How To Sail A Sunfish

If you love sailing, learn how to sail a sunfish. A sailboat, a stretch of open water and a stiff breeze to propel you across the seas. It's a fantasy shared by a lot of people, but with a Sunfish, one of the more popular sailing rigs, you don't have to remain confined to your fantasies. Easy to operate, inexpensive and, perhaps most importantly, learning how to sail a Sunfish is simple and enjoyable. Following these simple steps will put you well on the way to a new and exciting hobby.

Before you go out sailing, learn the following steps:

  1. The boat. You cannot fully experience sailing without a boat. Checking local periodicals in larger cities will usually yield a number of potential boats. For those who live in smaller communities, there are several Internet sites devoted to trading sailboats. 
  2. Find a boat buddy. Like so many hobbies, learning how to sail a Sunfish is more enjoyable with a companion. In the case of sailing, it also makes sense to have help with activities such as launching the boat and stepping the mast. Select a boat buddy who has experience sailing for the added benefit of experience.
  3. Familiarize yourself with your new Sunfish before your first launch. It is important to know and understand the various parts of your boat. Sunfish utilizes a lateen sail, a triangular sail designed for easy operation by one individual. Learning how to sail a Sunfish is made easy because the boats are designed with relatively few parts. Here's a rundown of the most basic components of a Sunfish: 
  • Mainsail: A large, lightweight fabric designed to catch wind and move the boat.
  • Boom: A Sunfish boom is a two-part metal frame upon which you mount the Sunfish sail.
  • Mast: The metal pole upon which the sail and boom are raised and lowered.
  • Mainsheet: The rope used to guide the mainsail and boom.
  • Rudder and Tiller: The steering apparatus. Mounted to the stern, you can move the rudder is moved by adjusting the handle, or tiller, to change the direction of the boat.
  • Daggerboard: A long, slender section of wood lowered through the boat. Similar to a keel on larger boats, the daggerboard allows boats to tack, or sail into the wind.

Now, put your knowledge into practical use:

  1. Make a dry run in your front yard. Take a few minutes and put it all together. Sunfish sailboats come with complete owners manuals, but there is no substitute for simply stepping the mast, mounting the rudder and raising the sail. The five minutes it takes to do this will save you invaluable time. Disassemble and reassemble the various parts several times to familiarize yourself with the process. It will be time well spent and will prepare you for your first outing.
  2. Go to the lake. It's time to put your boat in the water. Sunfish sailboats are light and easy to launch. Also, a boat ramp is unnecessary. Two or three individuals can easily carry a Sunfish down the hill and into the water. Once the boat is in the water and put together, it's time to start sailing.
  3. Take your time and be safe. Learning how to sail a Sunfish requires patience. Sailing is an art and one you can't pick up overnight. Like operating any watercraft, make sure you take the proper safety precautions. Do not attempt to sail in inclement weather. Pick a day when the weather is pleasant and provides a nice, stiff breeze. Also, never operate a sailboat without wearing the proper personal floatation device.
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