First Time Sailing – Important Tips for Beginners

Steering a boat or ship is an amazing and fantastic experience especially when sailing across the vast blue sea. Sailing may seem complicated if you have never tried it youself, but as soon as you give it a try you will absolutely love it. The activity offers relaxation, freedom and creativity amassing a huge number of enthusiastic fans. To gain professional sailing skills you need a lot of experience and it can take years but simple basics are easy and take less time to learn. We offer some tips on how to make your learning process as pleasant and fast as possible. The infographic below gives basic and important information which help in dealing with situations, normal or unexpected, while on board. No matter if you will be using a sailing boat, motor boat, yacht or any other type of vessel, the sailing guide below will help you get into the world of sailing and make you learn something useful in just a few minutes.

It is recommended that beginners who are new to sailing should practice their sailing skills in ideal conditions like calm waters and low traffic places with little wind. Small boats are also recommended due to their easier sailing and maneuverability, faster response and single sail, factors which will surely make the learning process easier. Information pertaining wind, tide and weather by checking the forecast is a top priority. Having basic knowledge on how to react to various wind conditions is important in familiarizing with sail control. This entails that sail should stay flat if the wind is very light or strong and full if wind is moderate.


Personal, boat and safety equipment is necessary. Personal equipment like life jackets for all members of the crew in case of any emergency, shoes with rubber sole to avoid slipping on wet decks is necessary. Other equipment include bad weather clothing, basic medicines for cold, hair bands, gloves, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen should be carried necessary. Carrying water and food is mandatory while water resistant back pack come in handy in protecting water sensitive technology like cameras and cell phones. Alongside personal equipment, boat equipment is necessary and relies on boat size and type. Enough fuel, extra lines, boat hook, tool kits and basic spare parts, binoculars, anchor (chain) and anchor rod (line), maps and compass and fenders are obligatory. In addition to this safety related equipment is also important hence it is advised to have flashlights, fire extinguisher, fog horn, whistles, flares, navigation lights, radar detector, VHF radio, first aid kit, bilge pump, knife and man-overboard recovery gear. Remember life jacket is crucial safety equipment that should always be carried along while sailing.


Safety and care should be observed while on deck by avoiding standing on ropes and sheets and wrapping them around hands and legs. Always try to hold or grasp onto something at all times. Personal items like mobile phones and wallets should be kept safely to reduce risk of losing them overboard.

Sailing Terminology

Having background knowledge on sailing terminologies is efficient in easing communication with people on board and as well as other vessels. Basic terms to be identified with by beginners include;

  • Bow – This is the front end of a boat.
  • Starboard – This is the right side of the boat while facing the bow.
  • Port – This is the left side of the boat when facing towards the bow.
  • Stern – This is the back of a ship.
  • Windward – The direction in which the wind is blowing to or from.
  • Leeward – Also known as lee, this is the direction opposite to the current wind.
  • Rudder – This is a either a piece of metal or wood located under the boat and is used to steer the vessel. In larger ships it is controlled using a wheel whereas in smaller boats use a direct steering mechanism.
  • Boom – Is a horizontal spar along sail’s bottom in which movement of a sailboat relies on through adjusting the boom towards the wind’s direction.
  • Tacking – Is a basic manoeuvre used to the bow towards the wind changing the direction the wind is blowing from either side of the boat .This also shifts the boat’s boom of from one side to the other
  • Jibing – This is the opposite of tacking, however, it is not common for it involves turning the boat directly towards the blowing wind. The manoeuvre usually consists of turning the stern of the boat through the wind changing the direction of the wind blowing from one boat’s side to the other.

Traffic Rules

Some places usually suitable for sailing get over crowded in optimal wind and weather hence it is important to identify with traffic rules to prevent any possible occurrence of accidents. While sailing one should keep in mind that;

  • When coming along another sailboat, the boat on starboard tack has right of way over the boat on port tack
  • The leeward boat has right of way over the windward boat
  • An overtaking boat must keep clear
  • Larger ships have right of way over smaller ships usually in confined places like channels because larger ships cannot slow down or turn easily and timely.
  • Sailboats have right of way over power-boats adhering to larger ship rule.
  • Change of course can be made to avoid possible collision by making early and large turns.
  • Put safety first and follow rules and regulations to make sailing experience an amazing one.

Important numbers

Beginners are advised to get emergency numbers so as in case of emergencies or sailing dangers occurrence they can call for assistance. Important numbers include police, ambulance, fire department, general enquiries, sea search and rescue numbers. Emergency numbers are not only limited to sailing beginners but also experienced sailors.

Danger signals

In cases of emergencies or dangers while sailing at sea basic danger signals should be used in order to seek assistance. They include;

  • MAYDAY – Danger signal used when boat is in danger and needs urgent assistance.
  • PANPAN – Danger signal used to indicate an urgent message to be sent concerning crew and vessel safety.
  • SECURITE – Danger signal or warning signal indicating that a radio or coastal.

First time sailing infographic