December 29, 2016: Day Two of Sailing 101

Boat: Chomsky, Catalina 22
Location: Sarasota Bay, Sarasota, FL
Sailing Course: ASA 101, Basic Keelboat Sailing
Wind: light in AM; 5-7 knots in afternoon.

sailing-101-day-2-florida-keelboatWe expected wind this morning, and for it to strengthen throughout the day as a front moved through. When we arrived at the dock, the wind was flat. We spent some time in the office with Captain Sara going over points of sail and rules of the road, then motored out again like we did yesterday. We visited another boat at anchor, this time friends of Captain Sara, then motored through a mangrove-lined canal to get to a marina to fill the gas tank.

By 11am, there still was no wind, so we motored over to a bait shop/sandwich shop under the southern bridge out to Longboat for an early lunch. It was a walk-up counter and was much quicker than yesterday’s sit-down lunch. I ate a BLT, and we were back on the water by 12:30.

The wind was still very light, but there was enough to get us out of the channel and into the bay. I hoisted the main and Brian unfurled the jib. Due to tight quarters and the fact that we were running with the breeze, Sara piloted us out, sailing by the lee, and showing us how to sail wing-on-wing, with the jib and the main on opposite sides of the boat. In heavier winds this is very dangerous due to the possibility of an accidental jibe, but the light wends were a nice change so that she could show us the running point of sail and the wing-on-wing orientation without danger.

Captain Sara jibed a few times to get us through the channel, then Brian steered us on a close reach for a long time to get us back up the bay. We saw the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the Ringling museum from the water. Sara explained that a “reach” allows you to find a point and sail towards it without the need to tack. It’s called a reach because you can reach it.

After a while we practiced jibing with the jib (we only jibed with the main yesterday). The wind was lighter today, so jibing wasn’t as unnerving. Then we tacked a bit while Sara taught us how to use the telltales on the jib: when a telltale stalls, stear away from the stall to get the air moving across the sail on the correct trim and lift the telltale to horizontal again.

I also told her how confused I get when on a broad reach. When the wind is behind us I get very turned around and feel like I’m driving backwards. I don’t know instinctively what is upwind and what is down in terms of how to steer the boat. Yesterday Captain Bill would say “go up a little” and I’d be all turned around about which way I needed to steer to go “up.” Sara said the biggest thing to remember is to steer the bow away from the mainsail to go up, and towards the main to go down. I steered up and down several times to practice, and to play with the telltales.

Finally, we practiced crew overboard using the broad-reach to close-reach maneuver, which is a simplification of the figure 8 maneuver. Both are designed to rescue crew overboard without jibing and risking another injury when you’re already short-crewed with a sailor in the water. On my first try I missed being able to grab the jug by about six inches, but I got it on my second try.


  • Steer away from the stalled telltale to get the proper trim.
  • Steer the bow away from the mainsail to head up.
  • Heel lengthens the water line, adding hull speed to the boat. In light wind, crew may need to stay to lee to increase heel.


Crew overboard. Broad reach to close reach approach.

  • Call “Crew overboard!” as soon as a crew member goes overboard.
  • Call “Flotation!” and throw out flotation devices.
  • Appoint a spotter whose sole job is to keep their eyes on the crew member in the water and point at all times so the captain and crew knows where the crew member is.
  • Point downwind on a broad reach away from the crew overboard. Find a spot on the horizon and sail 4-5 boat lengths away.
  • Tack hard — push the tiller all the way across as far as it will go.
  • Grab the mainsheet bundle and manually pull the boom while holding the sheets.
  • Pass the sheet bundle behind your back while the boom swings over.
  • Grab the tiller and point directly toward the crew overboard, planning to stay just upwind of them. Manually trim the mainsail by holding the sheet bundle in closer if needed
  • When a boat length or two from the crew member in the water (depending on how fast you’re travelling), release the main to slow the boat. Keep the boat on course for the crew overboard.
  • When the crew overboard is at the bow, scoot forward and pull the tiller over completely to swing the stern around to the crew member in the water.
  • Lean under the lifeline to grab the crew member. Have crew on board hold your ankle to keep you from going in the water too.

Author: Andrea Badgley

Writer at Butterfly Mind and Andrea Reads America. Happiness Engineer with Automattic.

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