Five Golden Rules to Live By for Sailing Safety

If you are anything like me, one of the toughest decisions to make seems to be the “go; no go” one. That final call every sailing skipper needs to make before casting off.

It’s one thing if you’re alone. Singlehanders have the luxury of just being responsible for themselves.

But if you have sailing crew aboard, you are tasked with their safety and well being. So how can you make that final call in a calm, confident manner?

Here are five reliable methods, used by the world’s best blue water sailors, to help you meet the challenges ahead…

Prepare to the Max

Put yourself into a “what-if” mode of thought. Start at the bow and work aft. Could your anchor use another lashing (stopper) to keep it in place? Does the deck stowed dinghy or raft need extra bungee or lashings? When was the last time you checked the chafe on each block and tackle, such as the traveler control lines, mainsheet, boom vang.

This becomes more critical as the weather deteriorates. Use this process underway and at anchor. Keep on top of little problems so that they don’t become big ones.

Learn Three New Things Each Day

Learn at least three new things every day. On or off season. Read the writings of the masters, like Chichester, Moitessier, and Slocum. Roth, Chapman, Rousmaniere, Calder, Henderson, Hancock, Toss, Vigor, and so many more. These are guys that have “been there – done that”.

If you force yourself into this “3-a-day” discipline, you will find that your range of knowledge will exceed your wildest expectations.

These don’t need to be complex things that involve hours of study. Something as simple as discovery of a new idea sailing skill tip or technique can meet this objective fast and easy in a matter of minutes!

Oh–and write, too! Put your thoughts and ideas on paper or computer. Keep a log. One reason that your humble author does this is for this very reason. Writers are learning addicts. It’s good for the soul and exercises your brain muscle.

Practice, Practice, Practice

How many of us sailors have bent on that storm jib or trysail, hoisted it and sailed with it? Or hove to, just to check out how our boat behaves in different conditions? Or gone through drills like man overboard, reefing, or flooding emergency with the sailing crew the first day of the coastal or offshore cruise?

Practice drills produce an automatic response under trying conditions. That’s the main reason that military services have drill after drill. There’s nothing familiar about the sea to human beings. We are land creatures. It makes sense that we practice techniques like sail reefing or how to tie a marine knot over and over again.

Once these become second nature, you move on to the next step on the learning ladder. As multi-time circumnavigator Hal Roth said about cruising under sail: “You can pick up the fundamentals quickly, but half a lifetime is scarcely enough to perfect your techniques.

Look to the Weather

Few persons look to the heavens more than once or twice a day. Yet, clouds give the first clues of marine weather to come. They can tell you whether to expect a strong or weak sea breeze or give you the first sign of a frontal system headed your way. Puffy, cotton-ball cumulus might thicken and lower into cumulonimbus to bring vicious squalls and thunderstorms.

Combine clouds with a barometer, and you can often forecast weather with better accuracy than a NOAA broadcast. Be on the lookout for wind shifts or a change in the sea-wave direction. The more you understand marine weather, the better prepared you will be when the rough stuff arrives.

Be the First to Set the Example

Be the first aboard to wear a knife and lanyard. Or to put on the PFD when the weather turns foul. Or to don the sailing harness and clip on to the jack line. Remember, your sailing crew will often hesitate out of fear of how they will look in the eyes of their peers. Silly as it sounds, we all sometimes want to be the last to get the sailing gear on. Always keep in mind that your crew will look to you to show them the way.


Follow these five sailing tips from some of the world’s wisest, most experienced sailors. You will build confidence and knowledge and gain the wisdom to make the right call to keep your sailing crew safe and sound.

Courtesy of

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