Getting Going - Leaving the Pontoon

With a crew of first time sailors the instructor or skipper will almost certainly be on the helm at the time of departure and having briefed everyone as to what they are doing beforehand will ask each person in order to carry out their alloted task before the boat slides away from the pontoon.

Once the boat is under way even the most inexperienced crew member can contribute something invaluable - namely keeping a good lookout. Chances are other boats are leaving at the same time and in a forest of masts it's important to keep an eye out for any that are on the move. If you do spot another boat moving, please don't keep it to yourself. Make sure that the person on the helm has seen it too. Here's a list of some of the jobs that need doing next. Again this is not a definitive list and doesn't need to necessarilly be carried out in this order.



Having briefed everybody previously the instructor or skipper is probably standing by at the helm. The order is then given to each person by name and in the agreed order and the boat at the correct moment motors forwards or astern as required, hopefully make a smooth departure from it's berth.

Log entry

If everything else in the log book was prepared before you left it will just be case of filling in the departure time.

Fenders and Lines in

These are often tied to the top rail of the stern using a clove hitch (see Useful Knots page)

Shorelines stowed (put away) in a locker

Be careful that shorelines stay on the deck as they are being coiled before stowing as a loose line in the water is in danger of fouling the propellor and quickly bringing the trip to an end.

A change of helm (driver) perhaps?

This could well be the time when the instructor or skipper hands the helm to some body else to allow time for instruction on preparing the boat for sailing. All students including the helmsman can learn a lot at this point and should be paying full attention to procedures involved. It's usually a busy time on board. There is a lot to do and often other boats nearby who are also making preparations for sailing.

Raise the Mainsail (Main)

The instructor may (or may not) surprise you by raising the mainsail as soon as the fenders and lines are in. There are a couple of reasons why this might happen. Firstly it will be easier to raise in the calmer waters of the marina entrance rather than further out where there may be more swell which would cause the boat to roll. Secondly, if for some reason the engine failed the boat can quickly start sailing (without any sail up it is just driftwood).

Raise the Headsail (Genoa, Jib) and trim (adjust) the Main

Once you have enough searoom and the instructor or skipper is happy with the boat's position it will probably be time to get sailing. The majority of headsails on modern school boats are of the roller furling type. This means that they are rolled around the forestay of the boat and are set by being pulled and unrolled incrementally by a rope called the Jibsheet (headsail control rope). The instructor or skipper would have brought the boat up on the wind and will trim for the point of sail needed to hold your course. The engine will then be turned off and for the first time on your trip all you will hear is the wind as the boat heels (leans) gently and begins sailing. (Ah! bliss)

Put the kettle on!

After all that exertion the instructor or skipper along
with everyone else will be probably be ready for a cuppa!.
Getting Going safety Planning Preparation sailing Stopping!

"Our voyage had commenced, and at last we were away, gliding through the clean water, past the reeds. Care was lifted from our shoulders, for we were free from advice, pessimism, officialism, heat and hot air."

-K. Adlard Coles

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