Before we set to sail, we have to perform a detail check, standard check of the boat, and we have to check the wind and the weather since it is of the highest importance to predict the best sailing route and have a nice and safe trip. We do not sail on a stormy weather.
1. Perform a detailed visual check.
Inspect all the standing rigging—the cables and ropes that support the mast—including the turnbuckles and cotter pins securing the rigging to the hull. Many sailboats have dismasted because a 15-cent cotter pin was missing!
- Check the lines (running rigging) that raise and control the sails (halyards and sheets respectively). Make sure that they are separated, not wrapped around each other or fouled on anything else, and that they all have a figure-eight knot or other stopper knot on the free (bitter) end so they cannot pull through the mast or sheaves.
- Pull all lines out of their cleats and off their winches. There should be nothing binding any line; all should be free to move and be clear at this point.
- If you have a topping lift—a small line that holds the back of the boom up and out of the way when the sail isn’t in use—let it out until the boom sags downward freely, then re-tie or re-cleat it. Watch out for the boom; it’s just swinging around at this point; it will cause a painful “clunk” if it happens to hit you or your crew. The boom will return to its normal, horizontal position when you hoist the mainsail completely.
- If so equipped, be sure that the tiller is properly attached to and controls the rudder. Your sailboat is now prepared for you to hoist the sails!
2. Determine the wind direction.
If your boat doesn’t have some kind of wind direction indicator (windex) at the top of the mast, tie a couple nine-inch pieces of old cassette tape, VHS tape, or oiled yarn to the shrouds—the rigging cables that hold up the mast. These will show you from which direction the wind is blowing. Some sailors find cassette tape to be just too sensitive for this purpose. If that’s the case with you, try using VHS tape or oiled yarn instead.
- Place them on each side, about four feet up from the sides of the boat.
- To sail effectively, you will need to know the apparent direction of the wind
3. Point the boat into the wind.
The idea is to have the minimum amount of wind resistance when raising the sail, with the sail straight back. In this position, the sail won’t be snagging on any shrouds or any other hardware, either. This isn’t always easy. The boat won’t turn readily because it’s not moving (under way). Do the best you can, but be prepared to work for it!
- If your boat has a motor, use the motor to keep the boat pointed into the wind while you hoist sail.
- Here’s a handy tip: if the water is not deep at your dock, or if you have no side pier, walk the boat out away from the dock and anchor it into the sand, and the boat will automatically point itself into the direction of the wind!