Sailing for Beginners – Getting StartedLiving the Dream

Thinking of sailing, a quote by Richard Henry Dana Jr. always tends to come to mind:

“Then, with all her sails, light and heavy, and studding-sails, on each side, alow and aloft, she is the most glorious moving object in the world”.

A sailboat is, to me, a living monument to another time – distinctly Hemingwayian in nature, when things were much simpler. I’ve always had grand notions of trans-Atlantic voyages and Mediterranean odysseys, and yet even growing up as I did in Florida with water on three sides I have to date never set foot on so much as a snark. Alas, will the dream ever be reconciled with reality?

The truth is people learn to sail every day. It’s like anything else: all you have to do is take the first step. Popular beaches in any part of the world will offer sailboat rentals and one on one instruction for beginners. Florida is definitely a great place to learn – many of my childhood friends are themselves accomplished sailors. All that you need are smooth, uncrowned waters and clear skies. As I myself ready to embark on my first excursion I’ve read thoroughly on the subject and compiled a list of considerations.

Basics Tips to Keep in Mind
It’s always best to start off slowly. There are many small, lightweight one or two man boats with simple rigging and a single sail that are perfectly suited to learning. It’s all about becoming familiar with sail control, how it responds to certain motions and interacts with the wind. Note – on such a small vessel, your weight will always play a significant part in maneuvering the craft.

Do your research. If you go in knowing the difference between starboard and port than you’re better off than if you knew zilch (if only slightly.) If sailing becomes a regular hobby than nautical terminology is an important consideration. Other topics to look into are weather forecasts, wind patterns, the various times and when they occur, and how all these elements interact. Know what the common mistakes made by beginners are and ready yourself for them.

Safety is essential. Be sure to tell people where you’re going and what you’re doing, in the event that something bad /does/ happen. Pack all of the required safety equipment such as floatation devices, extra clothing and gear according to the weather. Always respect your vessel, small as it may be, and the good graces of the ocean, to whom you are less than an insect. Keep an eye on the boom which can swing around unexpectedly and cause injury, or knock you overboard. Another good practice is to stage a capsize in a controlled environment so you have a better understanding of how to react should one actually occur.

Much of the fun of sailing lies in the many hours spent practicing on the open ocean, learning of its ways and mastering its basic principles. Equip yourself with all the knowledge you can and the right mental attitude, and the realization of the dream will be within your grasp before you know it.

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