Their First Sail…

Published on June 18th, 2013

Whether it’s for a weeknight beercan race, or the Summer Sailstice celebration on June 22, bringing along non-sailors is the simplest way we can all give back to the sport. Here are a few tips provided by Bill Gladstone of North U to help landlubbers enjoy their maiden voyage….

First, get your guests familiar with a tilting world. While still at the dock or mooring, before you get underway, heel the boat. Move everyone to one side of the boat to show that it will heel, but will NOT tip over. Mention that the boat will heel when under sail, and that we control how much the boat heels.

Once under sail with the boat heeled over, dump the mainsheet and stand the boat upright. Explain once more that the boat heels, but that we control how much. Furthermore, tell your guests that anytime they are uncomfortable with the heel of the boat they can ask to have the boat stood up.

Longtime sailors forget that living in a tilting world takes some getting used to. Just knowing that we are in control helps the new sailors get comfortable with heeling.

A few other things to make the experience memorable:

Keep it active and move people around. Everyone trims and drives. Sailing is a sport, or at least a leisure ACTIVITY. Make it active.

Put the new sailors to work. Teach them to Trim and Grind. Show them how to tail (pull) a sheet and grind a winch and make them an active part of the crew, not “in the way” passengers. Ease to a luff and trim. Ease and trim.

Put them at the helm.  Here are a few thoughts on the topic:

→ Explain that the lanes are wide, and the boat will wander.  It’s like taking a dog for a walk.  You won’t sail a straight line; you just want to maintain a good average course.

→  Steering can be tricky, and instruction can be confusing…  I often suggest that they try moving the tiller or turning the wheel one way, and if that doesn’t take ‘em where they want to go, try the other way.  They’ll figure it out.

→ Turn…Steering in a straight line can be a bore.  In moderate winds with kids at the helm, trim and cleat sails to a close reach and tell the driver to spin a 360, or whatever else they want.

Finally, wear your lifejacket and have your guests do the same. We wear seatbelts in cars and lifejackets in boats. It’s just part of the routine.

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