It’s Your Turn

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you’d like to rent a sailboat at Coastal Kayak you’ll need to have some sailing experience and be able to answer some basic sailing questions. One of those questions is: ”What’s the safest way to turn the sailboat?”

You can turn a sailboat either towards where the wind is coming from or away from the wind. Turning the boat away from the wind, or downwind, is called jibing and can be risky for both you and the boat. When turning downwind you bring the stern through the wind. This will cause the sail to swing across the boat at high speed and failing to duck at the right time can result in getting hit by the boom. They call it a “boom” for a good reason! Most of our boats do not have a big, heavy boom so, even though you won’t get your bell rung, you run a good chance of tearing the sail or flipping the boat.

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The correct answer for the safest way to turn the sailboat is: “Turning by bringing the bow through the wind.” This is known as tacking. When you tack you are actually coasting through the turn and it is slow and controlled. It also takes a little bit of skill. If not done correctly you can stall out (called being stuck in irons).

There are several basic steps in completing a tack and they are as follows:
1. Steer upwind: Prior to starting the tack you want to steer the boat upwind so that it is at about a 45 degree angle to where the wind is coming from.
2. Tighten the sail: In order to sail at this angle to the wind you need to tighten the sail.
3. Build up speed: Because a tack is accomplished by coasting through the wind you need to build up speed. You may already have enough speed, but if not, you can do two things – you can wait for a gust of wind, or if necessary, you can steer the boat a little bit farther away from the wind (90 degrees) as this is the fastest direction.
4. Push the tiller bar away: Once the coast is clear and you have informed your crew that you are going to tack, you will push the tiller bar away at a steady pace which will cause the boat to turn towards the wind.
5. Pass through the wind and move to the other side of the boat: Keep the boat turning until the bow passes through the wind and once the wind starts to hit the other side of the sail you will need to move to the other side of the boat.

There! You’ve done it! You completed a tack and can now head out in your new direction.

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