Start youngsters to sail as soon as they show an interest, bear in mind that square pegs don’t fit in round holes, so if a youngster hates the idea leave them until they are ready.
Many sailing people around the world began as children, some of necessity because the family fish or dive for a living so the children become part of the continuum, for many others the salt in our blood leads us to sailing and sea sports for leisure purposes.
Ensuring that youngsters are safe at sea by taking appropriate training is essential. There are many approved sail training schools across the world, some will train on inland lakes allowing boat handling experience closer to where the youngsters may live, quite a lot of folks prefer inland water sailing which can be as challenging as coastal boating. North America has The Great Lakes, The UK has the Scottish Caledonian Canal and the Lake District all with fabulous sailing and very interesting variables. Most coastal areas across the world, certainly in the US and Canada, the UK, Europe, and Australia/NZ have sail training areas and clubs dedicated to training people of all ages to sail safely.
So what’s so important about getting trained?
Training in any field is about raising awareness of the sport or working environment, and it imposes a sense of discipline that is known to be essential to anyone in sporting or commercial sailing. Knowing your way around a boat, knowing the correct way to do things, dealing with danger – weather can change very quickly and even if you did check before setting out making getting back into your home marina or harbour tricky – or impossible.
With powered boats it is important to know the basics, before setting out, can you drive the boat in a straight line, how fast should you go bearing in mind other people also on or in the water? How can you know how much fuel there is in the tanks, why are the tanks usually kept full (especially when the boat is laid up for the winter?) and are you able to follow a course safely, this is relevant to sail boats also, however, motor boats often travel much faster meaning that hazards must be identified much sooner in order to stay safe – and afloat. Running aground on rock outcrops can be lethal not to mention seriously damaging the boat.
Appropriate training will instill all of the above and supervised experience will fix the skills and discipline for the long-term making boaters and their passengers far safer.
Most sailing schools will want candidates to be able to swim however correct use of life preservers is important even for swimmers. In sailing as in life in general, ‘hope for the best but plan for the worst!’ A season swimmer knocked unconscious can still drown!
Correct use of First Aid and First Aid equipment is always included in top quality courses, keen and wise sailors will go the extra mile to be fully trained in Life Saving skills. Just make sure when you do sail that there is a well-stocked and up to date First Aid kit on the boat that you will be using.
Sailing is the most wonderful skill-based sport, once a person has learned to master the key skills and qualified those skills are transferable allowing them to sail anywhere on the globe, whilst on holiday, at weekends, or for the more seasoned and experienced sailors live aboard and travel the world. Just like riding a bike, sailing skills stay with you for ever.
Enjoy. Be safe.