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5 Ways To Sharpen Your Sailing Skills At Home

From knot tying apps to sailing simulators, there's plenty to occupy the land-locked or winter-bound sailor.

Sail away

Photo: Sailaway

When the barometer dips and the seas are sloppy, practicing your sailing skills at home is a great way to pass the time. Here are five dry-land training options to take your nautical knowledge to the next level.

1. Practice Tying Knots

What's the old saying about idle hands? Keep a piece of rope handy and download a knot-tying app like Animated Knots by Grog. The U.S.-based Grogono "Grog" family has a long history in Olympic sailing, and their app will walk you through everything from a basic bowline to a Brummel splice using 3D animations and high-definition videos.

Animated Knots – How To Tie A Bowline On A Bite

2. Take An Online Course

The BoatUS Foundation has partnered with boating experts like the Colgate Offshore Sailing School and the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary to bring you a selection of online courses including Learn to Sail, Weather for Boaters, Modern Marine Navigation, and Sailing Lingo. Courses are designed to take 2- to 3 hours and include interactive exercises and quizzes. Pricing ranges from free to $40, and discounts on select courses are available to BoatUS Members.

BoatUS Foundation – Weather For Boaters Course Preview

3. Know Your ABCs

NATO phonetic alphabet

Illustration: BoatUS

Avoid confusion when spelling words on the VHF radio (or phone) by learning the phonetic alphabet (e.g., Alpha, Bravo, Charlie). You can use cue cards to memorize the 26-letter alphabet or try using an app like NATO Phonetic Alphabet. Not only will it clear up your radio communication, but you'll be bound to impress the next call center employee you talk to.

Bonus: If you're looking for an additional challenge, try learning the 26 corresponding nautical flags with an app like Nautical Flags.

4. Sail In A Simulator

Developed by The Irregular Corporation, the advanced sailing simulator, Sailaway puts armchair sailors at the helm. Sail anywhere in the world with accurately modeled waves and weather based on your location and real-time data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It's possible to virtually cross an ocean, race with other sailors, or even compete in the Vendée Globe. When you log out, the game goes on, and you'll receive e-mail updates on your boat's progress.


Celestial navigation

5. Learn Celestial Navigation

Learn the age-old art of navigating by the stars. Dominique Prinet, a sailing instructor and former high arctic bush pilot, teaches the art of celestial navigation in his excellent books Celestial Navigation and Celestial Navigation Exercises for Class and Home Study. The books are available in print or eBook format. Tip: A sight reduction app like this one is a handy way to check your celestial navigation calculations.

For more educational fun, check out the top 10 boating course questions that people get wrong and see how your knowledge stacks up. Who says armchair sailing can’t be as good as the real thing?!

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Fiona McGlynn

Contributing Editor, BoatUS Magazine

BoatUS Magazine contributing editor Fiona McGlynn and her husband sailed their 35-footer trans-Pacific for two years. Now living north of 59, she’s part of their local search and rescue team and edits, a millennial boating website.