How to Become a Sailing Master
One of the most fun and exciting things to do in Turks and Caicos is sailing. This can be done on a small, one-man rig, a large luxury yacht with designated staff or anything in between. Though a few lessons may have you manning a small sailboat within a day or so, it takes mastery of many more skills before you become an expert. Here is a look at some of the skills to tackle in your pursuit of true sailing mastery.
The first thing that any sailor must understand is how sails work. What sails should be used when you are going into the wind or against it? How do you rig them to get the safest, most effective journey? When do you tack, and how do you do so safely? Understanding the number, types and formations of sails that your boat can use is the first step in becoming an expert sailor. This will differ based on the shape and size of the boat, the number of masts, the type of sails and even the number and shape of hulls. The second is understanding the common use of the sails and the times when this should be deviated from in order to deal with an unusual situation.
The next step in becoming an expert is to know how to navigate. This goes beyond reading a map or learning to use your electronic navigation equipment, but this is certainly an important part of navigating. It can also mean understanding the depth that a sailboat can handle and keeping a safe distance around shallow islands and reefs. Navigation is plotting a course to get you where you need to go and ensuring that you have what you need to get from point A to point B. Navigation means understanding when and how to use the autopilot feature on long journeys and how to stay on course during wind or weather. True sailing masters can use a chart and compass without the help of electronics, and there are even experts who can still use the stars in the art of celestial navigation.
A relatively calm day with a breeze is a great way to learn how to sail. However, it takes a master to know how to sail in heavy winds and seas as well as virtually windless situations. This may require different rigging, deployment of items like a sea anchor and changes in course to prevent capsize. True masters also understand when it is best to avoid bad weather rather than trying to sail in something too big for your boat. There are definitely times when it’s better to seek a sheltered bay and sit out the storm.
One of the most important things that you need to learn to be a master is what to do in the case of an emergency. This can be a capsized boat, a man-overboard situation or a medical emergency. Master sailors have a plan for what to do with a ripped sail, a broken rudder or fried electrical navigation equipment. Though learning from experience is one way to become an expert, it is also possible to take classes on dealing with navigational, structural and medical emergencies at sea. This is not a skill that stays fresh without practice, however. It is best to have regular drills by yourself and with a crew to ensure that you are capable of handling emergency situations when they arise.
An occasional sailor may know how to rig a sailboat, but it takes a master to understand how to maintain a sailboat so that it stays functional for years. This includes learning the steps in annual maintenance and troubleshooting problems before they arise. Maintenance of a boat is usually done in port between sailing trips and at the beginning and end of each sailing season.
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