If you’ve dreamed of setting sail, but can’t imagine yourself learning what you believe to be such a challenging skill, you may be surprised to learn just how simple sailing can be under the right circumstances. Of course, under the wrong circumstances, sailing can be very challenging. Here’s how to set yourself up for success and make learning to sail as simple as possible.
Is Sailing Hard To Learn?
Sailing is more challenging when you are sailing a large boat that is difficult to read, sailing on more challenging waters, don’t take sufficient time to learn, and are too risk-adverse to take the risks you need to take, along with a number of other characteristics.
Learning to sail definitely comes with some challenges, but by making a few careful decisions when you start, you can minimize some of the most difficult parts of learning to sail.
Is Sailing for You?
Before you begin thinking about how challenging sailing will be for you it’s important to establish whether or not this is the right hobby for your needs. Sailing isn’t for everybody.
If you are extremely prone to seasickness you may be able to get over your symptoms in time, or it may be something that regularly affects you. If you do not consider yourself to be much of an outdoors person, the degree to which you may have to rough it when you are sailing may seriously infringe upon your enjoyment of it.
Be sure that you are thinking not only of the romance that sailing can offer, but the degree to which it is practical for your family. Remember that if everyone isn’t on board, you’re unlikely to see success. Sailing expeditions in which one party is completely dedicated and the other is fairly indifferent are unlikely to be fun or successful voyages.
Is Sailing Hard to Learn? Summary Table
|Sailing is hard to learn when…||Sailing is easy to learn when…|
|You choose a larger boat than you can read and don’t receive instructions from an experienced sailor about how to pilot it.||You start on a boat that is small and responsive and receive instruction from someone who knows how to sail it.|
|You only practice sailing intermittently and never give yourself dedicated time to get to know your boat and your instruments.||You practice steadily to get to know your boat before switching to your usual sailing schedule.|
|You are learning on difficult to read waters, especially waters that are shallow with often changing tidal flats.||You learn on waters that are easy to read and mostly deep, ideally with somebody who knows the waters well to teach you.|
|You are too risk-adverse to challenge yourself with the necessary experience to learn how to sail or you are so comfortable with risk that you have trouble learning the necessary caution to be a good sailor.||You have a good balance of risk aversion and a willingness to take risks that channels into cautious sailing while still giving you the opportunities to learn the skills you need to know to sail well.|
How Risk-Averse are You?
Sailors like to joke that sailing is made up of long periods of boredom broken up by brief moments of intense terror. This certainly isn’t the case for all sailing excursions, but for many sailors, this is a very accurate description.
For many people, it isn’t the challenge of sailing that makes them decide not to get involved or makes them give it up, but rather the risks. To be a sailor, it is essential that you are comfortable with a certain amount of risk.
Even the most careful sailor will encounter times that fill them with anxiety. This is not the sort of sport that you can plan carefully and avoid ever having problems come up. To the contrary, when you are sailing, you must always be ready for the unexpected.
One of the hardest things to learn about sailing is how to steady your nerves in the face of anxiety. If you tend not to be a very risk-averse person, you won’t find this to be one of the hardest parts about sailing.
On the other hand, individuals who are not at all risk averse may have a completely different challenge as they learn to sail. To sail safely and successfully, you need to be able to plan ahead and anticipate problems before they happen.
If you are too happy-go-lucky, you may find that you fail to predict serious problems. Realistically identifying your own level of risk aversion is one of the first goals you’ll have as you learn how to sail.
How Much Time do You Have?
Most people learn to sail as a weekend hobby. This is a perfectly fine way to learn, but it’s worth noting that the more breaks you take between sailing sessions, the more challenging it may be for you to learn. As you sail, you develop a sense of your vessel and equipment in different scenarios.
The more time that you spend sailing continuously or with only short breaks, the faster you may catch on. This isn’t to say that you can’t learn to sail if you are only doing it on a very part-time basis, but you may find it more challenging.
Furthermore, many people find that they may be more prone to finding learning curves overwhelming and struggling to keep going with the hobby when they take long breaks between practice sessions.
If you are just getting started with sailing, it may be worth taking some time to invest in learning the hobby at a stretch before you settle into weekend sailing.
Many new sailors can get the basics and begin sailing for themselves in only a few days, but the more separations there are between sessions, the more challenging it might be for you to feel confident in a wide range of situations.
What Kind of Boat do You Want to Sail?
A little sailing skiff may be much easier for you to master than a 45-foot ocean-worthy cruiser. The kind of boat you’re trying to sail makes a big difference in how difficult it will be for you to learn how to sail.
Most sailors start out with a smaller boat before moving up. This gives you opportunities to make your mistakes and even decide that sailing isn’t the hobby for you without wasting a significant expense.
If you have your heart set on learning to sail in a larger boat, you are likely going to experience more challenges. Larger boats may take longer to respond, which can make it harder for you to realize how changes that you are making are affecting how the boat is handling.
Therefore, you may find that it takes longer for you to feel like you are gaining an understanding of how your particular boat works. By contrast, if you learn on a smaller boat that may be easier to handle and quicker to respond, you will likely internalize what you’ve learned when you sail a larger boat.
If you want to learn to sail on a large boat, it’s a good idea to find somebody who can help you learn on your particular boat. Seek out sailing instructors who have experience with the type of boat that you want to sail. This will cut out a lot of the anxiety and confusion as you get the feel for your boat.
Where do You Want to Go?
Where you sail has profound effects on how challenging it can be for you to learn. Areas that have mostly deep, predictable waters will be much easier to sail than places with lots of shallow water that is difficult to read.
Sailors who grow accustomed to deep, easy-to-read Waters may find themselves at a loss when they enter more coastal regions that have shallow waters. Murky water with shifting tidal flats are often the most challenging to navigate.
Even if you navigate successfully once and set your GPS to help you find the same route again, you are likely to find that the same route won’t work well every time.
In such waters, you must be constantly vigilant and use low speeds that are unlikely to cause problems even if you do bump against the bottom. If you know that you’ll be sailing in these types of waters, especially common around Florida, especially the Florida Keys, it is best to choose a shallow-draft boat with an adjustable daggerboard and centerboard.
Such a boat can safely navigate the perils of uncertain waters without you constantly being afraid that you will do serious and irreparable damage to your sailboat. Even with such a boat, there will be some challenges.
However, choosing a boat that is made to navigate the kind of waters that you want to sail will take a lot of the frustration and anxiety out of sailing for you.
Have Fun Learning to Sail
Above all else, learning to sail should be a lot of fun for you. After all, this is a hobby that you took up for the opportunity to go on some great adventures and maybe learn something new about yourself.
Make sure that you give yourself time to become acquainted with this challenging hobby. Sailing is often not hard in the way that so many other hobbies are hard, where the challenge is in developing your skillset.
Sailing is often fairly straightforward in regards to skill set. It is in learning your boat, how to read conditions, and how to make good judgments on the water where sailing is most challenging.