5 Cool Things You Learn From Sailing

By Molly Herber

Sep 10, 2015

Is sailing just for people like this?


yacht-captain-dees Photo from Dees Fancy Dress.


Nope. It’s also for awesome folks like her:


Coastal Sailing at NOLS
So serene. Photo by Cass Colman


And this little nugget:


Photo from Celebrity Dachsund.


Here's our list of a few of the amazing things you can learn from sailing.

1. Learn to see the wind


How, you ask?
  • Look for cat's paws (in sailing, a "cat's paw" is a ripple on the water ... not an actual cat).
  • Take a look at the clouds in the sky. Which direction are they moving, and how quickly?
  • Feel the wind on your face (don't wear a mask while doing this).
  • Use your tell-tales (strips of yarn tied to either side of the sail). If you're reading the wind correctly, the tell-tales should all be streaming straight back in the wind.

2. Learn excellent teamwork skills


NOLS Baja Coastal Sailing They're so happy because of their amazing teamwork! Photo by Alisha Bube.


It's nearly impossible to sail a decent-sized boat alone (kind of like playing tag by yourself). That means that everyone needs to know what they're doing and communicate well, and your captain has to give directions that are polite, concise, clear, and helpful.

3. Become a better strategic thinker


gorilla-meme Think, think ... Photo from imgflip.com


There's a lot that goes into keeping a sailboat moving forward. Interpreting the signs of the weather, working well with the crew, analyzing the water's current, and making sure the boat is in working order, all at the same time. Want to be able to talk about problem-solving or leading a group in an interview? Sailing is literally doing all of that, all the time.

The exciting part? Once you've mastered all of the strategery of sailing, your boat will be the fastest on the water. And we know it's not a race, but ...


Reaching Off the Wind at NOLS Mexico Faster! Photo by Cass Colman.


4. Become one with the elements


When you're on a sailboat, you're constantly in the wind and waves. That means you either learn to love the amazing ocean environment, or you get over it ... really quickly. Gene Kelly, clearly, has chosen the happier option.

5. Learn some of the English language's best jargon from 6,000 years of sailing tradition

"Slush fund"

Nautical meaning: The extra grease from meat cooked aboard a ship was called "slush," which was sold and the money used to buy luxury items.

Current meaning: Money you set aside for illegitimate purposes (like the stockpile of Rocky Road ice cream you aren't telling your roommates about).

"To the bitter end"

Nautical meaning: The end of mooring ropes that are attached to the posts on the end of large docks.

Current meaning: Do something until it's done, no matter how difficult it is (like getting through Monday).

By the way, you can learn to sail at NOLS Mexico.

Explore all NOLS Sailing Courses!

Written By

Molly Herber

Molly is a NOLS instructor and writer. She loves the smell of her backpack and does her best writing before 7:00 am. When she's not scouting the next post for the NOLS Blog, she's running and climbing on rocks in Wyoming. Follow her on Instagram @mgherber

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