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Learn to Sail

It’s probably easier to learn how to sail than you think. You can learn through an organized program or on your own. Here you can get started learning the main parts of a sailboat and the use of each, from sails to rigging to rudder. Learn the basics of sailing at different angles to the wind, handling the boat, turning and stopping, and leaving and returning to the dock.
  1. How to Sail a Small Boat (6)
  2. How to Tie Knots Used on Sailboats (12)

Learn How to Sail a Sailboat
Everything you need to learn how to sail a sailboat!

Learn About Sailboats and How to Sail
Getting started sailing involves learning about sailboats and number of skills needed for sailing. Start here for an introduction to sailboats and basic sailing techniques. Also included are safety on the water, including required safety gear and equipment, and sailing laws and regulations.

Points of Sail and Sail Trim
"Point of sail" refers to the angle of the sailboat to the direction from which the wind is blowing. Different terms are used for the different points of sail, such as close hauled (sailing close to the wind), beam reach (with the wind sideways over the beam), and running (downwind). The sails are trimmed differently on each point of sail.

Basic Sailing Terms
Many special terms are used in sailing. Learning the meaning of these terms will help you learn to sail and enhance communication on a boat.

How to Choose a Sailing School
You don't necessarily need a sailing school to learn to sail (check out other options here). Here's a full plan for determining your needs and selecting the best sailing instruction to meet your goals.

Review of Points of Sail App and SailSim App
Two apps can help you learn to sail by teaching how sailboats move in relation to the wind. Read the review of Points of Sail and SailSim here.

How to Dock a Sailboat
Going slow and sure is key when bringing your boat to the dock and tying up. Be sure to tie dock lines properly.

How to Anchor a Sailboat
Good sailboat anchoring technique is crucial for safety. If the anchor drags because it was not properly set or because insufficient scope was used, the sailboat may go ashore or strike another boat or other hazard. Follow these guidelines to help ensure your boat is safely anchored so you can get a good night’s sleep.

How to Tack a Sailboat
Tacking, or "coming about," is the act of turning a sailboat across the eye of the wind. From being close hauled into the wind with the sails in tight on one side, you turn into the wind and across to the other side, usually a turn of about 90 degrees. Read how to tack a sailboat smoothly and safely.

How to Gybe a Sailboat
Gybing is the act of turning a sailboat across the wind downwind. The sails move from far out on one side to far out on the other. Gybing can he a difficult, even dangerous maneuver, depending on the boat and conditions. Read how to do a controlled, safe gybe.

How to Use a Topping Lift
A topping lift is a line from the masthead to the outboard end of the boom, which holds up the boom when the mainsail is lowered or reefed. Proper adjustment of the topping lift is essential for good sail trim and controlling the boom. Learn how to adjust your topping lift correctly.

Anchor Trip Line
Whenever you anchor where the bottom is rocky or in harbors where old chain and other debris lie on the bottom, you run the risk of losing your anchor if it snags and won’t come up. Learn how to rig a trip line in those tricky situations to make it easy to get the anchor back up.

How to Raise the Mainsail
Raising the mainsail is one of the first steps in setting sail. Although usually a simple, easy process, beginners may experience snags if they're not careful. Follow these guidelines to get the main up smoothly and the boat underway.

How to Use a Mainsheet Traveler
Although the mainsheet tackle attaches to a fixed point on some smaller sailboats, most cruising and racing sailboats have a mainsheet traveler that allows for better positioning of the boom for the best sail trim and boat speed. Read this article to learn how to use a traveler.

How to Moor a Sailboat
Sailboats are kept in the water on moorings in many areas. Mooring a sailboat can be easy or difficult, depending on the wind, waves, and water currents. Learn how to moor a sailboat efficiently and safely.

How to Trim the Jib Using Telltales
The easiest and most efficient way to trim the jib is to pay attention to telltales at the sail's leading edge. The telltales show you when to pull in the sail or let it out for the greatest power.

How to Leave the Dock Under Power
To begin sailing, you have to leave the dock. Most sailboats leave the dock under power. Use a spring line when needed to control the boat in a blow or if there is a boat immediately ahead.

Roller Furling Jibs
Most midsize and large sailboats used for cruising have roller furling jibs rather than hanked-on jibs. A roller furler makes it easy to bring the jib in and out and to reef the jib when the wind increases. Learn how to use a furling jib.

How to Use a Boom Vang
A boom vang is used on a sailboat to pull down the boom on off-wind points of sail when the wind in the mainsail would lift the boom. Proper use of a boom vang helps keep the sail full and drawing well. Learn how to use a traditional block-and-tackle or rigid boom vang.

How to Use a Sailboat’s Outhaul
The outhaul on a sailboat, a mainsail control, is part of the boat's running rigging. The outhaul is used to adjust tension in the foot of the sail, which makes the sail flatter or fuller. Properly using the outhaul, along with sail trim and other sail controls, provides more power and speed.

How to Reef the Mainsail
Knowing how to reef the mainsail when the wind picks up is a critical skill for all sailors. The traditional slab reefing system is easy to install and use. Here's how to make and use a simple reefing system.

How to Heave To a Sailboat
Heaving to is a valuable skill for all sailors when the wind or waves get up or you want to stop or steady the boat for any reason while underway. Although it is easy to heave to in theory, in reality it depends on many different factors involving the boat and conditions. Read this article to learn how to heave to in your own boat.

How to Use a Sailboat's Centerboard
Many small sailboats have a centerboard or daggerboard. Learn how to use the board most effectively in your sailing.

How to Sail from a Beach
Learn how to sail a small sailboat from the beach or other shallow shore. Here are the basic techniques to know.

Sail Adjustments for Strong Winds
Do you know how best to adjust your sails when the wind gets stronger? Learn these techniques to reduce heeling and weather helm and maintain control of your sailboat.

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