How to Start Sailing


How to Start Sailing – Going Sailing for the First Time

If you’ve never been sailing before, taking the first steps to start sailing, like any new hobby or sport can be pretty daunting.  Who should you go to, what should you expect, how do you learn what to do?  So many questions to be answered!  Let’s look at the options:[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Sailing with Friends

Sailing Clubs

Meetup Groups

Sailing Schools & Dinghy Sailing Clubs

Sailing Holidays

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Sailing with Friends

If you know someone who has a boat then this can be the easiest, least daunting and most fun way to start sailing!  It was how I began sailing, and if this is an option for you, then I highly recommend it.  Friends will take their time showing you what to do, you (hopefully) already enjoy their company, and they will be sensitive to your needs as a beginner sailor.

However, there are some things you should take into account before agreeing to go out for more than an hour or two on the water with a friend.

In many countries there is no legal requirement for someone buying a boat to prove any sailing or boating competence at all.  Whilst there is the equivalent of a ‘boating driving licence’, not everyone who takes a boat out at the weekends has it, as my friends in the RNLI will tell you!  Neither is every boat on the water required to undergo the equivalent of a ‘boaty MOT’… and all boat owners are not the same; some will have much more knowledge about how their boat works and how best to look after it than others, and some would rather pay someone else to have the knowledge to maintain their toy.

Be sure that you know which sort of boat owner your friend is, if not, you may find out the hard way 😉

Sailing Clubs

If you don’t know anyone with a boat, then the next place to look is your local Sailing Club.  If you live by the sea, a lake or a river, there’s likely to be one or two clubs not far from you.  These are clubs that people who own boats join, usually to facilitate the use (and price) of a mooring[1] or a marina place[2].  Clubs normally have a Clubhouse, where boat owners and their family & friends gather after a day on the water, for a beer and the banter.  You don’t have to have a boat to be a member – many have a “social membership” – but you may have to take up a membership in order to hang out in the Clubhouse and get to know the people who do!

Most Clubs welcome new members or, rather, people who might like to join, and have regular open nights where you can go along and meet other club members.  Go along for an evening’s entertainment and take a friend for some moral support.  Do bear in mind that the people you meet at the open night may not be representative of the wider membership!  Yacht Clubs have a reputation for being a bit elitist and stand offish and you will probably find that the more “normal” boat owners/club members won’t be the ones going along to new member welcome nights 🙂

Take time to go down to the Clubhouse or marina on a weekend morning and speak to other club members with boats whom you may not have met.

Join the club if you like it, and start sailing with those boat owners you befriend.  The same rules as in ‘Sailing with Friends’ apply.  Some Sailing Clubs have a Sailing School or a Dinghy Sailing Club attached; please see below.

Meetup Groups

Sailing Meetups are a great way of finding people to go sailing with.  The groups are normally run/organised by someone who is a keen sailor and finds it difficult to get a group of his/her friends together to go sailing.  Meetup groups will have a regular social meet-up night and you can go to any number of these social events before making a decision to go sailing with other group members.

Go online to find your local Sailing Meetup Group here.

Once you’ve found a bunch of people you’re comfortable with you’ll have the option of joining them on an organised sailing trip, this could be for a few hours at a weekend or a week sailing in the Mediterranean.

I suggest you try a short trip before committing to a longer one!

The organiser of the trip is usually someone who has enough sailing qualifications to hire[3] a boat for the duration of the trip.  You should make sure that this is the case.  In most cases (but not all) the boat charter company will insist on seeing the renter[4]’s sailing certificates before issuing the contract for hire[5].  If the organiser isn’t properly qualified or experienced, you should make sure there’s another person on the trip who is, and/or you should question whether you’ll be safe on that boat with that group.

Always make sure that the trip organiser understands your beginner status and that you find someone on the trip that’ll help you to understand everything that’s going on.  Expect to pay a share of the hire cost[6] and to get involved with the food shopping, cooking and cleaning on board.

Sailing Schools & Dinghy Sailing Clubs

I’ve lumped these two together as both usually involve some sort of formal training.

As with a Sailing Club, you’re likely to find a Sailing School or a Dinghy[7] Club close to you if you live by the water.  You may even find them attached to a Sailing Club in order to encourage young and new members into the sport.  If it is part of a Sailing Club and you’ve become a member, it’s likely that you’ll get preferential rates on sailing training and on the use of their boats to practice on between classes/courses.

Give the School or Dinghy Club a call and make a booking to try sailing.  Most schools offer a “Try Sailing” day on the water and you should expect to pay for the cost of the time spent with an instructor.  Most schools will include the cost of using the boat in this fee.

If you’ve chosen the dinghy sailing route to start sailing, expect to get wet… sometimes very wet.  Small boats can and do capsize!  This is not true of the bigger sailing boats used by Sailing Schools and you should be clear which type of boat you’ll be trying sailing in.  The benefit of this introduction to sailing is that you’ll be going sailing with someone who knows what they’re doing, is qualified to teach you, and who’ll be using a boat that’s been safety checked.  The down-side to this introduction is that the School exists to make money and they’re not fussy if it’s raining or cold on the day you’re due to give it a go!

The climate where you live might have a bearing on whether your introduction to sailing is a wonderful experience that you can’t wait to repeat, or a living hell that you never want to do again.

Sailing Holiday Businesses

If you’re prepared to take a leap of faith, there’s a lot to be said for having your first sailing experience in a sunny place with warm winds, blue sea and gorgeous scenery.  It sets the scene for a wonderful relationship with sailing as a hobby and, having experienced how wonderful sailing can be under great conditions, you’re likely to be more tolerant of the less than perfect ones closer to home!

Most sailing holiday businesses offer trips that are suitable for complete beginners; the skipper will be qualified and interested, and the boats will be safe.  We explore all of the possible options in the sections to follow.

The downside to the sailing holiday approach is the necessary investment in terms of both money and holiday time to potentially find out that you don’t like sailing.  If you can find a way of assuring your decision through one of the earlier methods first, you’ll be more comfortable with making a booking.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/12″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1503599475009{background-image: url( !important;}”][vc_column][tour_carousel title_underline=”on” description_words_limit=”0″ tour_category_ids_condition=”IN” show=”” slides_number=”2″ autoplay=”4″ show_categories=”on” arrow_style=”light” order=”ASC” orderby=”date” title=”Our Sailing Holidays for Beginners” sub_title=”Learn to sail on” tour_category=”sailing-for-beginners”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Footnotes

[1] A secure place where you can tie your boat when you’re not using it – can be floating all the time or sitting on the bottom when the tide goes out (tidal)

[2] Technical term = berth

[3] Technical term = charter

[4] Technical term = charterer

[5] Technical term = charter agreement

[6] Technical term = charter fee

[7] A dinghy is a small sailing boat, often used to learn sailing, but with racing classes up to Olympic standard[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]