sailing 6-8-2011

Getting your bearings.

What to know and what to do when you’re invited aboard a friend’s sailboat.

It’s common knowledge that when you’re invited to a country club and play the golf course you should replace your divots, so you don’t leave a furrowed trail behind you. But what about being invited to spend the day on a friend’s sailboat? If your friend’s boat is The Bounty, we suggest politely declining the invitation. But if not, here are some basic things to know, and do, to ensure you’ll be welcomed aboard again and again.


What to wear.

Primarily, you need to be protected from three elements: sun, wind, and water. It’s fine to begin with shorts and a short sleeve T- or Polo shirt, but be sure to also have a long-sleeve shirt you can throw on, a windbreaker, and possibly a pair of chinos. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of a heat wave on land, things are going to be noticeably cooler on the boat. Especially after you’ve been in the sun all day and that breeze off the water hits you. Don’t forget your sunglasses either.

And as far as footwear goes, obviously boat shoes are the best. But if you don’t own a pair, or can’t find yours, be sure to wear a shoe with a white sole so you don’t leave scuffmarks on the deck. All this may seem like a lot to throw into a duffel bag but it’s better to be prepared. You don’t want your friend spending his time rummaging through a locker searching for an old musty windbreaker as you try to look manly while shivering uncontrollably.



What to bring.

Usually this kind of thing will get worked out when you get the invite. It should go without saying, but make sure to ask your host if there’s anything you can bring. At the very least, make sure to bring along sunscreen, water, and some snacks (think easy to eat one-handed). And bring enough to share—even the sunscreen.

Unless you’re given specific direction otherwise, it’s best to leave any alcoholic beverages dockside. Even the most inexperienced sailor never knows when he might be called upon to help out. So, you’ll want to be ready. And, more than likely, your friend, being the skipper, won’t be imbibing during the trip either, so offer to buy a round of drinks after the day’s sailing is over.


When you arrive at the boat.

Don’t just clamber over the side. Ask permission to come aboard. Why? Because there’s no doorbell and this simple phrase essentially replaces the need for one. Also, after your request has been granted, don’t attempt to board while carrying your gear, unless your dream is to be on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Remember sailing’s golden rule: one hand for you one hand for the boat. Either pass it first or have someone hand you the gear once you’re on.


When you’re onboard.

Be sure to ask your friend where it’s OK to be and where it’s not. As the captain, he’s going to have to actually sail the boat in addition to making sure his guests are having a good time. So it’s a good idea to keep out of his way. When you’re at anchor is a good time to ask questions about how it all works. Not while you’re underway. Unless, of course, he asks you to shadow him.



Terms to know while onboard.

It’s always good to familiarize yourself with some sailing terminology. You’ll be able to understand a little of what’s going on and you might make yourself useful in a pinch. Unlike this guy.

Aft – The back of the sailboat. Also called the stern.

Bow – The front of the sailboat.

Port – When facing the bow, port is the left-hand side of the sailboat.

Starboard – When facing the bow, starboard is the right-hand side of the sailboat.

Leeward – Leeward, or lee, is the direction opposite of the way the wind is blowing.

Windward – The direction the wind is blowing.

Boom – The horizontal pole extending from the bottom of the vertical mast.

Rudder – The flat piece of wood or fiberglass that steers the sailboat.

Tacking – Technique of sailing to windward, where the boom changes from one side of the sailboat to the other side. The boom will always shift from one side to the other when tacking.

Jibing – Changing from one tack to another by turning the stern through the wind. The boom will always shift from one side to the other when Jibing.


Back at the dock.

What is the motto you see when entering Yosemite or any another National Park? “Leave it like you found it.” So, be sure you take all your trash and belongings and anything else that may have found its way on board—like seashells or driftwood—with you. Owning a sailboat is truly a labor of love, with the labor seemingly outweighing the love on many occasions, so unless you’ve been stricken with an incapacitating sunburn, don’t immediately say goodbye once you’ve docked. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help out. In some sense, a boat is like a restaurant, after a busy evening’s service the chef and kitchen staff don’t just turn out the lights and leave dirty plates in the sink and grease on the stovetops. More than likely you’ll be told no, but it doesn’t hurt to press the matter slightly. It will mean a lot to your friend and practically ensure you’ll be invited back.


Sail away.

There you have it. A few important things to know when asked aboard a friend’s sailboat. It’s not much to learn and being familiar with these things will impress not only your friend but your lady friends as well. Oh right, we forgot to mention one other thing. Be sure to slap this on before you arrive.

TAGS: America's Funniest Home Videos | Bill Murray | Boat shoes | Chinos | Etiquette | Mutiny on the Bounty | Old Spice | Polo shirt | Sailboat | sailing | Sunscreen | What About Bob? | Windbreaker

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  • avatar
    For a dockside land lubber like myself, I enjoyed this article. It's amazing how much of it is common sense, but all points I wouldn't normally think about. The white soled shoes point really stuck out to me because I immediately got the why part - no scuffs. Good post and a good accompanying partner to your golf course post
    44 months ago | Report abuse |
  • avatar
    The color of the sole isn't the important part, which is that the sole be non-marking. My boat shoes have tan soles, and there are plenty of so-called boat shoes which are really only for fashion and do not have non-marking soles.
    44 months ago | Report abuse |
  • avatar
    excellent. as a sailor myself, i always appreciate when guests show up with at least a basic understanding of manners. also, definitely suggest a hat. the sun is fierce on the water and you can use as much protection as possible.
    44 months ago | Report abuse |