How to sail, online sailing lessons

Online Sailing Lessons - How to sail

This module is to assist anyone who is learning how to sail. These will give you a good start on keelboat sailing certification or basic sailing theory on how to sail a boat, for a keelboat, catamaran or monohull.  Bear in mind that theory can only take you so far, practical on the water experience is essential. The animations and general theory will assist you in learning safety procedures, refreshing on nomenclature, and getting a grasp on basic concepts on how to sail a yacht.

If you would like me to include certifying institutions from your part of the world please contact me with the details and I will add the information

Course - basic Keelboat 101

Man Overboard Crew Instructions

Man overboard, Man overboard crew procedures, Man overboard procedures

Man Overboard Captain Instructions

Man overboard, Man overboard captain procedures, Man overboard procedures

Parts of a Boat

Parts of  a Boat

Boat Hull

Boat hull

Learn to sail

Do I need to be certified to sail?

The short answer, in most countries is no, but having a certification helps in a number of ways:

  • Confidence in your ability and a structured approach to learning.
  • Discounts on boat insurance if you own a boat.
  • If you don’t own a boat and want to charter, most charter companies require proof of ability.

There are a number of certifications for how to sail a sailboat for recreational boating, they are different in each country/region and some are recognized more widely than others. Recreational:

RYA – Has over 2,250 training centers in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand and the USA

US Sailing – This association’s history goes all the way back to 1897. US Sailing Seems to be more racing focused as opposed to ASA, it was historically the merging of a number of associations. ASA, American Sailing Association – over twenty five years old, offers certification throughout the US from over 300 schools.

IYT – International Yacht Training, based in Florida since 1998


Taking out paying passengers is a different story altogether and would require some sort of licensing with the local authorities, for example in the US the US Coastguard “six pack” license. This will allow you to take out up to six passengers commercially. Larger vessels or more passengers would require further licensing and experience.

Sailing Course Coverage - Learn to sail

To give you an idea of what usually covered in sailing certification, the typical areas of study for basic keelboat certification to learn to sail: (Keelboat 101)

  • Parts of a boat
    • Parts of a sailboat
    • Parts of a sailboat rig
    • Names and parts of sails
  • How sails work
  • Sail Trim
  • Sailing skills & Directions
    • Points of sail
    • Changing Direction
    • Depowering & Reefing
    • Configend Waters
    • Triangular course
    • Out of irons
    • Man overboard procedure
  • Rules of the road
  • Docking & Anchoring
  • Sailing Preparations
  • Knots and lines
  • Weather
  • Safety and Emergency
  • Basic Navigation

Advanced Sailing Certifications

There are of course plenty more advanced certifications most of which would require you to have some sailing experience under you belt. These generally cover the following areas of study:

  • Coastal cruising
  • Bareboat - This is a good certification to have if you wish to charter without the expense of a captain.
  • Coastal Navigation
  • Celestial navigation
  • Offshore passage making

Sailing Jargon

Why so much jargon?!! One difficulty for anyone learning to sail a boat is the obscene amount of jargon, there seems to be a salty name for everything, even a toilet isn’t a toilet anymore. Why do I have to learn all of this nonsense just o sail a boat you might ask? The simple answer is for communication, sailing a boat of any reasonable size takes a crew i.e. more than one person. When working in a team you need to be able to communicate effectively most especially in an emergency situation. The captain should be able to shout out commands and the crew should be able to understand and respond immediately, without further explanation.

Please let me know if you have any feedback on these online sailing lessons.