Skip to main content

Eight Things Every Daysailor Should Know

As a 30-year veteran daysailor, I feel a moral obligation to spare you some of the physical and emotional pain I’ve faced over the years. I’m talking about daysailing’s dirty little secrets, the bilgewater of our sport. Feel free to take notes.

As a 30-year veteran daysailor, I feel a moral obligation to spare you some of the physical and emotional pain I’ve faced over the years. I’m talking about daysailing’s dirty little secrets, the bilgewater of our sport. Feel free to take notes.

1) Sailing wreaks havoc on your toes.
A sailboat deck is a minefield of fixed metal objects capable of causing excruciating pain. Winches and blocks, cleats and stanchions, tracks and stays—all are waiting to injure your unsuspecting tootsies. Trips through the minefield can’t be avoided, nor can the well-practiced string of obscenities that follow. Wear boat shoes if you care about your feet or the sensibilities of your crew.

2) Don’t ever forget the blue stuff.
Most smaller sailboats have portable chemical toilets with small holding tanks that require periodic emptying. If you’ve prepared the tank properly by adding more than the recommended amount of blue liquid deodorizer, the job is at best repulsive. If not, you’ll sell your boat as soon as you stop gagging and buy one with a fixed head. Never forget the blue stuff!

3) Beware arachnophobes.
In choosing guests for a daysail, it’s important to know if they have any phobias—especially an irrational fear of spiders. These creatures are frequent stowaways and sudden appearances are not unusual. Leave arachnophobes ashore, where they have room to run.

4) Going backwards is embarrassing.
You’ll notice most experienced sailors choose to back into a slip while the less experienced come in bow-first. This is because backing a boat can be challenging, but boarding a boat whose bow is pointed toward the destination can be preferable. Before attempting to go stern-to with your new sailing buddies watching from the dock, do your ego a favor and get some practice.

5) Most powerboaters don’t like you.
It’s not anything you did, but how you’re perceived that’s the problem. As a sailor, you’re seen as a snob—an elitist who likes fine wine and drives a BMW. Fueling the resentment is the rule that gives you right-of-way. So don’t be surprised if a 20-footer with twin 250s cuts off your nose. Just raise that wine glass, pinkie extended (or another digit, if you must), and toast him as you would that offending piece of deck hardware.

6) Special guests guarantee dead calm.
Have special guests to impress? The boss maybe, or some old friends? Better make sure your fuel tank is full, because you won’t be doing much sailing. In fact, if the wind has her way, you’ll be doing more flailing than sailing. And when you go forward to lower the jib, make sure you’re wearing boat shoes. Chances are the boss’s wife won’t appreciate your expletives.

7) Mast envy is inevitable.
“His is bigger than mine.” Men have been grappling with this feeling of inadequacy for centuries (thank God for Michelangelo’s David). Mast height is difficult to ignore, but just because yours is shorter, don’t go out and buy a bigger boat. Many sailors who have moved up in size miss the close connection they had with the sea. Be proud of your short mast.

8) You are the standard bearer. (This is the best kept secret of all.)
Sailing offers many choices. Some choose to race for the thrill of crossing the finish line first. Some choose to cruise for weeks at a time, exploring new anchorages and towns along the way. Still others make their homes aboard, crossing oceans in search of adventure. And then there are the daysailors, who sail simply to sail: to feel the heel of their boat as the sails fill; to listen to the music of the water; to feel the cooling spray off the wave tops. In spite of the annoyances, I can’t think of a better way to spend a day.

Have some tips of your own to share? Email us at sailmail@sailmagazine.com and if we like your list, we'll publish it!

Photo by John Neal/Mahina Expeditions

Related

05-DSC_0638

Charter: Lake Tahoe

A sail on Lake Tahoe has been on my bucket list since the day I first laid eyes on it, and come hell or high water, I decided I was going to someday charter a boat there. North America’s largest and deepest alpine lake, Tahoe sits at 6,225ft above sea level and straddles the ...read more

East-River-Rapids

Escape from New York Part 1

I was never supposed to take my boat through New York City. After getting sucked backward through the Cape Cod Canal on my way south from Maine, when the speed of the current exceeded the maximum speed of my little electric auxiliary, I wanted nothing to do with Hell Gate and ...read more

LEAD-Celeste-in-the-Tuamotu

A Watermaker Upgrade

As a classic-boat sailor, I’ve long held that simpler is the better. I still think this is true: a simpler boat is cheaper, she has less gadgets to break down and there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing you’re able to handle a bit of discomfort. Thus, for a long time, I sailed ...read more

01-LEAD-IDECsport_180919_032

Sailing Speed Records

Although the 1903 defender of the America’s Cup, Reliance, was deemed a “racing freak”—the boat pushed design rules to their limit and couldn’t be beaten, at least in very specific conditions—designer Nat Herreshoff was nonetheless onto something. A century later, purpose-built ...read more

BVIFeetup

Chartering with Non-sailors

Three tips on managing the madness First-time charterers and first-time sailors aren’t at all the same thing. One group may struggle with beginner chartering issues, like sailing a multihull, catching a mooring or dealing with base personnel. For the other group, though, ...read more

AdobeStock_455372159

A Gulf Stream Crossing at Night

Even the dome of light glowing above the city behind us had disappeared as if swallowed in a gulp by Noah’s whale. The moon was absent. Not a star twinkled overhead. The night was so dark we could have been floating in a pot of black ink. The only artificial lights to be seen ...read more

00-Lead-549215sJL2uLEa

Summer Sailing Programs

Every year, countless parents find themselves navigating the do’s and don’ts of enrolling their children in a summer learn-to-sail program for the first time. While the prospect of getting your kid on the water is exciting, as a sailing camp program director, there are a lot of ...read more

ntm

Notice to Mariners: U.S.A! U.S.A! (Well, sorta…)

Some thoughts on a couple of recent developments on the U.S. racing scene that are more than a little at odds. To start with, congratulations to the US Sailing Team (USST) and its outstanding showing at the 53rd French Olympic Week regatta in Hyeres, France, with not one but ...read more