Sailing Theory

Sailing Theory – Understand How a Sail Works

A sail can be likened to a wing in the way it works. When a wing moves forward, some air passes below the wing and some above. Due to a phenomenon known as the Coanda effect, air will tend to follow an adjacent surface that curves away from the flow as long as the curvature of the surface is not too great. When moving air changes direction, a force is generated.

A wing has a relatively flat bottom face, and a more rounded top surface. Since the wing has different shapes along its top and bottom faces, the air has to travel different distances, and thus at different speeds, across these faces. The faster moving air across the top face causes a region of low pressure, creating the lift that the wing needs.

A sail works in a similar fashion. As wind enters the front of the sail, it is split, with some passing along the windward side of the sail, and some to the leeward side. The wind passing to the leeward side is forced to travel a longer distance, and therefore has to travel faster, creating a low pressure region.

Similarly to the lift created in a wing, the low pressure created by changing the direction of the wind causes a force to be exerted on the sail. It is this force which is used to move the boat.

However, to utilize the force of the wind most efficiently, the sail has to harness the wind’s power efficiently. And to accomplish this wind has to deviate in direction over a sail’s surface as smoothly as possible. To generate the lift required, wind passing over both sides of the sail has to follow the curved profile of the sail surface. This is achieved with the correct amount of curve in the sail, and having the correct angle of the sail to the breeze.

To get the most amount of force moving the boat forwards, you need to deflect as much wind as possible around the sail.

Upwind Theory
Upwind sailing can be a real challenge, and is an aspect of sailing that takes a lot of practice and patience to develop. Some may initially find it a little difficult to grasp the concept of upwind sailing, but with the aid of vectors the process can be explained a little easier.

When wind enters the sail, it is forced to curve around the belly of the sail. This curve in the sail can be represented by a force acting at 90° to the sail. This force is made up of 2 components – 1 acting sideways on the boat, and another pushing the boat forwards. By using a fin, we minimize the amount of sideways slippage, and maximize forward motion.

The more you pull the sail in, the smaller angle will become, which will result in a smaller force pushing you forwards. The smaller the forward force pushing the boat, the slower the boat goes. Conversely, the more you let the sail out (basically up until the point before it starts to flap in the breeze), the greater the force forwards, and the faster the boat can potentially go.

The fin acts in a similar fashion to the tyres on a car. They both minimize sideways movement and allow easy forward movement. For example, if you push a car on an angle, it will resist moving diagonally, and instead will only move in a forward direction.

For this reason the fin should be all the way down to minimize sideways slippage.

Reaching Theory
Reaching is a comfortable and enjoyable angle of sailing for many sailors. In the right conditions and with a good setup you can get a dinghy up on the plane and moving across the water quickly.

Reaching is basically an extension of upwind sailing. The wind is coming from roughly 90° to the boat, the sail is eased out to create a nice flow of air over both sides of the sail, meaning that the forwards force is increased, and hence the boat can potentially go faster.

Due to the fact that the sideways force is now smaller relative to the forwards force, sideways slippage will be reduced. Some sailors opt to raise the fin about 1/2 way to create less drag through the water, and hence go faster.

Downwind Theory
Sailing downwind or running is basically when you are sailing in the same direction as the wind is blowing. The wind is coming from behind the boat, the sail is eased almost all the way out, meaning that the forwards force is maximized. One problem with downwind sailing is that, since you are traveling with the wind, the wind across the deck, and hence the wind that is being caught by the sail, is less. Another issue is that since all the forces are (almost) in alignment, the boat can tend to become unbalanced, and it can roll over on top of you.

Due to the fact that the sideways force is now minimal relative to the forwards force, sideways slippage will be reduced even more. Some sailors raise the fin as high as possible without interfering with the boom to create less drag through the water, and hence go faster.

Sailing Beginner

Sailing Beginner – Trailer Sailor

In this article of sailing beginner, I would like to talk about the sailboat trailer that most of us use to get our sailing vessels to the water. By using a boat trailer as a means to get to the water, the sailing term “Trailer Sailor” comes to mind. Trailer Sailor’s is what we are mates!

The boat trailer becomes an important vehicle in allowing us access to the water that we couldn’t achieve any other way! Thus the boat trailer is an important element of our sailing equipment that has to be in good working condition and maintained. The trailer rims & tires should be in good condition with no excess dry rot or wear and should be properly inflated according to the tire manufacturer’s recommendation.

The wheel bearings should be checked to see that they are in good shape and greased.


I use grease hubs on my sailboat trailer, so that I can add grease to them easily.

The trailer hitch should lock easily and securely on the trailer ball of your tow vehicle. The safety chains should also be serviceable and not rusted or corroded through. And the wire plug should be in good working condition as well. The trailer lights should be working and can easily be checked by connecting them to your tow vehicle. The boat winch should be in good mechanical condition and the nylon strap should be inspected and replaced if it shows any sign of wear.


Next make sure that you have a safety chain that’s used in addition to the boat winch strap just in case it breaks while traveling on the road.

The stern or back of the sailboat should be secured by using a heavy-duty ratcheting nylon strap or a sturdy rope to hold it in place to prevent any incidental damage to your sailboat or worse yet to keep it from falling off the trailer. Once you hook the trailer to the tow vehicle and before you hit the road, it’s a good idea to make one last quick check to make sure everything is in order.

I usually make a visual check of the tires, see that the lights are connected, the safety chains are secured, and the hitch is secured to the tow vehicle for starters. Then I make sure the sailboat is secured at the bow with the winch and safety chain along with the nylon stern strap as well. I also make sure that the outboard is secured to the boat and the gas cap vent is closed. And I check the mast as well to see if it’s secured to the sailboat.

Taking a few minutes for a final check of the trailer and boat will give you a piece of mind while towing the sailing boat to your destination. It’s also a good idea to keep and eye on both the sailboat and trailer while driving, because anything can happen at any moment.


It’s a good idea to carry a spare tire for the boat trailer, just in case you get a flat. This way you can change a flat and not have to leave your sailing boat on the roadside while you fetch a spare.

Until my next sailing beginner article – Happy Sailing!

Sailing From Panama

Sailing From Panama to Colombia

There is no direct land route from Panama to Colombia. The border between the two countries is characterised by thick jungle and no road has been built through it. In part this is due to the inhospitable terrain, and in part it is due to a lack of political will from the Panamanian government, who feared that a road would cause Colombia´s civil strike to spill over into their own country.

The region is called the Darien Gap and can be hiked with a guide in around 6 days. This is perilous, as the inaccessibility of the area has made it home to bandits, drug dealers, and the Colombian revolutionaries known as FARC who have killed and taken hostages in the area in the past.

So, other than flying, a fairly mundane option, the only other possibility is to sail the three hundred miles or so from the east coat of Panama to the Colombian port of Cartagena. There is no regular ferry service – but many sail boat captains ply this route around the south western corner of the Caribbean Sea, and for a fee are happy to take travellers on board.

The whole trip takes around 5 days, and includes the opportunity to stop off at the San Blas islands, just of the Panamanian coast – which are remote, almost uninhabited, and home to some incredible marine life and reefs. The major risks are storms (which are unpredictable) and pirates (who have been known to raid vessels passing along the route).

I arranged the trip via the accommodation where I was staying in Panama City. I had a couple of days to wait prior to departure, so spent some time around the old town of Panama, as well as watching the tankers pass through the Panama Canal. On the afternoon before setting out, I was surprised to receive a phone message from the captain asking me to pick up 5 gallons of water, some fruit and lots of jam before the trip. He had been unable to arrange last minute supplies where he was moored in Carti, so needed me to collect these from the city.

I was taken, together with several other travellers, to the small town of Carti by 4*4 at 5am the following morning. Around Panama City the road was good, but after half an hour or so as we began climbing into the mountains, this gave way to an unpaved track. At one point we were pulled over at a police check point and asked to produce passports. No problems – just a routine document check.

The morning dawned grey and cloudy. As we were travelling through the mountains, this made for some spectacular scenery, as the lowest clouds drifted and hung around the tree tops in the lush green valleys. We soon came to a river, where the bridge was still a work under construction. So, the jeep turned straight into the water, making the hundred yard crossing with the brown muddy waters splashing up above the wheel arches.

From the top of the mountain range, it was possible to see the Caribbean coast glittering below us, as the last of the clouds began to clear. It took a further 30 minutes to descend the winding road to the water´s edge. There was no town here, merely a small hut serving as a ferry terminal, and a couple of ramshackle wooden jetties splashed by the incoming waves.

The ferry which took us across to the island of Porvenir was a small dugout canoe with an outboard motor attached. The driver, together with all the inhabitants of the San Blas islands, was a member of one of the indigenous tribes of the region – the Kuna. They live only on these islands, and have been granted the right by the Panamanian government to administer them mostly as they wish. As a result, the islands have remained largely undeveloped and untouched by tourist development as the Kunas continue to live their traditional ways of life.

The boat took us to the vessel which was to carry us to Cartagena. It was a 40ft sail boat called The Dawn Treader. This was taken from a novel by CS Lewis, as part of the Narnia Chronicles. I hoped that the name suggested a calm a peaceful voyage, rather than an allegorical battle between the forces of good and evil which was the theme of Lewis´s original work.

We were met by our captain, who was called Tom. He was a tall, blond man from Belgium, who had been sailing for several years. He also introduced us to his girlfriend Kim, who had arrived on the boat from Alabama the week before. He invited us all to relax, take off our shoes and stow all the luggage in the hold.

So, there were seven of us in total on the boat. The other members of the voyage were Jason (a young trainer teacher from Hong Kong), a tall, rather serious German called Norman, and two Americans called John and Adam.

There was not a great deal of cabin space for everyone, but we all managed to find sleeping space somewhere. Tom assured us that this would not be a great problem, since while the boat was anchored around the islands it would be warm enough to sleep on deck under the stars; and that while the boat was sailing, one or other of us would be steering the boat – so there wo

Sailing Trip Safe

5 Ways To Make A Sailing Trip Safe

We usually hear about adventures in sailing as somebody’s boat went under and he was found floating in the ocean for 30 days living on fish and plankton. Unfortunately, regular successful sailing does not make great news. It will take a few trips, but many realize that a sailboat with an experienced crew can handle a lot. Here are just a few pointers for people just introduced to sailing to make their trip safe…

1. You must be sensible enough to check your local weather before you set sail. Source of information be it radio, coast guard forecasts and television, reckoning of weather conditions is an absolute must. Being observant, rough winds and volatile waves as well as darkening of the clouds are a crystal clear signal for you to be safe and set sail for another day.

2. Have a checklist and check it twice. Preparation is one basic safety procedure that minimizes risks in any activity. In sailing sense, it is the epitome of proper boating safety. PFD’s, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, as well as checking the boat for any sign of wear and tear that will affect your sailing experience.

3. When common sense is uncommon. Using commonsense when it is needed is much neglected in sailing, thus being one of the “common” causes of sailing mishaps. Operate at acceptably safe speeds; be observant and aware of small or large vessels that could be in your path. Pay attention and follow navigational warnings and buoys that are there for you and other co-sailors. Do have the commonsense to avoid alcohol. Safety is doubly at risk when there is alcohol involved, this goes for both skipper and passenger. A clear perception of the forces and elements of nature is much utilized in sailing so keep your head free of any hallucinogenic substances.

Commonsense in sailing takes on a lot of details as to what and what not to do in sailing. Here are some and surely others will come to mind as you read along.

Dare not to dare. The activity of sailing is impressive enough so there is no need to impress your friends or family that you may have on board. Daredevil acts may be cool to watch not until you find yourself in a compromising situation that can put you and others in danger.

Lifejackets are intended to be used and not as a boat ornament to make the vessel look safe. It may be cool to have your pectorals flexing as you sail, but PFD’s can make it more safer should you go overboard while projecting your buff bod.

4. Inform people of your route plan and have it listed with your local coast guard or marina personnel. The route or passage plan is the course that you will be travelling on and the number of days that you intend to be out at sea. Information that you should share includes your personal information and that of your passengers. The boat type, itinerary, safety equipment and communication should also be included in your trip notice.

It is wise to have a support skipper. Two heads are better than one and with sailing it is pertinent that your assistant skipper is equally familiar with sailing.

5. Learn how to swim. You are embarking on an activity that is surrounded by water. Having swimming skills can be very handy in time of need; you never know when you might be knocked over or slip over board.

Alaskan Cruise

Alaskan Cruise – When To Sail

The Alaskan cruise is often overlooked when shopping for a cruise. Most people consider a warm destination first. Some popular ones are the Mexican Riviera, the Panama Canal, the Caribbean, and the Bahamas. The itinerary is also an important factor to account for. These cruises can be quite a treat for first-time cruisers.

However, for regular cruise aficionados, they might be hunting for an idea of a cruise that is a little different from the usual destinations previously mentioned. If the itinerary is still the same although they are sailing with different cruise line, the element of uniqueness and excitement is not present in their cruise vacation.

If you are one of those vacationers who are looking for a unique cruise experience, then a cruise trip to Alaska is what you are looking for. You can expect a different landscape and culture that you will not forget.

If you are ready to do something unique, then try the Alaskan adventure. It has everything that will suit your needs. It is indeed a perfect getaway either for a short excursion or for a long vacation.

Alaska is the biggest expansive state in the United States in terms of land area (570,374 square miles); if superimposed over the map of the country, it can cover the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and Colorado. Although having an enormous land area, it is one of the largely unpopulated areas in the world, with animals outnumbering human settlers.

Its boundaries are marked by natural expanses like mountain ranges and streams. The largest attraction in Alaska is its ice glaciers, which makes it a perfect destination for cruising. Sailing along its lengthy coastline allows you to observe these spectacular sights.

Some people choose an Alaskan cruise so that they can witness the breathtaking process of calving. Calving is when large masses of ice break off from glacier cliffs and plunge into the sea. This occurs mostly in Glacier Bay and can occur several times an hour. It’s an amazing sight to see that you won’t catch on any other cruise.

After seeing these glaciers calving, you may also have the urge to touch a glacier. Lucky for you, there are cruise lines that provide helicopter rides and hiking which permit you to step on one of these ice glaciers. This is one of the many unique options that an Alaskan cruise provides.

If you take an Alaskan cruise vacation, you may also want to check Tracy Arm Fjord, which is a body of water that ventures inland and away from the shoreline. It will allow you to experience the magnificence of the granite walls, mountain peaks, and majestic waterfalls from an unusual vantage point.

Perfect months for getting an Alaskan cruise are May through September. You can expect a decline in temperature at over a hundred degrees in the South during summer season.

There are two very popular Alaskan cruises. The first one is the Inside Passage cruise, which usually runs a length of about a week. It includes itinerary stops at Ketchikan, Skagway, and Juneau. Different sights and side trips can also be expected when you take this cruise.

The second one is the Gulf of Alaska cruise, also known as the Glacier Route Cruise. You can expect to see the Glacier Bay, which is previously mentioned in this article, and possibly the Hubbard Glacier.

Whichever cruise you prefer, cruise lines will provide you alternatives on the ships that you want to board. There are smaller excursion ships that can carry an average of 150 passengers. You can take a closer look at a glacier rather than using the larger cruise ships (see what happened to the famous Titanic vessel).

The choices are all dependent on you. If you are really an adventurous individual, you want to book a smaller cruise vessel although it is quite expensive. If sightseeing for you is enough, then a bigger cruise ship is great for you. Don’t worry, though, whichever you choose, always expect the unexpected!

Alaskan cruising might seem like a strange choice at first. However, it will clearly be an exciting vacation and an unforgettable time for you. If you’re looking for something a little different, travel on an Alaskan cruise.

Sailing Adventures

Why Sailing Adventures Are Great For Travel

Travel is an adventure regardless of the method of your transport but one of the most adventurous, I think is sailing.

Sailing is a fun way to spend the day out on the water, as a new skill to learn and it’s even better for island hopping.

There are many different reasons why sailing adventures are fantastic for travel which includes being able to visit the many different ports and location in the one holiday.
The majority of these sailing adventures will explore and discover a number of countries and/or regions within the same area.

For example the Junk Ships found in Vietnam is one of the most world renowned sailing trips in the world, some of which explore the many little islands and islets around the famed Ha Long Bay while other trips from Vietnam include the entire Indo-China region, exploring Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and perhaps even Thailand.

Hong Kong is another place in Asia where these Junk Ships are popular for exploring the harbour on a single day-trip or on an overnight experience.

Greece is probably the most popular destinations in the world for island hopping. People from all over the world head to Greece in the summer months and take to the islands which include Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Kos.

Thanks to this large tourism market, Greece is probably the reason why sailing is so popular for travel these days.

Greece has held the reins on island hopping over any other destination in the world but especially within Europe however Croatia is the next up and coming adventure travel destinations for sailing. It’s a cheaper alternative and it doesn’t come with the large crowds that Greece attracts every single summer.

Tropical islands are based around waterways and the ocean, normally within a cluster of numerous islands so these tropical destinations are also perfect for sailing adventures.

Some of the tropical islands that come to mind for fantastic sailing include areas such as the South Pacific and the Caribbean.

In the South Pacific you have trips around Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Tonga, Samoa and more. One of the most popular is Tahiti however these trips are generally higher priced than the other islands.

As for the Caribbean there are close to 7,000 islands within the region and boast a large abundance of marine life in its waterways. So on top of getting a great sailing trip around the islands you can mix it up with some scuba diving or snorkelling.

These are only a few of the reasons why sailing adventures are fantastic for travel. There are many more valid reasons and ideas for adventurers to choose a sailing adventure for their next holiday vacation.