7 Common Sailing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

How much do you love the incredible freedom that comes with sailing? Cool wind in your hair, the perfect sunrise or sunset, and the soft noise of the ocean waves are some of the most irresistible aspects of sailing. Apart from escapism and relaxation, did you know that sailing could also boost your immune system?

There are so many benefits that come with sailing, like learning new skills and exploring, but there are also many common sailing mistakes you could be making. Sailing is a skilled sport, and there are numerous essential things you need to know before embarking on a journey. 

In this guide, we’ll look into some of the most common sailing mistakes you could make, and how you can avoid them.  

When going sailing, one of the most common sailing mistakes people make is not understanding the boat they’re using. If you’re still new to this and you’re not yet adequately experienced, you need to pick the right boat, then learn all the capabilities and abilities of your boat. 

If, say, you learned sailing using a Sunfish boat, but then go on your expedition using a dinghy, it’s in your best interest to be well equipped with knowledge about that specific boat. Start with the most suitable boats for beginners, such as dinghies, to avoid being under constant threat of capsizing when you have a boat you can’t handle yet.

2. Flogging the Sails

The better you treat your sails, the longer they will last, but this will not happen if you flog them and leave them thrashing in the wind. You see, when you store your jibs on head stays without furling them tightly enough, the wind will pull the leeches free, and once the flag is free, it’ll blow your boat about. The jib will be damaged, and you risk disturbing the tranquility of the marina or anchorage. 

3. Sailing too Close to other Boats

Your distance from other boats matters significantly because each type of boat follows its own rules, and it’s a matter of personal space. Beyond that, being too close to other boats increases the risks of a collision, especially if you’re sailing in busy waterways. 

According to the Boat Owners Association of the United States, you need to maintain your distance, and if you need to communicate with the other boats, you should do it with VHF or hand signals. Of course, you can use any other method to communicate and tell them what you intend to do, which will give them an opportunity to prepare or even suggest a better solution. 

4. Overconfidence

Nine times out of ten, overconfident sailors don’t last because it always leads to failure. This applies to most things and not just sailing. When you’re too overconfident in your abilities, you find that the oceans can be quite unforgiving, and everything you thought was easy, actually wasn’t. 

The wind will likely be gentle while starting out, but one of the most common sailing mistakes beginners make is feeling like they’re in control, until strong gusts of wind convince them otherwise, leaving them helpless. 

Beyond that, you need to understand the right way of rules to avoid sailing accidents. For instance, powerboats give way to sailboats because they have more maneuverability.

5. Not Having up to Date Nautical Charts

Paper charts are no longer in use nowadays, just like paper maps, since they have been replaced by technology. While we all love the advancement of tech and its benefits, if your gadget runs out of power in the middle of the ocean, you won’t know where you are and what’s underneath.

It’s advisable to be prepared, and if you’re a beginner, checking on charts constantly is a good idea to avoid getting lost. If you intend to sail to a far destination, it’s advisable to take dark nautical charts with you, and if possible, place some paper charts on your onboard boating kit for emergencies. 

6. Failing to Understand Lateral and Non-Lateral Markers

Different buoys have different meanings, and among the common sailing mistakes that people make is mistaking them. Green and red one buoys indicate an edge of safe water areas. 

Non-lateral markers, on the other hand, will help you to determine location. The only solution to this is brushing up your knowledge on these markers to avoid making mistakes once you embark on your sail. 

7. Getting Caught on Winches and Pulling on Loose Lines

When sailing, one of the most important things to remember is that when a line is wrapping around a winch, anything between the line and the drum can be sucked in as well. 

Most sailors ensure that their hair is tied back because of this, but you need to understand that it’s not just hair. Be careful with everything else from your fingers to your clothes or even your toes. Winch pinching can be very dangerous. 

Apart from winches, one of the most common sailing mistakes sailors make is pulling on loose lines. There is something about a loose line that makes you just want to pull on it. 

However, this is not a very wise idea because if you pull on a halyard line, the loose end will climb the mast so fast you won’t know what’s going on. The problem with this is that the line going down will over-weigh the line running up, which could be a disaster. 

Bonus Mistake: Forgetting the Boat Drain Plug

One of the worst sailing mistakes you could ever make is forgetting your boat drain plug. You’d be surprised at the number of sailors that forget to install or remove their drain plug and feel the regret later when they find their boat sunk under. If it doesn’t sink, you may find it full or rainwater if it rains, so make it a habit to double-check your drain plug at all times. 

This goes hand in hand with securing the anchor. If by any chance, you miscalculate the amount of line you need when dropping your anchor, you may have to drag it or drift ashore. Even worse, if it’s not attached to your boat, you’re going to lose it. 

The Most Common Sailing Mistakes Sailors Make

There you have it! These are some of the most common sailing mistakes sailors make, especially beginners. However, now that you’re well aware of what they are, you have an opportunity to avoid them during your next sail. 

Beyond that, you should have regular boat maintenance. Also, check out our other informative beginners and buyers’ guides on everything about boats. 



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