How To Sail A Dinghy

Learning how to sail a dinghy might be the perfect transition into the world of sailing, where larger sailboats may be more intimidating. Learning to master the wind in a smaller boat might be just about right for short excursions along the coast or for shuttling passengers to and from larger boats. It's quite easy to learn how to sail a dinghy, and you should be skimming around in not time.

  1. If possible, learn to sail a dinghy by renting a small boat at a vacation destination. The men and women who work the sailboat concessions are usually pretty good at giving you basic information about sailing a dinghy. Ask questions about steering, how to right a capsized dinghy (just in case) and how to sail back into the wind so you can return to where you rented the boat.
  2. The first step in sailing a dinghy is to climb aboard. A flat-bottomed dinghy will be more stable to climb aboard than a V-shaped hull model dinghy. Push the small boat out into the water so it is floating and climb aboard. Balance carefully though, as smaller sailing vessels can be easily capsized.
  3. Your small dinghy will probably have a tiller connected to a rudder for steering on the stern. Depending on the model of the boat, the tiller will probably be just a wooden stick which you have to use to steer. Practice a few turns with the tiller so you know how to steer the boat and are comfortable when you need to change the side the sail is on. Pushing the tiller slightly to one side will also slow the boat, so it's the closest thing to a brake that you have on the dinghy.
  4. Using the rudder, turn the boat 45 degrees into the wind for the fullest sail. This will give you the fastest movement on the boat. If your dinghy is very small and the sail is low, make sure to duck when the sail comes around into the wind or you could be knocked overboard. If passengers are onboard, yell "coming around" to signal that the sail is moving from one side to the other.
  5. You'll need to change your tack to come back to your starting point. Unless the wind has shifted, you'll have to turn the boat around using the rudder and catch the wind on the other side of the sail.
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