7 Things You Can Learn from Sailing

Two sailboats on the big blue

Sailing can be many things: a competitive sport such as sailboat racing, a fun and adventurous holiday, or an active hobby. Sailing trips can be relaxing, but also filled with adrenaline. They're perfect for groups of friends, families, couples, for team building events, and for solo thrill-seekers as well.

If you're already into more active hobbies or maritime activities such as scuba diving, fishing or surfing, you just might fall in love with sailing. It is definitely a hobby that brings you closer to nature, as you learn to appreciate the power of currents and winds, and the simplicity of moving across vast bodies of water.

Sailing can also teach you a lot. With each new sailing trip, you'll have the opportunity to develop useful skills  such as working in a group, depending on yourself, navigating according to winds and using a compass and a map. You'll also acquire nautical terminology and, overall, grow as a person.

Let's look at some of the most important things you can learn from sailing:

1) Planning ahead

Sailing requires detailed preparation before embarking on a journey. This means getting to know your route, checking the weather conditions and packing your clothes accordingly. It also means making sure you have all the documents you might need: boat license, your personal IDs, a passport if you're traveling abroad, as well as foreign currency. Another thing sailors need to consider and plan ahead in order to ensure everyone's safety is whether to hire a crew or not. If there are no professionals or people with advanced sailing experience in the group, getting a chartered boat is always advisable.


2) Thinking like a minimalist

Related to planning ahead, sailing can make you think more like a minimalist. Sailboats are usually very limited in space so unless one is sailing on a million dollar yacht, every bit of room needs to be utilized. For this reason, sailors are taught to think practically and bring only the things they will most definitely need. These are usually clothes, emergency ratios, medicines, non-perishable foods, canned goods and plenty of bottled water to last for the duration of the trip or until a harbor checkpoint is reached. Gadgets like smartphones are also necessary for communication, while tablets and laptops can come in handy not only for staying in touch with civilization but also for following weather forecasts.


3) Working in a team

There are many activities that can teach you how to work in a team, but few of them are as good as sailing. If you go sailing with a group of friends, you'll notice how quickly you'll develop into a boat crew. (Of course, this doesn't mean you shouldn't hire a crew in case you need it.) As a matter of fact, many companies take their employees on sailing excursions exactly because sailing builds team spirit. It takes a whole crew to handle a sailboat, pull the ropes, hoist the sails, follow the weather, navigate, and take care of food and medical supplies. It is most definitely a team effort.

4) Depending on yourself

In a crew, just as in any team, every person is assigned with certain duties. These duties need to be respected as all the team members depend on each other, but they're also an opportunity for every individual to learn to depend on themselves. After all, there are always situations where only one person is able to perform certain assignments so they are forced to develop their independence and self-assurance.


5) Learning how to navigate

Another very useful thing that sailing teaches is how to navigate. In fact, it is a skill that can be used throughout the entire life, regardless of whether one is on water or on dry land. Sailors learn how to read nautical maps and use a compass, how to properly follow weather reports, how to differentiate winds and currents and determine the route based on their directions. Perhaps the most interesting way of navigating one can learn by sailing is celestial navigation. Also known as astronavigation, this skill lets the person specify their location by looking at the starry night sky. And the best part about it is the fact that it requires no tools, which means it can be used even when modern equipment fails.

6) Respecting others

Sharing a boat with a group of different people makes one realize the importance of mutual respect and proper conduct - especially when it comes to safety and personal space. There's even sailing etiquette, a set of rules that regulate behavior on board to ensure that everything goes smoothly and that everyone gets along. The rules contained in sailing etiquette are tightly related to sailing, but many are in essence common good manners that play an important role in building any interpersonal relationship:

  • Asking permission to board. Just like knocking on somebody's door when visiting, before stepping on a boat, each person should ask for permission from the highest official present at the given moment.
  • Avoiding overpacking. It is important to respect other people's personal space and avoid taking up too much room by bringing unnecessary items. Everyone also needs to make sure to always keep their things in designated storage areas.
  • Thinking about the safety of others. It is advisable to check up on people and make sure that everyone is safe.
  • Bringing something others can use. For example, some scuba diving equipment won't take up too much space, but can be a source of fun for everyone.
  • Offering help. When enthusiasm gets the best of them, people sometimes do things which are more annoying than helpful. For this reason, each crew member needs to make sure they don't get in anyone's way and that they always ask and offer help.
  • Avoiding making a mess. Remembering to keep things neat and tidy is essential. Each crew member should take care not to leave their things around, to pick up the trash, use the restroom (known on a boat as the head) accordingly, and keep the noise down at times when it might cause inconvenience to others.

7) Learning to be open to new experiences

"Not all those who wander are lost", says a popular quote from Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings", and this is definitely true when it comes to sailing. People take up this hobby to explore new sights and sounds, discover new places - and perhaps make some new friends along the way. And for those who favor sailing as a long-term hobby, the biggest exploration that occurs is usually that within themselves. Sailing helps them to improve both physically and mentally, and get to know themselves better.

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