Sailboat keel, sailing, jib sail, mast

Beginners Guide To Sailing Part 2

Do All Sailboats Utilize A Mast?

So  to remind you in case you missed in part 1, the mast is basically the humongous vertical pole thats main purpose is to house the sails. Typically nowadays, you will see just one mast but there are boats out there that use several masts which in house TONS  of sails. Pictured are both kinds, however when starting out going the one mast route is probably ideal as there are less pieces to the puzzle and more time for enjoyment!

two mast sailboat, double mast

Double Mast Setup

One mast (using drone)

 

All sailboats have at least one mast. There may have been a time your sailor expert friends spoke of yawls or schooners, or even square riggers. These are old timer boats and Their names stem from the # and placement of the masts on the boat along with sail profiling! We will share how to identify these awesome sailing crafts  later on in this article so you can show off to your friends.

aluminum composite mast

 

What are Masts Made of?

Most of the antiquated boats had, and those that are still around, have wooden masts. However, masts that you will see nowadays are made of an aluminum composite, or straight aluminum. The reason being is that it is waaaaaaay easier to produce large amounts of them since they will carry much less weight and will be way more durable! And boat makers always want to make the public/sailboat owners happy by giving them the most efficient! With that being said the very fast sailboats that are used for racing will typically have a mast made of carbon fiber.

On the larger sailboats, you notice a huge variety of wires holding up the mast. These support lines are called the standing rigging wires.

Wooden Mast

Wooden Mast

Do All Sailboats have Sails?

This may seem like a funny question to you but believe us, we get this question all the time! As discussed earlier the mast along with standing rigging wires both are used to house and leverage the sails themselves.

Yes, all sailboats have sails, otherwise they would be regarded as some other vessel such as speedboats. Sails are basically  canvas (fabric) that pulls the wind every which way to help you navigate the boat on the water kinetically. In sailboating, you will not use an inboard or outboard engine. These sails act as your engine, legs, or anything else you can think of that enables movement! And if the sails are your legs then the wind is the food or fuel that keeps your body alive and legs moving!

The mainsail or just short as “main” is positing along the back perimeter of the longest mast on board. You will always see a main onboard but some sailboats have an additional sail called the headsail. Headsails are position on the front side of the mast.

Is a Jib a Headsail?

Jib sail

Jib used as a headsail

There are many varieties of headsails but yes, a jib is one of them. You will see these frequently used as headsails. 

There are many different unique sails that will optimize speed for your sailboat. A spinnaker is one of the more common headsail and will look similar to a parachute . They usually are the more colorful and biggest sails installed on the sailboat, if they are there to begin with. They are most utilized when sailing on a downwind course.

 

Fun Fact & Tip: Back in the day sails were put together using cotton fabric. They were suuuper heavy and extremely stretchy (sometimes too stretchy!) Nowadays sail makers use a polyester fiber (Dacron) for your typical sailing vessel. That being said, most race boats have sails made from a Mylar and other unique materials such as kevlar and carbon fiber, which tends to be used because of how lightweight yet strong mylar, kevlar or carbon fiber can be. The lighter the weight onboard the faster your speedboat will go, so spare no expense if you want to get into competitive racing! Here we look at an excellent video on how sailboats function. Enjoy the video!

 

Do all Sailboats Have Ropes?

Part of the fun when get ready to set sail is the preparation involved in making sure your baby sailboat is tied up and ready to go. This is the process called rigging. When the ropes are all strung up it can look like a pretty complex string puppet show!

Yes all sailboats have ropes! Even those sailboats with the least amount of line will be very much a learning curve to adjust properly. A halyard is the rope that runs up the mast which is primarily used to lift the sails up the mast . …

sailboat rope

Line/rope used interchangeably

So what about Lines?

Try not to get a migraine from trying to memorize every type of line/rope by name. We advise to rather focus on what the lines function for what purpose. We would start with …

The Sheet:

These function as the primary rope/line that works to alter/adjust the ”Trim” which is the intersection/angle of the actual sail in relation to the wind.  The actual act of pulling in the mostly any sheet (or any lines for that matter) can be certainly challenging. This all depends on how strong the winds are howling and the proportion of the sails themselves

…To add to our analogies, sheets can relate to the accelerator in a  car. It ultimately is the tool that yields wind strength and is what pushes the sail. Sheets are critical to speed and the sails movement.

sheet, sailing sheet

sailing sheet

But Then How Do You Stop A Sailboat?

up to this point we’ve discussed ways in how moving a sailboat can be possible. What about when the script is flipped and we are trying to stop the sailboat. How is this done most efficiently?

One thing we need to point out is that sailboats are impossible to stop like cars do, breaking abruptly! That is of course you aren’t crashing into sand or a land deposit. Even with Anchors, they need time to drop and get stuck on a surface and that takes a little bit of time. The most common way to slow or stop a sailboat is by releasing the sheet and ”luffing” (letting it flap in the wind) the sail you’ve essentially pressed on the breaks, as the sails flapping effect decelerates the sailboat.

Do Not Panic! These sheets are made to flap around in frenzy mode. The best advise here is to stay out of there way. If you are fortunate enough to have a below deck area to walk over to temporarily to not knock off the sails,  that would be ideal. Also make sure to avoid a swinging BOOM! Get low and avoid getting knocked out, as the boom moves in a half circle pivot from one side of the boat to the other.

Is it Possible to go Sailing Into The Wind ?

You can sail in any conditions on practically any body of water ( the exception being shallow waters such as streams, ponds, etc) . Kayak sailing works on rivers! But what about sailing directly into wind?Wouldn’t logic tell you the force of the winds will cancel out any forward movement of your sailboat?

The answer is a resounding YES! You can sail into the wind, but not in a straight line path. This is accomplished by steering the boat in a zigging and zagging V against the wind and not straight into the direct wind. If you sail straight into the wind, all that will be accomplished will be that your sails will want to begin luffing and if they do , your sail will just begin to decelerate . You will know you are zigging correctly when you are pulling in your sails with the same sails sheets and concurrently steer in a direction as near to the wind direction but keep adjusting to find the sweet spot. You will know you would have found the sweet spot when the sails are not flapping at all in the wind. Half way to your journey you will the switch gears and zag ( same thing but different side, still facing your final destination) . This strategy is known as TACKING!

Tacking

Tacking

 

Tacking is such an awesome technique and is definitely  physics, art and sport rolled into one!…so much so that we named this website after it!

So What Exactly is a Tack?

Tacking

Tacking at 45 & 90 degrees

A tack is roughly ( give or take) a ninety degree change of course. When you begin to rotate the boat, the sails will naturally begin luffing because you are moving the boat towards direct wind. The key here is to keep turning until the luffing stops completely. Furthermore, as you turn the sails end up refilling with wind but with wind that is being blown across on the opposing side. Timing is everything with tacking and you will know you have done it correctly if you are facing you have un-luffing sails and you are still pointed in the direction of your final destination. 

 

REMEMBER: DO NOT TRY AND STEER DIRECTLY UP WIND!  Unless you are trying to stop the boat, because that is precisely what will happen when the sails luff.

So What Can You Get Out of Sailing?

The fact that this is a loaded question seems to make the sport of sailing worthwhile for sooooo many  different reasons. We will touch on many of these amazing reasons all throughout this blog and we will share with you some of our awesome experiences and lovey dovey stories that has literally turned our world into an even more discrepancy of water to land on earth! Water, and the vessels that make it possible to course through them and create experiences that last a lifetime, rules!

You can travel the world by sailing, meet unbelievable people, including potentially meeting the love of your life, enjoy a little moonlighting in unique and private coves, while listening to the sound of the waves swooshing against all parts of the hull! Granted, You will probably find yourself with way more things to do since experiencing these things will eventually lead to endless opportunity!

This is a good time to once again remind you that seeking expert opinion before taking a dive into the sport of sailing is definitely ideal. Let’s go over these more in detail so that we know we have exhausted this point.

 

Where Can You Learn to Sail? Who Can Teach You?

Typically, if you ask around (possibly people that you know) if they or anyone else they know can teach you the basics, and maybe even more advanced hands on sailing, I would wager a guess that someone early in your search would come to the forefront and help you by giving you pointers and possibly referring you to someone who can give you some live training.

You can learn through classes ( instructor settings) which we will touch on in our sailing school article. You can learn through friends as mentioned earlier. We obviously would recommend making sure your friend is a certified sailing instructor, with ample time to teach you. Getting your feet wet with a friend is not a bad idea at all as you will probably enjoy getting some tidbits from someone close to you, which will propel you to seek real training because of how much you enjoyed the time on the boat with your friend. Another way to learn is through articles like this one or books, magazines or other readable materials. You can draw great inspiration from the stories you will have heard from rando’s living the sailing dream! You can study and learn all the theories behind sailing.

sailing instructor

Sailing instructor with a crew of new sailors

Discovery and experience is a a whole other ball game! Buying or renting a boat and teaching yourself is also an avenue which we recommend, but only for the consciences and daring! Sailing is part physical and part mental. It is important to know your limits and really determine whether or not you are fit enough to teach yourself from the outset, to avoid any injuries or any fears you may have bottled up, not even realizing they are there to begin with!

 

What Sailboat Should You Learn On?

This is going to be more of a personal choice for you. One of the best things about sailing is that the options are endless in the manner of, taking your own course of finding your way as a sailor. Whether it be how you learn , with who, where and even which boat!

When we were kids, we were fortunate enough to have our father rent us out a dinghy and so from experience we would say start there! Think of

 it as riding a bike. You will need time on the bike and training wheels surely help in the process. The smaller the boat the easier it is to control ( most of the time). so a 14 ft dinghy is more than big enough to enjoy and learn on! They also usually come with a centerboard that retracts which is also very helpful but be careful not to tip over. If you want to go a little bigger than keelboats would be a good option. They come in sized bigger than 20 ft. They are harder to control but their fixed keels make the keelboats way more stable than the dinghies. It’s a give and take so choose based on which you are more comfortable with. We would not recommend going any larger than a keelboat to start. 

 

Dinghy Sailing

So to recap, figure out which sailboat suits you best and then go find yourself the best sailboat captain available to teach you everything you need to know so it isn’t much of a struggle once you are flying solo. A lot of sailing schools and beginner programs in smaller 14ft dinghies one person sailboats. Some use 2 or 3 person sailboats.

Why Sail Dinghies to Start?

besides size and shape of the hull not being severly tippy , there are loads of advantages to go Dinghy to begin. Let’s take a look at some of them:

  1. They are typically inexpensive since they really don’t come with all the bells and whistles (technology) etc. 
  2. Intimidation factor is way less then with larger size boats. Imagine having to drive a tractor trailer vs a sedan in order to achieve the same thing. You see the point?
  3. They respond well since they do not weigh as much as other boats so poisiting of the weight and changes in helm, along with the trim giving you quick feedback. You are really getting a front and center sensation of sailing these because of how lightweight they are. 
  4. You really learn how to steer and “trim a sail” along with an education on balance and building a true understanding of how it all comes together

 

What are some Con’s of Dinghy Sailing?

Dinghy Sailing

Capsized Dinghy

There are two sides to every coin and dinghy sailing is no exception . Here is a look at some disadvantages of riding on a dinghy :

 

 

  1. They usually stay pretty wet on board-  Naturally you are sitting pretty low to water level. Moreso with dinghies than with keelboats or larger sailboats. This can bring a little bit of discomfort, especially to newcomers
  2. Flying solo- Since a lot of these dinghies are one person sailboats, you won’t have the advantage of having the captain/teacher/instructor on the sailboat with you. They usually follow you Rocky style in a motorboat, tailing you and yelling instructions to you . This can be a little daunting
  3. They have a propensity to tip over – unfortunately these boats can tip over and capsize fairly easily, and if you don’t know how to fix or right the boat when this occurs, it can  turn into one longggg day

 

In case you did not For information on possibly Chartering a sailboat we recommend using the following:

  1. For Europe- Sailing Europe
  2. For Anywhere Around the World- Boatbookings

 

 

 

 

 

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