Why do people choose to learn to sail?
People learn to sail for a plethora of reasons. Many do it for the ability to travel, some do it because they simply like being on a boat, some people may even plan to do it competitively.
Whichever of those categories you fall into, perhaps it is even a new one entirely, there are some common benefits from learning to sail.
Learning to sail is a practical skill that could open the door to many new jobs and career options that might not have existed for you before.
Learning to sail is also shown to improve critical thinking, decision making, and teamwork skills. This is great for any age but even better for children. If you were considering sailing as a hobby for your child, the benefits are fantastic.
Some benefits of learning to sail
Whether you are learning to sail for these benefits or they are simply just a bonus for you they shouldn’t be ignored. Some of the following benefits aren’t even considered by new sailors, though they should be. If you were on the fence, hopefully, these benefits will help convince you that sailing is definitely worth the plunge:
Sailing offers you a sense of freedom you have likely never had before. Being able to set off at any time (with the right weather conditions) and explore the world isn’t possible in any other way. Unless you have been on a sailboat before, you might not perhaps fully understand just how unique an experience it is; and that’s okay. If anything, that should motivate you to push yourself even harder to learn to sail.
There is an often tight-knit community around sailors. Whether this is through a sailing club, sailing competitions, or your local marina. Sailors are all likeminded people with respect for their boats, the water, and the act of sailing itself. If you are looking for a place that you will be welcomed with open arms and embraced by the community, visit your local sailing club.
Competition sailing is very intense and very exciting. It is a test of true skill and sheer determination. Whether you are competing yourself or just spectating, sailing competitions are something you won’t want to miss. It doesn’t have to be a huge competition like the transatlantic race, it could just be your local clubs monthly competition.
Sailing can make you feel a connection to history and your ancestors. After all, sailing is an ancient tradition that played such a crucial role in developing the world to the way it is today. Some of the most influential peoples and countries in history; Britain, France, Spain, Holland, the Romans, the Vikings, etc. All built their empires on their command of the seas. Be it through trade or naval warfare.
What are some problems beginner sailors bump into?
Many beginners bump into a few hiccups when learning to sail. After all, sailing is not easy. Even for those that grew up around sailboats and have parents that sail, the act of learning to sail can be a challenge. Sailing requires such knowledge, skill, respect, and instincts that very few other hobbies do. Here are some of the common problems that beginner sailers bump into so that you can be aware of them, perhaps they then won’t affect you as much:
Learning the jargon
Learning the terminology and general boating jargon can be tricky. If you grew up around boats you may have absorbed a lot of this knowledge over time. If you didn’t, it can feel like learning an entirely new language. A lot of boat talk is passing on vital information and exact instructions. Learning how to talk like a sailor (not cursing like one) is one of the hardest parts of learning to sail.
Maritime laws and learning the rules of the road are important parts of becoming a sailor. Just like when learning to drive a car you must learn the rules of the road, so you must learn the rules of the sea. This is not only a legal requirement but a safety one. Learning who has the right of way, how to signal for help, and learning how and when to assist others is all very important.
Unless you were in the boy scouts or a sailing club growing up, there is a very slim chance you are proficient at knot tying. That is okay, everyone must start from the beginning. It does mean you might struggle with tying all of these convoluted knots you’ve never seen before. You will additionally need to learn all of their names. This might seem a pain, but it is an important part of being a sailor. All knots serve a purpose and they must all be tied the same way, or else the person who is trying to untie them will be in trouble.
Boats, like the human body, have complex anatomies. Learning what all the parts of a sailing boat are called and what purpose they serve is what makes sailing possible. Boats are small, they lack extra space, so you know that everything on the boat serves a purpose and is important in its unique way. There is a lot to learn here, this part of learning to sail will develop slowly over time. It may take some time spent in the library studying, not just time at sea.
What are you looking for in a sailboat?
While there are many different types of sailboats to choose from, there are some features of a sailboat that will make it easier for a beginner to use. Professional sailboats are very complex and only the most proficient teams of sailors can handle them. Picking a beginner-friendly sailor boat will make learning to sail so much easier. By learning on a simpler boat you will eliminate many of the things that need to be considered, allowing you to get a firm hold on the basics. Don’t worry, this way you will be ready for the bigger, more impressive, sailboats in no time at all. Here are the features to look for when selecting your first sailing boat:
Tiller steering, ie no wheel, is a good way of getting a feel for the way your boat handles. The tiller connects directly to the rudder so the feedback from your boat’s speed, direction, and influence from the wind is immediately apparent. There is a delay when steering with a wheel, you also don’t feel the rudder directly. This can be a great way of learning how to feel the movements of the boat. Developing and instinctual connection to your boat will make steering so much easier.
Ensuring your new sailboat will have cleats instead of winches can make your life so much easier. They are far easier to use, experience less force from high winds, and are ideal for beginners; whether you are younger or older. Smaller boats may come with winches by default, though this isn’t always the case. Checking whether your boat has winches to manage the sheets and halyards or cleats is an important question to ask the seller.
Size you can handle
The smaller your sailboat is the easier it will be to manage. Sure, you may find that a larger boat is more stable, but it is also harder to control. When you are first learning to sail you want as little to manage as possible. You will have so many other things running through your mind that you won’t have the time to think about everything involved in a larger sailboat. As your skills improve you can increase the size of your sailboat. Once you have a firm grasp on everything involved with a smaller boat you will be able to react instinctively. This will make learning the new parts of your bigger boat that much easier.
You should be looking to buy as sturdy a boat as possible. The more forgiving the better. You are going to make mistakes, it’s inevitable. Having a sailboat that is capable of withstanding all the bumps and knocks you will inevitably give it can save you a lot of headaches; and heartache. Getting a Rotomolded boat is ideal. Rotomold is a strong plastic substance, whilst it won’t look as nice as finished wood or even fiberglass, it will hold up much better. It is also much cheaper, making it perfect for a beginner.
What are the best sailboats for beginners?
There is not a one size fits all when it comes to selecting the sailboat that is best for you. There are several different types that all have their little quirks and unique benefits that you can choose from. Buying a sailboat is a big commitment, it is best to try some of these types out at least once before you purchase them. Hopefully, this next section will open your eyes to all the possibilities in front of you, making the decision somewhat easier for you:
Dinghies are a great option for true beginners. They are what you will likely picture in your head if you imagine, “small sailboat”. Dinghies are typically one or two-person sailboats with a singular sail, singular mast, and are designed to be simple to use. Being suitable for one or two people makes them ideal for learning with a teacher and practicing on your own. They are very light, making them easy to use but also prone to capsizing. If you do find yourself capsized you will likely be able to right the boat easily. Since they are so light. They are typically made of plastic making them cheap and sturdy, perfect for a beginner.
Good options on the market
The wayfarer: This dinghy is perfect for beginners, it is designed for use one even the shallowest waters. It is a simple yet good quality boat that is great for even the most experienced sailors. This dinghy is often used as a racing dinghy, meaning it is quick and nimble as well as simple to use. This model could set you back about $15k, but it is also still a good choice of a boat when you are a more advanced sailor.
The GP14: This dinghy is fantastic. It won the 2016 sailing world championship in Barbados, so you know you are getting a high-quality boat. It is also only going to cost you between $1-3k depending on age and condition.
Small sloops are suitable for anywhere between 1-4 people, though 1-2 is ideal. This sailboat is slightly larger than a dinghy, it is still often home to just one mast but it could have between one and three sails. They are often fitted with cleats, not winches, making them easy to use for newbies. Sloops vary in size greatly, so you may want to give strong consideration to which size is the best for you. Smaller is better if this is your first boat. However, if you have sailed on a dinghy before and feel confident maybe a bigger sloop wouldn’t be the worst idea.
Good options on the market
Catalina 27: This choice is for those feeling more confident in their abilities. The Catalina 27 is a reliable sloop that is perfect for beginners. It costs anywhere between $4k-$20k depending on the condition of the boat. This is an older model, made in the 90s, but is reliable and sturdy. If you can find one at a good price this could be the boat for you.
Skipper craft SC-200: This sailboat is very small, quite old, and very affordable. It is a simple boat that is perfect for learning. Should you damage this boat you aren’t likely to completely scupper it and the repairs will be cheap. You can pick one up for as little as $2k. This is a great choice for someone hoping to spend a lot of time on their boat but doesn’t want to break the bank.
Catamarans are perfect for beginners. They are by far the most stable of the choices, even if they might end up being more expensive. A catamaran has two hulls and is typically far wider because of this. This makes your likelihood of capsizing very low. They are also light and nimble making them quick. They are also typically fitted with trampoline seating, not a solid deck. Catamarans will typically have one mast, either one or two sails, and be tiller steered. This may be the choice for you if you are happy to spend a little more money.
Good options on the market
Dart 18: The dart 18 is a British made catamaran that’s perfect for beginners. It is very large and thus very stable, making it perfect for solo voyages. This model can be a little tricky to find, you can pick one up for about $7k which isn’t bad considering how quick and reliable this boat is.
Sprint 15: This catamaran is also British made, though it is slightly slower. This one is the most popular catamaran in Britain and is much easier to find in the states. It is a double hander meaning you may need to adjust your sailing style to the needs of the catamaran, once that is done its smooth sailing. This model is just $2000 and is perfect for beginners.
Hopefully, this article has given you a good idea about what you should be looking for in your beginner sailboat. You don’t have to pick one of the above-mentioned sailboats, you just might find learning far easier using one of them. Getting sailing lessons is ideal, but you will still want to learn on your own too. Renting a sailboat every time you want to practice is very expensive, it is far cheaper to just buy yourself a beginner-friendly sailboat. To learn how to buy a beginner sailboat, go here.