We frequently see guests arrive, shorelines slipped and no form of pre-voyage briefing. For novices unused to boats it’s important to help them feel at home.
Being shown where you can stand or sit safely, pointing out the dangers of booms, winches and hatch covers, helps with orientation.
How to move around using grab handles and slightly bent knees for balance, and the adage ‘one hand for you, one for the boat’ are often not obvious to a newcomer.
Explaining terminology, demonstrating using the “heads”, and showing where to find refreshments and lifejackets will put anxious minds at rest.
Guests usually want to get involved and help. Showing them how to tie up and untie lines and fenders, and where to stow them is a great starting point. It instantly gets your guests feeling they can do something useful.
Take a few minutes to demonstrate how to step off and onboard safely, and where to stand as you leave or arrive.
No-one enjoys feeling they have done something wrong.
Clear explanations before leaving and landing makes their experience safer and protects your boat.
Always avoid shouting instructions like “jump!” Try to ensure your boat arrives so they can “step” ashore.
Hoisting and dropping sails is another key activity – as alien as putting on ski boots for the first time!
Show them how to safely load and wind winches, remove sail covers or ties, hoist and tail halyards so they feel involved.
You can of course do it all yourself to look impressive, but remember you’ve invited them to come and experience your boat and sailing.
The key is keeping things relaxed, take time to explain, demonstrate and have a go.
When newcomers feel they are contributing and not just a ‘spare part’, the more it helps to build confidence too.
An easy way for your guests to enjoy their sailing experience is to encourage them to steer – once you are clear of traffic hazards!
It might seem counter intuitive to give the helm of your precious yacht to a beginner, but it’s one of the easiest skills for guests to learn.
Under power or sail, demonstrate the tiller or wheel action and begin with going in straight lines.
Many of us learnt to steer boats by being given a point to steer towards on shore – use the same principle. And, do stay with them as they learn and experiment.
Sailing, like many sports, is stuffed full of jargon and specific ways of doing things. Go over essential terms, such as port, starboard, halyards and sheets.
We all use them by default, (even when trying not to), and you don’t want guests grabbing the bed linen if you ask them to grab the blue sheet.
Tying the right knots is another classic sailing jargon-fest. However, it’s something that people can learn easily.
Showing guests how to tie a figure of eight, clove hitch and bowline can provide hours of fun and laughter, especially if it is turned into a competition.
Get everyone involved in how to make the boat move. Straight forward explanations of the basics will normally suffice, such as why a yacht can’t sail directly into the breeze, without lecturers on aerodynamics.
Demonstrate how to trim the sails and then let them have a go.
Simple instructions work best; ‘Let the sails out until they start to flap, then pull them in a bit until they don’t’ will go along way.
Move on to changing direction and tacking.
Thinking ahead how much sail to use with inexperienced guests on board can avoid an unplanned and stressful reefing session.
An often unexpressed concern of novice sailors, and very common with partners who sail together, is what to do if something happens to the skipper.
Their safety is your responsibility. Start with showing where to find and how to use a lifejacket – and invite guests to wear them, even if conditions seem gentle to you.
Show everyone how to start (and stop) the engine. Talk through a man overboard procedure – just explaining the steps can help reduce the ‘fear factor’ without having to do the full rehearsal.
And remember to explain how to dial or radio for help.