Typically, sailing schools and most other junior programs teach beginners in 10 to 15 feet sailboats. These would be considered your dinghies. They usually cater to one person ; Some sailing schools however use dinghies that can fit up to 3 people at a time.
The idea is to keep the boat as stable as possible, especially when training new sailors. This is done keeping a steady hull shape (not too tippy). Dinghies are typically quick and light and on the smaller side. Some positives are that they are extremely responsive.
One drawback is that they do in fact tip over more than most other sailboats. Instead of having ballast weight they sport a lighter fin called a centerboard pictured to the right. If the centerboard retracts vertically then it can be called a daggerboard. It can also have a leeboard if it is placed on the side of the boat. Most Dinghies range from 8 to 20 ft.
On the other hand have a keel , which tends to be really heavy fin , which is attached to the boat and is affixed to it. This is the keelboats version of the ballast which hangs under the hull. This in turn provides the stability and balance most keelboats exhibit while going up against mother natures wind.
Keelboats that are rideable range from 20 feet plus in length.
All sailboats have an underwater fin of some sorts called a rudder. It can be rotating in nature . The rudder does exactly what you think it does, it steers the boat (see rudder pictured right). Wires on keelboats are the forestay, back-stay and shrouds.
A Tiller and Wheel Comparison
So how does moving around in a boat work in comparison to driving a car?! The rudders are connected to either a tiller which is a long arm that makes it easy to turn the rudder. Instead the rudder can be connected to a wheel, which is linked through cable attachment that hydraulically turn the rudder.
Most of the time you will notice smaller boats with tillers and bigger sailboats will have wheels because naturally there is more force exerted onto the rudder, which would probably make necessary for a huge lever to be utilized, so wheels are just an easier install.
All Sailboats Have Masts
That pole that reaches the highest point anywhere else on your sailboat is the mast! Its the long vertical support for sails. Most of your sailboats nowadays will sport one mast given that most people usually can afford this size sailboat.
However, many sailboats sport multiple masts. Yawls, Schooners and Square Riggers are a few names given for sailboats number and location of their masts on board. They are also named those names in terms of profiling their sails.
Most older boats would usually come with wooden masts, most modern sailboats have aluminum masts because of the ease of which they are mass produced and made into light weight genius since it’ll be that much stronger as well!
Tick it up with a carbon fiber mast and now you have a mast made for super speed and maneuvering. Cables and or wires support the bigger boats masts. These wires are called Standing Rigging. We’ve linked a standing rigging gauge because those are critical to help you gauge where you are in terms of tension on the cables and it also gauges tension in all your lines! For more info on sailboat anatomy click here.
Sails on a Sailboat!
Masts hold up the sails on a sailboat. Without sails you do not have a sailboat. Sails are made of different types of fabric. This fabric will grab the wind and this dynamic forces the sailboat to move or stop . Thus the sails are very much like your engines and the fuel of the sailboat comes from the wind.
The Mainsail usually is found on the back edge of your tallest mast. Most boats carry only a Mainsail or Main, while some others have headsails. With a headsail it usually sits in front of the mast. the most common head sail would be your Jib.
The truth is there are plenty of different sails to use in order to get a boat to go as fast as you want it to go. The spinnaker– which looks like a humungous parachute is great when used going downwind (or with the wind)
Rigging up a sailboat takes time and can look very very messy when done properly. This messy aspect is the running rigging part. Even the smallest of sailboats may have complex systems of line. The rope or line that pulls the sails up the mast is called the halyard. (we suggest Ravenox for mostly all of your halyard line)
Rope and Line are interchangeable in that they really mean the same thing on a sailboat. The most important of line is the sheet– this is the main line that adjusts the sail trim (which is the sail/wind angle ) and in reference to the sail it alters.
Depending on the strength of the wind and how sizeable the sails are , you will more than likely be pulling on the mainsheet and all the other lines constantly. This is not an easy task and can be exhausting! Enter boat systems of blocks and pulleys to help you on your journey.
In summary, your wind is your fuel , your sails are your engines the gas pedals are the sheets and the ropes pull in the power of the wind to alter speed. Kinda cool huh?