IS SAILING HARD TO LEARN?
Recently a friend of mine asked me a very simple question: “Is sailing hard to learn?”
“No, not at all. However, it takes time to master it…” was my answer.
I really do think that basic boat handling, marine terminology, and physics of sailing is easy and quick to learn. In matter of weeks actually. For those with experience on motorboats the path is even shorter. No doubt that sailing courses offered by certified schools are usually the easiest and fastest way to get legitimate basic knowledge. In addition to that, there are great books about sailing and marine life, blogs, YouTube channels, magazines… Great tools to boost learning process.
However, to become fully capable to navigate vessel in various situations and sea states… Well, that takes time! Takes many miles of sailing, hours and hours of helming, sail changing and trimming, many dockings and maneuvers… No one can tell you how long all that can take, simply because too many factors play the role here; how often do you sail; who do you sail with; which kind of boat you sail on; which conditions are in your area; how good you knew theory before jumping on board…and so on and so on… List can be boringly long! The point is: There are so many scenarios that can happen out there on the water, and you need to invest many hours to become capable to calmly cope with most of them.
EXPERIENCE IS BEST TEACHER
When it comes to sailing, nothing can beat this one! The more you sail, the more your knowledge and confidence grow. As a result, you become more and more relaxed on the boat and that’s when nicer part starts! That’s when you’ll get hooked to that feeling of freedom, if not before. From that moment on, you will not ask for better song then the one that wind and waves are singing.
“HOPE FOR THE BEST, EXPECT THE WORST”
And let’s be fair – The song of ‘wind and waves’ is not always nice! Actually, from time to time is pretty ferocious, when Nature reminds us how small we are. That’s where experience plays the role. Good sailor knows how much his boat can take and how to react when something goes wrong.
Seamanship can never be fully mastered. Experience and knowledge can grow to extreme heights, but there will always be something new to experience. That is, I suppose, what keeps me so much in love with this sport, after so many years.
For those without previous boating experience I definitely recommend to be conservative at the beginning. No more that few hours a day is needed at the beginning. Small boat, preferably dinghy is what should be used. They are much more responsive and easy to manoeuver, plus mistakes are forgiving.
One of the best tips for sailing beginners I can give is to start out in calm and quiet waters, and where traffic is low. No one would be happy with 30 knots of wind and three-meters waves on first boating experience! That trauma would probably have long lasting consequences on the novice, and is likely that he’d hardly ever want to go through that again.
It’s not a sailing free-for-all out there – there are rules to govern how sailboat should manoeuver to ensure they do not collide with one another. How you move is based on many variables including what side the wind is on, what type of craft it is, whether you are planning to overtake. Get familiar with these nautical rules to prevent mishap.
ONE WITH NATURE
There is very little that can beat a sensation of being out on the water while wind is filling the sails and boat glides through the waves. Harnessing the power of wind and relying on your skills makes sailing a very pure form of being with nature.