Knowledge and Safety Resources Page (version B050911)

This information is for Crew. Skippers make the big decisions on their own boats. There are the three basic rules for safe boating that skippers take care of: Planning, Patience, and Practice. The Skipper is in charge. You will learn much from our Skippers.

This is only a simplified introduction to safe boating. We hope one of your strong motives in joining our club is getting out on the water with us. The safety concerns we have for crew have to do with you making good decisions, and that depends upon you knowing what is happening, what things are called (vocabulary), how to respond, and best (but perhaps most difficult of all) how to anticipate.

There are at least two things that will make your boating ventures more fun. First, the more you do it, the better you get, the more comfortable you become. Second, the more you know, the more you absorb each time out, the more you can contribute to boat operations and safety on your next time on the water.

This page is about safety, and in particular about knowledge. Suggestions will be welcomed with great glee, pretty much everything can always be improved. Please note that this Tab and your actual knowledge are not proof against an accident or injury. If, after skimming this, you'd like to come back and go through it in more detail, one way to keep your place would be to print this, and mark it as you go from one topic to the next.

I have learned there are two laws of nature that apply, and it appears each is relevant to sailing -- and to the rest of life as well.

First Law: "Complacency kills." It kills careers and relationships too, if you think about it. It is not something to be skipped over, so please consider the risks of being complacent about sailing. To be safe, seek knowledge, and practice your skills. The club will recommend boating courses of many kinds.

Second Law: "It's not how things get messed up, but how you recover that counts." Your knowledge will help you develop alternatives and determine your best choice of action. Always seek to learn new things about sailing -- or any area in your life where there are risks as well as rewards.

Not everything you need to know is here. I hope it is enough to have you understand what's going on. The following does not presume you are in charge of the boat, but rather a crew member interested in learning more, and able to participate safely in the teamwork it takes to go someplace intentionally on a boat (even if that's just out and back). I believe you will find that teamwork is the most rewarding part of sailing.

Caution: "ight-of-way, navigating, tides, radios, buoys and markers, weather, etc. are not covered here, where the focus is on basic crew member tasks. You can take courses covering those subjects. Ask Skippers and First Mates. Read whatever seems interesting about boating.

Here are our five main topics, each vastly oversimplified. But, we have to start someplace.

  1. Regulations and Laws
  2. Take-Along Info for Comfort and Safety
  3. Nautical Nouns and Verbs
  4. Animated Knots
  5. On-Line Sailing Lessons

TOPIC ONE: Rules, regulations and laws. You really should want to get a Safe Boating Certificate. There are nearby courses that lead to a certificate and also get you a Personal Watercraft (jet ski) ticket. And, no matter what, you're going to learn rules and facts about both power boating and sailing. But, you are not allowed to be in control of any boat with a motor out of Connecticut waters unless you have on your person, a Safe Boating Certificate.

It's not difficult. Teens get them all the time so they can annoy us on jet-skis. For $10-$20, you can go four nights for three hours, take a test, and have it. Here is way to find the Schedule of Classes. Just scroll to find a nearby class location, and give them a call to register. Call me and I'll try to get you together to car-pool. There are 1-day expensive ($100) course people like -- call 800-510-9995, an on-line (testing is necessary but not included) at 866-262-8222, 4-5 day cheaper courses in various towns. All have similar content, classroom hours, and test. Google "CT Safe Boating Certificate" and click on Connecticut Approved Safe Boating Course Agents private-providers.pdf (

TOPIC TWO: Easy access to important information for your comfort and safety is in the first dozen or so pages of our Membership Handbook. The book is free -- you'll have one and we hope you'll use it. Bring it along. Copy those front pages for bathroom forays.

TOPIC THREE: Nautical Nouns & Verbs. They are important when something needs to happen or STOP happening. It's useful not to be wondering what sailing terms mean. Here are some links which explain boating jargon. Like choosing a dictionary, these sources may have differing levels of appeal.

TOPIC FOUR: Useful Knots. Securing one thing to another -- know at least a few useful knots. A very easy way to learn these is to go to the Web sites provided below with a piece of rope or at least cord in your hand. Most hardware stores will sell you a small cleat for a couple of dollars. Here you will see animated knots tying themselves. That's a much easier way to learn than having somebody show you -- while telling stories about rabbits coming out of holes. (It's better if you know even more knots than three). The best overall site is

TOPIC FIVE: On-Line Sailing Lessons. You can certainly get useful results by searching for the thing you want to learn about, like "leaving the mooring under power", or "lowering sails". Here are some subjects and okay short lessons.

  • Why sails work -- theory of the sailboat taking you where you want to go:
  • Boarding a boat is not perfectly simple. But, this is what I have so far. (Still looking for good link. Meantime=>) Start with empty hands, grab the lifeline with both hands, step up outside the lifeline one foot at a time, then step over the lifeline one foot at a time. Never board until both you and the boat are going exactly the same speed. Ask a Skipper or First Mate for help.
  • Leaving a dock / slip / mooring
  • Raising The Mainsail And
  • Points of Sail: And
  • Tacking and Jibing And
  • Trimming Sails And
  • Reefing Sails And
  • Taking Sails Down (Haven't found good link yet, but here is a basic outline) Gather sail ties and mainsail cover. Turn the engine on, put it in Forward at low RPM (+ 1100?), turn into the wind so the mainsail luffs (flaps, stops working). Roll in or lower the headsail/jib/Genoa. Center the Traveler and release the Main Halyard but hold it in place. Slowly release the halyard so about a yard or two comes down at a time, then stop so the crew can flake the sail (putting subsequent sections left and right over the boom). Crew will put on a sail tie about every yard or two starting near the aft end of the boom.
  • Tying Up to a slip / mooring; And,
  • Getting Off a boat This is oversimplified, but it's a start. It's a lot like getting on. Don't have anything in your hands. Step over the lifeline one foot at a time while holding on. Step onto the dock or launch with one foot, and grab something with one hand if possible. Follow with the other foot. Then reach for your stuff. This, like boarding, can be more complex than this paragraph.
I have put this out for comment, and been severely beaten about the head and shoulders by people much more experienced and much smarter than I am, for the sheer hubris displayed. Those who know more will find this woefully inadequate. To take just one case, the getting on a boat could be a half hour course, because boats don't always meet deck-level-with-the-other-landing-surface, and it's different to climb than to descend, and it's different if one is a dock and the boat is affected by waves going up and down. Et cetera.

If you are a novice, you will be guided by at least a Skipper, and likely a First Mate. But you need to be aware that you must ask for help -- we don't intuit your possible ignorance, so you need to tell us. As noted, we get better when we get to teach, so while there may be dumb questions, you'll find almost universally, if you ask one we'll never tell a sole.

That's a fish.

Come sailing with us!

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