Episode #022: Your Pocket Sailing Instructor Podcast: Top 5 Seamanship Skills to Master

spinnaker sailing

This week on Your Pocket Sailing Instructor podcast we are digging into your seamanship toolbox! What should you focus on? What is seamanship anyway? Below I will explain my top 5 seamanship skills that I think you should master to make sure your trip is an uneventful success! 🙂

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#25: Purchasing & Owning a New Boat! Now What? Your Pocket Sailing Instructor Podcast

What is Seamanship?

Oxford Languages defines seamanship as: “the skill, techniques, or practice of handling a ship or boat at sea.” But what does that really mean? To me, it means that you can go out sailing and handle everything that is thrown at you. Hence, having an “uneventful” passage. By uneventful I mean that you predicted, managed, overcame, etc., whatever potential obstacles that were thrown your way. Thus you had a great trip!

Top 5 Seamanship Skills to Master

#1 Helming

The art of helming is the art of controlling your boat. It is much more than holding a steady course. It involves reading the wind, adjusting the sails, watching for hazards, awareness of crew movements, etc., all while adjusting your course to safely manage these external elements. Helming also includes docking and your ability to safely maneuver the boat in various winds and sea conditions.

#2 Safety

If you’ve been following along you already know that I am a big proponent of safety! Safety First! Seriously though, having a safe boat will really increase your comfort and fun out on the water. What I mean by safety includes: safety equipment checks, having a safe culture on the boat, employing safe habits, awareness of others being unsafe, managing weather changes, local hazards, etc… there are many facets to a “safe boat”. And by a safe culture on the boat, I mean making sure your crew feel comfortable enough to wear a PFD the entire time should they chose.

#3 Crew Management

Now the fun part. Managing the crew! What do I mean by that? Well, really it comes down to having an awareness for your crew and their strengths/weaknesses. Watching how your crew are reacting to situations on the boat. Does Paul always get stressed when the boat heels? Is Debbie always walking on the leeward side of the boat? These are all hints and indications that you have some work to do to help your crew feel comfortable and safe on the boat. Teach them how to move safely around the boat. Teach them how to flatten the boat by heading up or luffing the main. Being able to recognize and anticipate how your crew will react to situations will help you run a smoother ship overall.

#4 Equipment Knowledge

This is a broad category, but it comes down to how well do you know your boat? Do you know where all the thru-hulls are? Are your spark plugs clean and firing? Is your bowline going to keep your jib sheets attached to the jib? Have you serviced your winches within the last decade? Having intimate knowledge of your boat and its equipment will ensure that you can manage any situation that arises. Under this category of expertise I would also include your knot tying abilities and your ability to repurpose gear on the boat for other needs (ie using main sheet for crew overboard recovery).

#5 Navigation & Weather

Your ability to find, interpret and react to a weather forecast is very important. Especially if you boat in an area like me where you are surrounded by mountains and the weather changes often! Mother Nature will keep you on your toes if you are not paying attention. Also, being aware and informed about local navigation hazards is also important. Where do you find this information? Where can you access local knowledge?

Top 10 Skills to Master

  • Knot tying
  • Weather forecasting
  • Tacking & controlled gybing
  • Reefing & furling
  • Crew overboard procedures + recovery
  • Rigging checks – Standing & Running
  • Sail trim
  • Crew management
  • Reading wind patterns
  • Boat speed management (under sail & power)

I hope all of these things have helped you to create your own seamanship to-do list! Happy boating

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