Editor's Note First-time sailors are faced with a lot of unfamiliar material. The centuries-old terminology can be bewildering, and at times it may indeed seem as if you are learning a new language as you incorporate these words. It is important not to get discouraged while sifting through the meanings. The sailor's language and onboard movements eventually become second nature after repeated exposure. That said, it doesn't do any good to plow along blindly not knowing your clew from your tack or your outhaul. Proceed slowly, and when an unfamiliar term comes up, take the time to consult one of the accompanying diagrams and study the text until the concept is clear.
Bending and Hoisting the Sails Locate the clew of the mainsail. Starting at the point where the boom connects to the mast, insert the clew into the groove of the boom and pull it out to the end while another person feeds the foot of the sail into the groove. A pin is placed through the tack corner, the "outhaul" is attached to the clew, pulled tight to stretch the foot, and "secured" or cleated.
The battens are then placed in the batten pockets of the sail. Check that you have the right length of batten in the proper pocket. Starting at the tack, follow along the luff to make sure there are no twists in the sail. Attach the main halyard, looking "aloft" (up) in case it's "fouled" (twisted) around a spreader or backstay. If the main luff has slides, put them all on the mast track starting at the head of the sail. If the mast is grooved, you will have to feed the luff of the sail in the groove as it goes up. However, before you hoist the mainsail, it's best to get the jib ready.
Attach the tack of the jib and start hanking on the snaps from bottom up. If you start at the top of the sail, you would have to hold the sail up and hank on each snap underneath. This would get mighty heavy after a while. Also, the sail would be up high where a gust of wind could blow it overboard. So you start with the tack first and pull the sail forward between your legs to keep it low, protected from the wind, and to avoid draping it over the side of the bow in the water.
The mainsail is raised first for various reasons. It acts like a weather vane and keeps the boat headed into the wind. This is most important on a cruising boat since you are apt to motor out of a harbor, head the boat into the wind, and idle the engine while the mainsail is raised. If the boat swings broadside to the wind, which might happen if you raise the jib first, the mainsail will fill with wind, press against the rigging, and bind on the sail track, making it virtually impossible to raise the sail farther.
The same problems arise on smaller boats, but if you start from a mooring, the boat automatically "lays" with her bow pointed directly into the wind. Sometimes the current is strong enough to overpower the wind's effect, but in that case, usually the wind won't be strong enough to create problems in raising the sail. Therefore, with small boats sailing from moorings, the only reason to raise or unroll the jib last is because it flails around during and after raising. This tangles the jib sheets and causes an awful commotion on a windy day, which continues until the main is raised and you start sailing. The flailing also reduces the life of the jib because it breaks down the cloth fibers and fatigues the sail. If the jib is rolled on the forestay, just release the furling line and pull on the leeward jib sheet to unroll it for use.
One important item to remember when raising sails is that all the sheets must be completely loose so the sail will line up rather than fill with wind. At the same time, all lines that might be holding the boom down (like the cunningham or the boom vang) must be eased so that nothing can keep the main from going all the way up. A crew member should hold the end of the boom up in the air to relieve the pull of the leech of the sail if the boat does not have a topping lift (line to hold the boom end up).
|"Make sure you understand the difference between port and starboard before getting underway."|
Now we're ready to sail away, but since the boat is headed directly into the wind at a mooring and is not moving through the water, it is what we call "in irons" or "in stays." This can happen at other times when a boat attempts to change tacks by turning into the wind, is stopped by a wave, and loses "steerageway" or "headway." In order to steer a boat, water must be flowing past the rudder. If the boat is "dead in the water" (motionless) the rudder is useless, so the sails have to be used in its place.
You might be sailing a small boat that has no jib. In that case, you can push the main out against the wind. This starts the boat moving backward and turns the stern to the opposite direction of the side that you are holding the main. In other words, if you back the main to the starboard side, the stern will go to port as in Figure 5. Help the boat to turn by putting the tiller to starboard as described in Figure 4.
As the boat starts moving forward, the rudder becomes effective. Though it eventually becomes automatic, at first one has to think which way to push the tiller to steer a sailboat. As the boat sails along, water flows past the rudder. When the rudder is turned, it deflects the water flow and pushes the stern opposite from the direction of the deflected flow.
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