How to Sail – Easy Sailing for Beginners Part 3

What is Keelboat Sailing?

Most sailing schools teach adults on a keelboat (size can range between 20-30 ft or 5m to 10m of boat)  depending on where  you are located. (learn the metric system if you can!) The idea is to expose them slowly and work your way up to the even larger vessels. Frequently there is a great sized cockpit that would house up to four students and additionally an instructor. A sailboat not bombarded with sails is less challenging on the new sailors as they are to listen to the instructor and not get distracted by the myriad of sails possibly flapping and overwhelming them!

Keelboat beginner

Picture Shown: Keelboat Sailing

What are Some Advantages to Learning on a Keelboat?

So why, instead of learning on a dinghy should you possibly learn on a keelboat, regardless of age catering. Here are some of the advantages:

  1. There is really no chance of tipping the boat over and capsizing- The anticipation of a boat capsizing really gets in the way of lessons while dinghy sailing. 
  2. The instructor in on the boat with you-  You will get real time lessons and the instructor will immediately convey to you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. Having other students on board with you can take the nervousness away and make it more enjoyable. There is angst when you first set sail on a one person dinghy since you are doing everything yourself . With a Keelboat you have patrons support if anything goes wrong (which it usually won’t). This is psychological and will make or break the experience for many.
  3. Since you have a crew of sailors with you , you can really focus on many other skills and not have to worry about steering all the time.
  4. They will usually have an engine-can be inboard or outboard, so in cases where the wind magically stops and the instructor neglected to track wind speeds for the area, you can just rev the engine and navigate to where the wind stronger.

So Then What are some Disadvantages to Learning on a Keelboat?

If you have decided that Keelboat sailing is where you will get your start, then here are some disadvantages to ponder:

  1. Not as responsive as dinghies so you will not get the same feel effect as you would with a dinghy. That are built with more weight which in turn will kind of blind you from some of the subtleties you would have learned on a dinghy. steering is a little harder to feel as is sail trimming. The bigger the harder it will be to get a raw view of these nuances. 
  2. There is a joy of navigating with a tiller since you will get an up close view of the water moving past the tiller but loads of keelboats steer with a wheel , and you will not get the same effect and feel as you would with a tillered sailboat. 
  3. All devices seem tougher and harder to maneuver- since the boat is larger, the sheets will be longer and tougher as will the sails and so the control ropes will feel much more rigid. To counter this , the sailboat may be equipped with winches in order to be advantageous and less challenging. 


Easy Sailing on your First Journey

Take it easy!

Make sure you keep tabs on an optimal time/day to go out for the first time. We recommend not just up and leaving without being methodical in your approach to what day is best for your first class! Here are some key things to think about when first going out:

  1. Make sure you pick a day when winds are not blowing less than 5  knots or more then 13 knots. Also erratic winds won’t do you any good so choose to go when winds are consistent and not infrequent or unpredictable. This is very important for your sanity!
  2. If you can avoid cold water, do it. Something in the range of 70 degrees to 85degrees is ideal. Nice temperatures go a long way if something bad happens and also makes the trip a lot more enjoyable 
  3. Be careful to avoid big swells, waves and wind blown waves when you are first going out. Flat water all the way to stay focused. You will thank us later.
  4. Find seclusion from most other happenings..other boats, sport boats especially. Less distraction will lead to a more successful go at it. 


handicapped sailing, handicapped, disability sailing, blind sailorIs Sailing For Everyone?

After becoming a little more experienced you will come to find that today, most people you think aren’t taking a swing at sailing, are in fact hitting home runs and even further, grand slams!

It is no longer uncommon to notice a blind person yielding talking compasses/gps / sonar systems to help with navigation! Technology has come a tremendous way and as a result, those with disabilities can now enjoy sailing like the rest! Personal lift gates are utilized with those that are limited to a wheelchair. Those disabled find joy in that when

they are aboard a vessel, everyone  is going at the same speed and everyone is taking enjoyment and life to another level without the hustle bustle! The personal lifts are implemented by the dock and carry the sailors up onto the boats.  Boats can also come modified to allow even those disabled to steer the sailboat as well as make adjustments . Those with severe disabilities have the aid of fiber optics to do the same and to go even further and trim the sails. Swivel chairs are used by those that have a mobile disability. 

There are non-profits out there that train, specifically, those with disabilities. They train them not only to become wonderful sailors but they train them to be competitive in races around the world. Sailing has been a staple sport in the Paralympics since the begin of the 21st century. Watch this Paralympic sailing video, it surely is a game changer!!


Those that live in areas where there is a small window of opportunity where the climate is ideal, like north eastern Europe, you are obviously not going to wait around until the climate and water temps are exactly between 70-85 F . In this case we suggest you layer up and make sure to wear a proper jacket. For Top Sailing Jackets click here. Sailing gloves may also come in real handy regardless of here for our recommended sailing gloves.


“Need a little wind here!”- Tommy Boy


So to Recap..

Make sure to target days where winds are light (5 knots) to 13 knots (medium), calm waters, and ample amounts of space to sail without congestion. We want you to focus on learning all the techniques you will need to implore on board and less of how inconsistent the winds are so make sure you aren’t in an area where winds don’t ever know which way to settle.

We also want you to avoid dead wind locations! You don’t want to get stuck playing with your Dinghy like Tommy Boy did, especially when you’ve got your date with you. The inverse would be way too much wind where your boat seems to be going more  of an upward /downward direction because the winds have thrown the waves into a feeding frenzy!

The idea is we want you to feel what is happening with the vessel so that it will prepare you to tackle harder challenges in the future. We also want you to be able to communicate with your captain and if the sails keep luffing there will be a noise barrier, strong enough that you may even have to get real close to your instructor, which may end up being pretty awkward 🙂 You want to be clear minded so that you can feel how and why things happen and you want to do this in real-time.


Time To Choose A Sailing School.  So, Which One? Trust Us, Go ASA Certified…

For Kids…

As we’ve mentioned before, when you first start sailing, classes are highly recommended from the jump! If you have children and want to put them in some formal classes, there will be, guaranteed, summer camps and junior camps  that certain clubs will offer.

For Adults…

Have no fear. You have plenty of options here. You may want to go through with some commercial school (formal sailing classes) or a community program offered on a case/location by case/location basis. Certain charter boat rental businesses or Yacht clubs will almost always have instructional classes you can take.  Boatbookings Charter company, for instance, offers an excellent instructional program. As does Nautilus We will also list plenty of great places that offer instruction in every state of the U.S. in Our Sailing School Map.

As far as the United States is concerned, there are two major organizations that monitor educational classrooms on the national level, which act to accredit and certify instructors. They also come up with the industry/curriculum standards in which to become certified. They are:

US Sailing

US Sailing Association

US Sailing Assoc:

This Association is the national governing organization in charge of the sport of sailing. Its main purpose, for longer than 100 years now, has been to monitor and govern the racing aspect of sailing. This includes the U.S. Olympic team. US Sailing also acts as the ambassador/representative to World Sailing (formerly ISF)  , which is the committee in charge of  the racing rules on the international level. US Sailing is also very prevalent on the junior and yacht clubs, since its main objective is to educate on racing sailboats. US Sailing carries a Keelboat Certification System offered to newcomers looking to get into Keelboating. It also has an program for instructors.


American Sailing Assoc:

This organization has been responsible for certifying more than 8,000 sailing instructors and over 400,000 new sailors! They also affiliate with over 300 Sailing Schools across the U.S. They have a reputation for being the best of the best when it comes to sailboating education. Most of the big charter boat corps recognize ASA as the certification to have. They Also offer newbie sailors with certifications to the multi-level ASA programs, which commences with a 101 Basic Keelboat sailing class.

American Sailing Association

American Sailing Association

Taking Sailing Lessons on Vacation? Good Idea?

Picture this. You are on the beach on an island in paradise, sand between your toes , sun beating down on your beach umbrella. Everything is gravy  as even kids are making a sand castle  minding their own business and your significant other is reading a 600 page novel right next to you. Peace and Quiet! Sometimes no movement can be all the relaxation one needs. Eventually, though , you are going to work up an itch for a little excitement…

vacation sailing, sail vacations, sailboat vacations

Photo Taken: St. John US Virgin Islands

Sometimes Your hotel  will charters/ sailing lessons. Should you go? A resounding absolutely! The instructor will typically know exactly which spots to canvass. So take your family and get on the boat. Learn, snorkel , dive and get out on the open sea!


Find time to get out there and educate yourself and have an amazing time to boot.  Also,  The Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI’s is definitely sailing school we recommend while on vacation so check them out. They will teach on any type of sailboat. Fun in paradise! Check for sailing schools in the area where you are vacationing and don’t ever look back. 

What is Chartering? Chartering (rental) Boats.

boat bookings, Boat Bookings

BoatBookings Charter

A vast amount of sailors will charter ( rent) boats and go on vacation with them! As discussed earlier, a lot of these charter groups offer advanced courses made to quickly elevate a newbie-intermediate sailor to be capable of “Bareboating” which just means that sailing without hiring anyone (sailing solo ). If you are new, daring and ready to jump in head first and take control of a vessel after a few courses, then we suggest looking into this accelerated way of learning.

Word of caution: This is definitely not the course of action for most people, so tread lightly.



Want to Learn How To Sail, But Learn Overseas?sail international, international sailing, sailing overseas

So you want to look for a sail school outside of the country but don’t know where to look. We have the recipe:

Look into World Sailing for an exhausted outline of countries national beginner sailing programs. Most all national sailing  groups will offer some sort of extensive list of schools that carry an accreditation. The ISSA ( International Sailing School Association) is another great resource for finding the school that matches when/where/what you are looking for. We also recommend interviewing the school before signing up. Some things you want to know for sure will be:

  1. Price- If you are going to have trouble affording it, then that is a real problem. You will want to also compare prices from school to school if you are looking to optimize your dollar.
  2.  Course outline- What does the course offer and when you finish the course do you receive an actual certification of standards? When the offering is something strange as in “Oh yea, our course is better than any ASA certification course”, run! Not to knock these schools, their courses may be very helpful, but the standards are not in line with the standards that are within the complicities of those certifications that are recognized.
  3. Duration of the classes- Try to avoid programs are longer than 4-6 days or two full weekends (Fri-Sun)
  4. Levels of education- Make sure the school has some sort of advanced courses to take after you get your feet wet. That way when your ready you can try your hand at those and you aren’t walking around with your head cut off, going from school to school.
  5. Will you have to bring anything to class- Is the school well equipped . We tend to see most schools carry life vests with them but if the weather is bad you are going to want some sort of foul weather protection.
  6. How big is the class size? Having a few students on board with you can be very helpful but make sure the class is restricted to no more than 4 students including yourself. You want one on one time with the instructor and having more than 5 + students seems to limit that time/exposure. You want to maximize your time at each station with the instructor with you and it really is hard to do for the instructor to keep track of everyone.
  7. The actual boats in the schools fleet- What are the sizes and types of boats do they use. For kids, we prefer always going with a dinghy type and with adults, keelboat.
  8. Probably the most important question to ask is whether the instructors are certified to teach at the school. Some schools have a few instructors certified. Make sure you get  one of those instructors to teach you. If they are all filled up, look elsewhere, do not settle.


What Should I Look For In a Sailing Instructor?

Sailing Instructor

Certified Instructor During a lesson

When you first start looking for a sailing instructor, it may be sort of challenging to find one you know will be guaranteed to teach you as much as you could absorb. Matching instructor to student in any setting can be challenging because we learn better from certain instructors based on our patience, personality types and ticks. We wouldn’t necessarily say to spend waay to much time finding your absolute home run in a sailing instructor but definitely interview and be diligent here. Some of the things to look for would be:

  1. An instructor with patience- As a preliminary, make sure to talk to your instructor over the phone. Test your instructor by asking a few questions twice and see if you can gauge whether or not they are getting frustrated. If they have a website with showcasing reviews, read the reviews of what other students said about these instructors. They may be skewed positively but even the positive reviews may give you clues as what you are really getting yourself into.
  2. Make sure the Instructor is certified- We will harp on this for as long as we need to. If they put forth the time to get trained they will give put forth the time to train you correctly. You want to be trained against national standards of sailboating. period


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