Sailboats 101: Understanding The Basics

Sailing is perhaps one of the most basic yet the most intriguing activities.  While it is easy for a modern day person to accept the concept of boats running on fuel powered motors, it is difficult to understand the precision involved in navigating a boat without a sound fuel source, except of course the wind. Sailing is an activity that requires an amazing amount of skill and knowledge. If you want to be a sailor, you must begin from the basics.

photo credit: wili_hybrid via photopin cc

photo credit: wili_hybrid (http://www via photopin (http://photopin cc (http://creativecommons NULL.0/)

The basic principle of sailboats

Sailboats work on the principle of buoyancy or Archimedes principle which states that when an object drops into water, it displaces water that is equal to the weight of the object. So, when a sailboat floats, it applies force downwards on water to displace it and the water in turn applies an equal amount of upward force on the boat, thereby keeping it afloat. I know it is boring and we all get how boats float since we were 5 years old sitting in a bathtub with toys. What is more interesting is the sails and you travelling toward the wind.

Sailboats make use of wind power to sail. When wind blows in the direction of boat movement, sailing is all about maintaining the right course on water. However, navigating gets tricky when the winds blow from the opposite direction. In such a situation, the boat needs to sail in a zigzag manner in order to counter the opposing force. When you sail zigzag, wind hits the boat at an angle rather than head on. So, you can still move forward instead of being pushed backwards.

Basic terminology of sailing

Bow and aft are the two most basic terms. Bow refers to the front of your sailboat and aft refers to the back part. When you stand facing the bow, port becomes the left hand side of the boat and starboard becomes its right side.

Leeward and windward are the two directions of sailboat movements. Windward is the way along the wind and leeward is the way opposite the wind. So, when you set sail, you need to be able to identify and differentiate between these two directions so that you can adjust your sails accordingly.

If you observe a sailboat, you see a horizontal pole extending from the bottom part of the mast. This pole, called boom, is one of the most important parts of any sailboat. You can manoeuvre the boat by adjusting the boom to make use of the wind’s direction.

Rudder is used to steer the boat. It is a flat piece of wood fixed below the boat. While small boats have a steering mechanism provided directly at the aft, large boats use a wheel to control the rudder.

Tacking and jibbing are the two most basic sailing manoeuvring methods. They refer to the methods used to turn the bow in order to change the effect of wind on boat.

Besides these, there are sails and mast, which are also the two most important parts of the boat.

You must consider getting enrolled in a sailing school before taking on the waters in a sailboat.


About The Author

David Hammel is freelance writer, professional blogger and an avid boater. He is from the Napanee area and enjoys blogging for Atkins & Hoyle (http://atkinshoyle about his boating knowledge and experiences.

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