutters – They generally have one mast but with two sails in front and at the back. They’re fairly easy to handle and is ideal for a small group of people.

Catboat – The mast is set up near the front with a single sail. They can be easily operated by one or two people.

Ketch – It has two masts. The second mast is known as the mizzen and is generally shorter.

Learn How to Dock and Anchor the Sailboat

You’ll, of course, not spend the rest of your life on the sailboat. You’ll want to come back to the shore and that’s why it’s of great importance that you learn how to dock and anchor the sailboat. You’ll have to learn how to use the painter and other equipment that you’ve probably ignored so far. You should also learn how to tie a few sailing knots.

Common Questions from First-Time Sailors

Here are some of the most common questions from first-time sailors.

Will I get Seasick?

Yes, you might. However, when learning how to sail a sailboat, you’ll be mostly close to the shore, which can help. If by bad luck, you feel like vomiting, it would be proper to do it on the leeward side of the sailboat.

Will the boat capsize if there is a gust of wind?

If there is a huge gust of the wind, all you have to do is stop the boat by turning into the wind. Although a huge wind may make the sailboat to heel or lean, it will not capsize. This is because sailboats have hulls that make them almost impossible to capsize. It’s, however, important that you’re always prepared when it comes to recovering just in case the boat capsizes.

Is it Hard to Make the Sails?

Keep in mind that it requires lots of strength to perfectly manage a wind-filled sail. You can, however, take the mechanical advantage of pulleys and winches. As such, anyone can sail if it’s just a casual sail but competitive sailing is another matter altogether.

What Happens if I Fall Overboard?

It’s important to raise alarm so that you can get help. However, it’s always advisable to have a life-jacket on you at all times. Again, the boat may momentarily look like it is sailing away but just stay calm and don’t freak out. This is because it may take the sailboat some time to turn around. It’s also good to remember that it can be very dangerous out there on the water, so you must learn about sailing safety.


To this end, it’s important to stress that sailing is not as hard as some people make it. Learning how to sail is a great way to get out there on the water and enjoy a very exciting lifestyle. You shouldn’t wait any longer; go out there, learn how to sail a sailboat and you never look back.

Bon voyage!

Is It Hard To Sail A Boat?
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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