SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Sailing Advice for any Century

June 9, 2014

Last week we shared sailing terminology from Boat-Building and Boating, a book by Daniel Beard published in 1911. Since the art of sailing never changes (despite changes in the racing sport of the same name) it's interesting to read the advice given to boys over 100 years ago. Some of us would do well to remind ourselves of the Do's and Don'ts of sailing.

How to Sail a Boat

If you fasten the bottom of a kite to the ground, you will find that the wind will do its best to blow the kite over, and if the kite is fastened to the mast of a toy boat, the wind will try to blow the boat over. In sailing a boat the effort of the wind apparently has but one object, and that is the upsetting of the boat. The latter, being well balanced, is constantly endeavoring to sit upright on its keel, and you, as a sailor, are aiding the boat in the struggle, at the same time subverting the purpose of the wind to suit your own ideas. It is an exciting game, in which man usually comes out ahead, but the wind gains enough victories to keep its courage up. Every boat has peculiarities of its own, and good traits as well as bad ones, which give the craft a personal character that lends much to your interest, and even affects your sensibilities to the extent of causing you to have the same affection for a good, trustworthy craft that you have for an intelligent and kind dog or horse.

A properly balanced sail-boat, with main sheet trimmed flat and free helm, should be as sensitive as a weathercock and act like one--that is, she ought to swing around until her bow pointed right into the "eye of the wind," the direction from which the wind blows. Such a craft it is not difficult to sail, but it frequently happens that the boat that is given to you to sail is not properly balanced, and shows a constant tendency to "come up in the wind"--face the wind--when you are doing your best to keep her sails full and keep her on her course. This may be caused by too much sail aft. The boat is then said to carry a weather helm.

Weather Helm.--When a boat shows a constant tendency to come up in the wind. Lee Helm.--When a boat shows a constant tendency to fall off the wind--that is, when the wind blows her bow to the leeward. This is a much worse trait than the former, and a boat with a lee helm is a dangerous boat. It may be possible to remedy it by adding sail aft or reducing sail forward, which should immediately be done.


There's nothing like seeing kids sailing through the harbor. St. Croix, USVI

In spite of the fact, already stated, that the wind's constant effort is to capsize a boat, there is little or no danger of a properly rigged boat upsetting unless the sheets are fast or hampered in some way. When a sailboat upsets it is, of course, because the wind blows it over. Now, the wind cannot blow a boat over unless the boat presents some surface larger than its hull for the wind to blow against, and the sail is the only object that offers enough surface to the breeze to cause an upset. If the sheet is slackened, the sail will swing around until it flaps like a flag and only the thin edge is presented to the wind; and a boat that a flag will upset is no boat for beginners to trust themselves in. True, the boom may be very long and heavy enough to make it dangerous to let so much of it overboard, but this is seldom the case. A good sailor keeps his eyes constantly on the sails and trims them to take advantage of the slightest favorable breeze. In place of losing control of his sail by letting go the sheets he will ease the tiller so as to "spill" part of the wind that is, let the forward part, or luff, of the sail shake a bit. Or, in case of a sudden puff of wind, he may deem it necessary to "luff"--that is, let her shake--and slacken the sheets too.

What you have read in the foregoing pages will not be found very difficult to remember, but there is only one way to learn to sail and that is by sailing. If possible, sail with someone who is a good seaman. If this sort of companion cannot be had, try it alone on smooth water and with short sail until you accustom yourself to the boat and its peculiarities. No boy ever learned to skate or swim from books, but books often have been helpful in giving useful hints to those who were really learning by practical experience.

Some Do Nots

Do not overload the boat.
Do not carry too much sail.
Do not sail in strange waters without chart or compass.
Do not forget your anchor.
Do not forget your paddles or oars.
Do not attempt to learn to sail before you know how to swim.
Do not sit on the gunwale.
Do not put the helm down too suddenly or too far.
(We have found that even in our 20,000 pound tank, this is the biggest reason for a lack of response from the rudder.)
Do not let go the helm.
Do not mistake caution for cowardice.
(Can I get an Amen?)
Do not be afraid to reef. (When our oldest was young, he used to chide us every time we ordered another reef. Amazingly, once he spent a few seasons as a captain in the Caribbean, he, too, became a fan of reefing early and often.)
Do not fear the ridicule of other landlubbers. (It's YOUR boat and YOUR ass. Protect them as YOU see fit, not as the naysayers try to convince you that you should.)
Do not fail to keep the halyards and sheets clear.
Do not jibe in a stiff wind.
Do not fail to keep your head in times of emergency.
Do not make a display of bravery until the occasion demands it.
Do not allow mistakes or mishaps to discourage you.
Do not associate with a fool who rocks a boat.

You will soon become an expert and be able to engage in one of our most exhilarating, healthy, and manly sports and earn the proud distinction of being a good small-boat sailor.

The next chapter, my favorite, "How to Build a Cheap Boat" is what brought this book full circle. From the young men in 1925 who built the two "cheap boats" that are still in the chicken barn, to you, sitting at your computer, reading the words written over 100 years ago in a book for sailing boys.

As we prepare Eurisko for another trip to "anywhere new," we once again have to install our solar panels. Dave created this "prototype" method 12 years ago. MONDAY we'll share what we now consider the most practical way to mount solar panels to a boat.

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