Three Steps to Take the Helm and be a SailTime Skipper

The mystery of the sea has been calling to sailors for thousands of years. These dreams are fueled by watching sailing races, hearing stories of friends’ sailing adventures, catching a glimpse of sailboats in the background of a movie, driving over a bridge on your way to work while seeing sails gliding in the breeze, and, of course, from your first time on a sailboat!

#1 Work with a trusted guide

So, how does one learn to sail? The best place to start is by allowing a trusted guide to show you the ropes… literally! Future sailors can learn with friends or family while taking sailing lessons. Many sailing lessons come with a certification that teaches a structured set of skills. These lessons build as the new sailor learns on-water-skills combined with a written test to demonstrate their knowledge as they progress through the levels. Sailing certifications are a badge of honor! Most people learn to sail with a combination of certification classes and practicing with friends. Don’t forget to keep a log of your sailing time.

#2 Learn new skills every time you sail

The best tip for new sailors is to realize that you should learn something new every time you sail! Remember learning to drive? You first learned to drive around the neighborhood, and built on those skills, practicing along the way until you could drive in snow. Sailing is a smart sport that includes learning about wind science, math, weather, knots (the rope and speed kind), navigation, and fluid dynamics. Sailors must also learn a whole new language to communicate on the VHF radio, with flags, and between their crew sometimes at a distance. The best sailor is the prudent dreamer who knows to continuously fine-hone their skills while seeking and learning new lessons along their journey.

#3 Take sailing classes

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The first class from the American Sailing Association is the Basic Keelboat course, and it teaches new sailors to be great crew members of a small boat. The absolute best thing to do is to read the study book before you begin the class, so you have a head-start on the new language and theories you will learn on the water. Don’t fret; the book has plenty of pictures and practice tests at the end of each chapter. Keep taking classes and practicing on the water to keep your skills fresh. Continue learning with the next two certifications from the American Sailing Association: Basic Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Cruising. Along the way, you will learn about wonderful coves to anchor for the night, dockside restaurants to visit, Caribbean islands perfect for chartering a sailboat, and local races during which you can sharpen your sail trimming skills. It is truly wonderful to see people of all ages standing a bit taller as they build confidence and learn to sail.

As sailors are passionate about learning, you can always find great learning tools. These include excellent books, intriguing videos, interesting community lectures, fun group sailing trips, and a sailing friend to help teach you new things. As you study and learn, make sure to challenge yourself to learn new skills. Below is a list of skills to slowly add to your skill set:

  • Docking in new locations
  • Single handing
  • Sailing at night
  • Navigating to a new destination
  • Racing
  • Sailing offshore
  • Anchoring overnight
  • Cooking and barbecuing aboard
  • Sailing for a long weekend
  • Using the VHF radio
  • Chartering in a new county
The ASA 22 Sailing in Annapolis, MD

When people learn about SailTime, they may have been sailing for years or their family had a boat growing up. Sometimes they are brand new to sailing. At SailTime, we listen to their sailing dreams and lend them our knowledge about sailing. We help them have a boat owner-like experience without having to make the commitment of buying a boat.  Joining SailTime for a year is as easy as selecting a sailboat from our fleet, choosing a membership level, and signing up for custom private sailing lessons. There is no need to spend years trying to pick the perfect boat before you even know what the perfect boat is for you! As every SailTime base has different regional conditions, each base will coach their members to ensure they have a safe, fun sailing experience in their local environment. A new sailor will need to study and take certifications before they can skipper the boat themselves. Because knowledge fades over time, a rusty sailor will need refresher time on the water to learn about “their” new boat and to remember rules of the road, charts, and navigation. When the experienced salty sailor joins SailTime, they will need to learn about the electronics, docking, and location of safety gear. With a SailTime membership, you have a team to help ensure you have a great time adding sailing to your life.

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