10 Mistakes Most People Make When Sailing

10 Mistakes Most People Make When Sailing

Sailing is an enjoyable way of spending a beautiful, clear day out, feeling the breeze sweep your hair and the wind on your face. However, sailing enthusiasts will tell you that even though it can be seen as a recreational activity, it is not always as easy as it looks. If you are beginning to learn to sail, you have to remember that there are key points you need to know because it is easy to make simple mistakes that may have serious consequences when you're out on the water. There will be times when you are on the water, and your companion is shouting out terms that you haven't heard of, and it will confuse you, causing you to make mistakes.

The upside to these errors is that they are easily avoidable by taking basic sailing lessons, being prepared before sailing, and staying focused. It would also help that you do it regularly because, like any other activity, the practice goes a long way.

There are plenty of mistakes sailors can make, and it is important to take note of the most common ones so you can enjoy your day of fun on the water.  Below are ten common mistakes people make when sailing, from the most basic, like wearing the wrong apparel, to the more advanced ones like pulling the wrong line.


  1. Not Wearing the Right Clothing

One of the first things your instructor would tell you is to always wear the right apparel when sailing. When the conditions are perfect for sailing during the warm summer weather, always wear light-colored, comfortable clothing that is not too tight because it will allow you to move around more quickly. You could also opt to use clothing with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor rating to protect you from the sun. Hats or visors are also useful because your face and neck can burn when you are out on the sea. Covering up is always key.

Another important part of your clothing is eye protection, so use sunglasses and bring spares on an occasion when the wind picks up and your glasses could get lost overboard. If you use prescription glasses, make sure to always fasten them around your neck or bring another pair.

Jewelry, especially those dangling or protruding gems, is also a no-no because they might get caught in a jib sheet or any of the riggings and could cause serious physical damage.


  1. Not Wearing Sunscreen

Being on the water all day means you are getting many sun from above and from the reflection off the water, so always be prepared with sunscreen, especially if you are fair-skinned. Make sure to also reapply because being out in the water means it could easily wash off.


  1. Not Being Properly Hydrated

Being out in the sea means you have the sun hovering above you all the time, and even if you are in the shade, the sun reflecting off the water, together with the breeze evaporating the sweat off your body, will make it easy for you to become dehydrated. Always bring enough water with you when you go sailing to be properly hydrated because dehydration could cause mental confusion, and you might end up making more mistakes than necessary while onboard.


  1. Not Knowing Proper Boat Etiquette

There are certain guidelines to a respectful boating experience for you and other sailors, starting at the dock. First, prepare your boat and equipment before getting into position to launch so you could give way to others. It is also true for when you need to get fuel. Just fuel up, pay and move on so the next boater can take his position.

When you are out at sea, know the different parts of the boat and try to stay out of someone else’s way, especially the helmsperson’s, because blocking their view might cause major consequences. Also, keep the noise down because the sound is amplified over the water so that it may cause a disturbance to others.

The key to proper and enjoyable boating is always knowing the navigational and safety rules to ensure an enjoyable day out on the water.


  1. Starting the Engine Without Checking for Lines

This is a common mistake even experienced sailors can make. When mooring or returning to dock, always check for any loose lines or jib sheets falling over the side before starting the engine. You wouldn't want to be unexpectedly stalled and have to go overboard to unwrap anything on the shaft.


  1. Getting Caught in Winches

The winch is where you tie your sheet from the sail, and it aids in adding tension to your sail. However, if one is too close to the line and pulled in, anything between the line and the winch's drum will be sucked in. This is why it is always important to be alert when sailing to avoid such accidents.


  1. Having Loose Lines

Any unattached or loosely attached lines could always spell big trouble. For example, it could wrap itself around a nearby stay, or if it is a halyard and you pull on it, the loose end will quickly climb over the mast, and eventually, your job would fall, and you would need to free climb up the mast to rig it again.


  1. Not Closing Thru-hulls Overnight

When you leave your car at a parking garage, it is always a good idea to make sure it is properly locked. This is also true for boats. Make sure you close all the valves that could potentially let the ocean water and sink your boat. 


  1. Flogging Your Sails

The quickest way to damage a set of sails is to flog it, letting its trash in the wind.  The leech of the sail will sustain more damage than the middle. When the sails are furled tightly and a breeze comes up, it could pull a piece of the leech free, damaging your sail. A tight furl will prevent any unraveling unless there is a hurricane.


  1. Steering The Wrong Way When Backing Down

It is difficult to back up a sailboat, and if you are still new to sailing likely, you could easily get confused about which way you would turn the rudder. What you need to do is push the tiller toward where you want the bow to go so that the stern will move in the opposite direction. This is because it works the opposite way when steering the wheel.



Not everyone is built to be a sailor the first time you try, even if you know the basics. If you want to be good at it, you have to be determined, willing to learn, and most of all, patient with yourself. It is okay to make mistakes, but it is better if you learn from your mistakes.