Learn to Sail: The Basics
4.4 (75 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
369 students enrolled

Learn to Sail: The Basics

This course will cover the basics to prepare you to sail with a friend or start taking on-the-water lessons.
4.4 (75 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
369 students enrolled
Created by Rob MacLeod
Last updated 2/2015
English [Auto]
Price: $19.99
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
This course includes
  • 2.5 hours on-demand video
  • 15 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • Assist or crew a smaller (22 to 26-foot) sailboat
  • Decide if it is safe to go sailing, based on the local weather
  • Describe the basic sailing terms and their function
  • Communicate using the proper nautical commands like “Ready to Come About” and “Ready to Gybe”
  • Assist to trim the boat’s sails for effective performance
  • No prerequisites

Learn to Sail: The Basics

In 9 Lessons - from the Introduction to the Next Steps, you will:

  • Learn the language of sailing - the terms necessary to communicate effectively on a boat
  • Know the equipment required on a 22 to 26 foot sailboat and how to use it
  • Be able to describe what makes a sailboat go (the physics of sailing) and how to get the boat to stop
  • Learn how to stay safe from the elements – the sun and cold water
  • Be able to obtain and understand weather for day sailing to make sure it is safe to go out on the water
  • Understand the rules of the road that keep boats from colliding and how to avoid dangerous situations

All of this is covered in 51 individual video lessons spanning more than 2.5 hours taught by Rob MacLeod, a certified sailing instructor who has taught 1000s of people to sail across North America and throughout the Caribbean.

Each of the 9 lessons has a PDF download to augment your learning. These downloads contain detail of each lesson. Each lesson concludes with a quiz to allow you to confirm your knowledge.

Lesson 9 – Next Steps, directs you to where you can gain the on water experience that will allow you to put Learn to Sail: The Basics into practice.

This course is based on the learn-to-sail standards of numerous national sailing associations (listed in the handout for Lesson 9) and will prepare you to take the practical aspects of sailing at a sailing school, yacht club or with a competent friend.

If you have every dreamed of leaving the dock on a sailboat - Learn to Sail: The Basics is your best start.

Who this course is for:
  • This learn to sail basic course is intended for either people new to boating or who have not boated in a while
  • This is the first half of the learn to sail equation - first you have to understand what (this course) and then you can learn how (described in Lesson 9)
Course content
Expand all 55 lectures 03:48:05
+ Basic Terms and Definitions
7 lectures 13:14
Handout for Section 2
10 pages

Sailing, like any other activity, has its own language. The words and phrases used in sailing represent more than just the folklore and mystique of the sport. They mean safety for the skipper and crew.

Preview 00:48
2.5 Positions Relative to the Boat
2.6 Summary for Terminology
Section 2 - Terminology Quiz
13 questions
+ Gear and Equipment
10 lectures 34:14
Handout for Section 3
14 pages

Gear and Equipment is divided into 7 lessons from what is required, how it is used, equipment recommended over and above the required equipment and checking the gear and equipment before leaving the dock.

3.1 Introduction to Gear and Equipment

Equipment required by Canadian and US regulators on a 22 to 26 foot sailing sloop with reference to source materials.

3.2 Required Equipment

One of the most important pieces of equipment not a boat is a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PDF). Learn what the legalities, the maintenance and the use of your PFD.

3.3 Required Equipment - Personal Security

Use, storage and maintenance of boat safety equipment including: anchors and bailers

3.4 Required Equipment - Boat Safety

Understanding the key signals to attract attention and assistance when in trouble.

3.5 Distress Signals

What lights need to be carried and shown on a 22 - 26 foot sailboat when out after sunset.

3.6 Navigation Lights

Fire on board is a major concern. Make sure you have the right fire fighting equipment and it is properly maintained and stored.

3.7 Firefighting equipment

Proper checking of the status and storage of all of the required equipment aboard a 22 - 26 foot sailboat.

3.8 Completing the pre-departure equipment checklist

Wrap up for Lesson Three - Gear and Equipment

3.9 Gear and Equipment Summary

Test your knowledge on the required and recommended gear and equipment on a 22 to 26 foot sailboat.

Section 3 - Gear and Equipment
10 questions
+ Seamanship I
11 lectures 34:15
Handout for Section 4
18 pages

Brief introduction to Lesson 4 - Seamanship I - How a boat sails and how to control it

4.1 Introduction to Lesson 4

There are six knots you need to know - and know well ...

4.2 Knots

The first sail, including leaving the dock under sail

4.3 How sails are attached to the sailboat

Leaving the dock under sail

4.4 Leaving the Dock

Raising the mainsail and getting the boat moving

4.5 Sailing with the Mainsail

Learning to sail, one sail at a time makes understand easier. Lesson 4.5 was on mainsail only. This lesson covers controlling the forward sail - the jib or genoa.

4.6 Sailing with the Jib

Learn to stop the boat in open water for a rest, lunch or to make repairs. Also covered is how to reduce the sail area to gain control in heavier wind conditions.

4.7 Heaving To and Reefing

Getting the boat sailing is one lesson. Getting it stopped, where and when you want is critical and the subject of this lesson.

4.8 Stopping the Boat

The sail is over when the boat is tied securely to the dock .

4.9 Securing the Boat

Summary of Lesson 4 - Seamanship I

4.10 summary

Test your seamanship knowledge.

Section 4 - Seamanship I
9 questions
+ Seamanship II
12 lectures 40:04
Handout for Section 5
10 pages


5.1 Introduction

Reducing sail in increasing winds is the best way to keep your boat under control. Learn the effects of reefing (or reducing) your sails.

5.2 The Effects of Reefing

There are forces acting on your boat. Understand them to control your boat.

5.3 Centres of Effort and Lateral Resistance

There may be danger in begin too close to the shore. Learn which factors make a shore line safe and which ones make the shore dangerous.

5.4 Dangers of a Lee Shore

Knowing where your boat is relative to your home port is critical for keeping your boat, your crew and yourself safe.

5.5 Navigation for Day Sailing

Buoys and beacons are nautical road signs. Know them and you will get where you want to go.

5.6 Buoys and Beacons

When a boat changes direction relative to the wind, a lot of other things have to change as well, including sail trim. Learn how the point of sail changes your boat speed, how the boat handles and even your legal obligations to other boats.

5.7 Points of Sail

By understanding what can go wrong, we can prepare for and prevent most day sailing emergencies.

5.8 Dealing with Day Sailing Emergencies

The best way to prepare for a crew overboard (COB) situation is to keep the crew on the boat. This one of two methods taught at the learn to sail level to return to and retrieve a crew member that has fallen overboard.

5.9.1 Rescuing and recovering a Crew Overboard (COB) - Quick Stop
5.9.2 Returning and Recovering a Crew Overboard (COB) - Triangle Method

To know what can go wrong is to prepare to make sure it does not go wrong. Seamanship II is about preventing those situations that take away the fun of sailing.

5.10 Lesson 5 Summary

A quiz on Section 5 - Seamanship II.

Section 5 - Seamanship II
17 questions
+ Safety on Board
5 lectures 14:35
Handout for Section 6
7 pages

The elements can take away from the enjoyment on the water. Know what the concern is. Work to prevent the negative aspects of too much sun and cold water. Understand and prevent the effects of the boat's motion - map de mere - seasickness.

6.1 Introduction to Safety on Board

The right amount of sun is fabulous. Prevent (and learn to treat) the effects of too much sun.

6.2 Stay Safe from the Elements: The Sun

Be prepared for and reduce the effects of ending up in cold water.

6.3 Stay Safe from the Elements: Cold Water

Motion sickness can effect anyone. Understand the causes, prevention and remedies for motion sickness.

6.4 Dealing with Motion Sickness

Test your knowledge about being safe from the elements - sun, cold water and motion

Section 6 - Safety on Board
5 questions
+ Weather for Day Sailing
2 lectures 06:07
Handout for Section 7
8 pages

Somedays the best sailing plan is to stay on shore. Learn how to gather weather information to make good sailing decisions and get the most enjoyment from your boat.

7.1 Weather for Day Sailing

Test you knowledge on Weather of Day Sailing

Section 7 Quiz - Weather for Day Sailing
3 questions
+ Rules of the Road
5 lectures 07:14
Handout for Section 8
4 pages

Every vessel is governed by the same set of rules. Knowing the rules and how to apply them will keep you, your crew and your boat safe.

8.1 Introduction to Rules of the Road

This first set of rules describes what should happen when your sailboat meets another boat under sail.

8.2 Rules Under Sail

If your boat is under power (motor) and it meets another boat under power, the rules describe how to safely conduct yourself to stay safe.

8.3 Rules Under Power

A quick wrap up to the rules of the road for pleasure craft.

8.4 Summary for Rules of the Road

This is your opportunity to check you learning for this section.

Section 8 Quiz - Rules of the Road
9 questions
+ Next Steps
2 lectures 04:26
Handout for Section 9
2 pages

Now that you have learned all of the theory behind sailing a 22 - 26 foot sailboat, it's time to take the next step - finding a way to put that knowledge into practice. In this final lesson, Rob covers many of the ways to learn the skills that will take you into the new world of sailing. There are sailing schools, yacht clubs and boating groups that will allow you to develop you skills.

9.0 Next Steps