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Old 03-04-2001
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The First Sailing Trip

I'm going on my first sailing trip this spring. My captain is very experienced, so I'm not worried about safety, but what should I know about protocol as a guest and what clothing and supplies do I need? I do have a history of seasickness on other types of craft, but have managed to pretty much alleviate that problem the last few trips by using ginger.

Mark Matthews responds:

It may be helpful to keep in mind that sailboats are different than land-based domiciles and that things change once the boat leaves the dock. For starters, depending on how long you'll be away from a dock, water and electricity exist in limited quantities and shouldn't be used excessively. Space too exists in a new dimension. The two of you will be sharing a relatively small communal space, so be prepared for that. Storage is another factor—loose gear will be sent flying around the cabin if it isn't stowed properly. Imagine a long and narrow room, complete with a kitchen, books, pots and pans, tools, and food. Now tip this room thirty degrees or so and imagine what will be sent flying where if not in its right spot. A complete tour beforehand will demystify much of the initial orientation. Ask lots of questions about the specifics of the boat. The more you learn about the boat the better, including how to operate the engine and VHF, the location of thru hulls, pumps and the like. Anytime there are only two people sailing, one should have skills to both communicate and operate the boat in case of an emergency.

And if it's just the two of you, regardless of your captain's sailing experience, you'll likely be called upon to do a variety of tasks from tying on fenders, putting the mainsail cover on, rigging dock lines, and helping tie up the boat during dock maneuvers. I'd recommend a bit of a line-handling tutorial from your captain, what he expects you to do and how you should do it. While there are a variety of docking styles and techniques, the one underlying rule is not to get in between the boat and the dock, pylon, or other boat. Heavy boats at slow speeds can do damage to tender fingers and the like. None of this should scare you; just know that a bit of a primer beforehand on how you'll be helping out should be part of the program. There should also be a tour of the various safety gear on board and its locations, as well as the galley, the stove, and of course, the head.

There are a variety of means to treat seasickness. Contrary to popular belief, seasickness affects many sailors, many of whom love sailing so much that they have learned the tenacity required to power through. There is a wide-spectrum of seasickness as well, from mild cases to the debilitating ones. I'd refer you the Liza Copeland article "The Delicate Art of Preventing Seasickness." Here is hoping you’ll soon be an aficionado of sailing.

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