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.
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  • Lectures 55
  • Length 4 hours
  • Skill Level Beginner Level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 1/2015 English

Course Description

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.

What are the requirements?

  • No prerequisites

What am I going to get from this course?

  • 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

Who is the target audience?

  • 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)

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Introduction to Learn to Sail: The Basics

Introduction to Learn to Sail: The Basics; quick overview of the course

Section 2: Basic Terms and Definitions
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.

2.2 The Boat
2.3 The Rigging
2.4 The Sails
2.5 Positions Relative to the Boat
2.6 Summary for Terminology
Section 2 - Terminology Quiz
13 questions
Section 3: Gear and Equipment
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.


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


Wrap up for Lesson Three - Gear and Equipment

10 questions

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

Section 4: Seamanship I
Handout for Section 4
18 pages

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


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


The first sail, including leaving the dock under sail


Leaving the dock under sail


Raising the mainsail and getting the boat moving


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.


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.


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


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


Summary of Lesson 4 - Seamanship I

9 questions

Test your seamanship knowledge.

Section 5: Seamanship II
Handout for Section 5
10 pages



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


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


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.


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


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


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.


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

5.9.2 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.

17 questions

A quiz on Section 5 - Seamanship II.

Section 6: Safety on Board
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.


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


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


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

5 questions

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

Section 7: Weather for Day Sailing
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.

3 questions

Test you knowledge on Weather of Day Sailing

Section 8: Rules of the Road
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.


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


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

9 questions

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

Section 9: Next Steps
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.

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Instructor Biography

Rob MacLeod, Instructor, Author and Videographer

Rob has been teaching boating since 1975 and has developed a number of books and instructional videos over the past 3 decades.

As a Canadian Yachting Association Instruction Evaluator (1978 to 1990) and the first Technical Director of the American Sailing Association (1983 to 1984), Rob was instrumental in the development of boating instruction in North America.

Rob has written 4 books: Sailing Fundamentals (ASA 1984), Basic Sailing and Cruising Skills (1985, 2013), Intermediate Sailing and Cruising Skills (1987) and Coastal Navigation Skills (1989) and co-hosted 2 television series (6 shows each) – “Set Your Sails” and “Learn to Navigate” for TVOntario and PBS.

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