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Ten Simple Steps To Becoming A Sailor

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

If sailing could be broken down into ten simple steps, then the ocean would not be littered with sunken vessels and lost souls. But for argument's sake, let's just say we did.

Ten simple steps to sailing would break down sailing to its most basic elements and remove all that makes it complicated. Owning a sailboat, maintaining a sailboat, buying and selling a sailboat all make the prospect of sailing more complicated and therefore must be set aside if we are going to reduce sailing to its ten most simple elements.

What's more, it is my belief that sailing in its most elemental form is an art, not a science, and as such should be free from all systematic procedures and rituals. I also feel that since the basic elements of sailing are inherently natural, the ten simple steps to sailing should by definition be available to all regardless of economic standing.

Sure prepping the boat, and hoisting the sails are all required skills that all good sailors must know to properly sail a boat, but those skills can be taught in a matter of hours whereas the true grit of a sailor is not learned in a classroom, but rather acquired from a lifetime.

Finally, as any good ten-step program goes, sailing is an act that should change lives. It should make you a better person. By going sailing you become a sailor so by that thinking, it is not enough to learn the act of sailing but instead develop the traits to become a sailor through 10 simple steps.

This is How to Become a Sailor in Ten Simple Steps.

1. Know the Wind

It doesn't cost a penny to learn to read the wind, yet many sailors spend an entire career relying on gadgets and instruments to tell them where the wind is. With no taste, smell, or color. Seeing wind in many ways is like seeing a ghost. You can feel it and sense it, but you can rarely actually see it, except on days when there is too much of it. Finding the wind, or more to the point, sensing its direction, is paramount to sailing a boat. Without a good sense of its direction, one has no idea how to trim the sails, direct the vessel or plan a voyage.

It's really quite simple to know the wind once you have mastered it, but much like the treasure that can only be found if you know where it is, you will never feel the wind until you feel the wind.

My advice is to sit quietly at the edge of the water, any water, for minutes, hours and days until you have mastered a sense of the wind. Feel it on your face and in your hair. Use the gift of our ear placement on each side of our head to listen for it in your ears. Sensing the wind is a gift our ancestors handed down, but time and evolution have made it a life skill too few of us possess. Get in touch with your inner animal and see the wind if you want to tackle the first step to sailing.

2. Know the Sea

Knowing the sea is not to say you need to have that “hundred-yard stare” and have a parrot on your shoulder, but you should have a respect for the water. Day in, Day out, the waterways of the world are choked with credit card captains and people with more gumption than brains, who lack any kind of understanding or respect for the fact that the sea can kill you.

Knowing the Sea is to understand that waves and water and marine life and all things wet are a world unto themselves, which we stepped away from a few thousand years ago. We are only somewhat-welcome visitors who have killed, polluted, befouled, and otherwise destroyed every aspect of the sea. To go upon on it as a sailor is to beg forgiveness from Poseidon and ask that he allow you to enjoy your short time on the sea and allow you to return to the home from whence you came.

While there you should be courteous and welcoming to others, be respectful and deferential to the realm and always take with you what you bring in. Only by knowing the sea and knowing your place in the sea, can you really call yourself a sailor.

3. Read The Weather

From the early days of man, we as a species have tied our success to the weather. The wind, the rain, the sun, and the clouds all have an impact on our comfort and success each day. Gaining some understanding of what can be expected for the next few hours and getting a sense of what the day might hold for weather conditions is of paramount importance when it comes to sailing.

As a sailor, it is your obligation to be able to prognosticate the weather with some reasonable sense of accuracy so that you and your crew and your vessel might return safely. And as this skill is quite vital to a variety of other walks of life, you may not call yourself a sailor without having a decent ability to read the weather.