Learning to Sail:

LWSC does not offer or conduct accredited sailing classes. 

If you wish to learn how to sail, we recommend that you contact your local American Sailing Academy (ASA) school and sign up for classes. 

What can I do to get started right away?

Here are some FREE online courses that we recommend, to get anyone that is NOT familiar with sailing a good starting foundation before you hit the water. These include learning about the various parts of the sailboat, rules of the waterways, and sailing terminology:

American Sailing Association - FIRST SAIL

Q: Who should take this course?
A: If any one of the following describes you, this course is for you!
  • I have never been sailing.
  • Iíve been sailing a couple of times as someoneís guest, but I couldnít tell you the difference between a close tack and a broad reach.
  • Iím not interested in taking a sailing class at this time, but I would like to know enough to be helpful on a sailboat.
  • Iíve enrolled in a basic sailing class, but Iíd like to get a solid head start before my first on-the-water lesson.

After completing this course, youíll understand how a sailboat works, the common commands used to steer one and some basic sailing terminology. Youíll not only get the most out of your time on the water, but also be able to actively participate in the magic of sailing!

Q: How long will it take to complete the course?
A: Anywhere from about 30 to 45 minutes.

Q: Do I need any books or other study materials?
A: No, the course is fully self-contained. You can start the course at any time and do some or all of it at a time



American Sailing Association
Keelboat Course

Online Sailing Course, School & Lessons

"This sailing course is designed to present basic and advanced information about keel sailboats and sailing in US waters. This course is not designed to substitute for the US SAILING certification course or on-the-water training by a sailing instructor, but may be used as one of the tools in preparation for taking a certified course or in continuing your sailing education. "






Nauticed.org's Free Sailing Course



Texas Online Boater Education Card
 or License

certification fee required at end of this course


"Sailing Issues" Online Course

If you have Netflix, check out "The Annapolis Book of Seamanship" DVD series. Really, really well done.


BASIC SAILING: Sailing Terms  
abeam  directly to the side of the boat. 
about  on the opposite tack. 
aft    at or near the stern.
alee   to the leeward side.
aloft  above the deck.
apparent wind   the direction and speed of the wind felt by the crew. Combination of the true wind and that created by the motion of the boat. 
astern  behind the boat. 
backstay  any single wire supporting the mast from the stern. 
batten   thin wooden strips fitted into pockets for stiffening the leech of a sail.
beam  measurement of the width of a boat. 
beam  reach sailing with the wind coming across the boat's beam.
beam  wind a wind at right angles to a boat's course.
bear  away to steer the boat away from the wind. 
beat  sailing against the wind by tacking (sailing a zigzag course towards the wind).
beating to windward  to sail to windward close-hauled, tacking as you go, to reach an objective to windward.
bend  to connect two ropes with a knot. 
block  a pulley. 
bollard  a short heavy post on a pier or boat used for fastening docking lines. 
boom  spar that takes the foot of a sail. 
bow  the forward part of a boat. 
broach   turn sideways to wind and the surf.
broad reach  the point of sailing between a beam reach and a run, when the wind blows over the quarter.
buoy  floating navigational marker. 
capsize  to overturn. 
catamaran .    
catboat .    
center of effort (coe)  the point at which all the forces acting on the sails are concentrated.
center of lateral resistance (CLR)  the underwater center of pressure about which a boat pivots when changing course. 
centerboard  retractable keel to stop a boat's leeward drift. 
chain plate  metal fitting bolted to the side of a boat to hold the ends of stays and shrouds.
cleat  fitting to which a line is secured, without knotting. 
clew  aft bottom corner of a sail, where the foot and leech meet. 
close-hauled   sailing close to the wind with sails pulled in.
close reach  the point of sailing between close-hauled and a beam reach, when the wind blows forward of the beam. 
come about  to change course so as to be sailing at the same angle but with the wind on the other side. 
course  the direction in which a vessel is steered, usually given in degrees. 
cutter  single-masted fore-and-aft boat having an inner staysail and outer jib.
daggerboard  centerboard that does not pivot. 
dinghy  a small boat used to ferry people to a yacht; also used for sailing or rowing; also called a tender. 
downhaul  rope used to set up downward tension or haul down a sail or spar.  
eye of the wind   direction from which the true wind is blowing.
falling off  turn away from the direction of the wind. 
foot  a sail's lower edge. 
fore  at or toward the boat's bow. 
fore-and-aft  lengthwise, in the direction of the keel. 
foremast  mast nearest to the bow. 
forestay  the foremost stay, running from the masthead to the bow. 
furl  tightly roll up a sail. 
gaff  spar that secures the head of a fore-and-aft sail. 
galley  a kitchen on a boat. 
genoa  large headsail, which overlaps the mainsail.  
grommet  rope or brass ring in a sail or piece of canvas. 
gunwales  upper edges of a boat's sides. 
guy  adjustable steadying rope of a boat's rig. 
gybing  changing direction with the wind aft; to change from one tack to other by turning the stern through the wind; also spelled gybing. 
halyard  line used for hoisting sails. 
hank  fitting used to attach the luff of a sail to a stay. 
hard-a-lee  to put the tiller all the way down toward the leeward side of the boat. 
head  a sail's top corner; also a boat's toilet. 
headsail s ail forward of the foremast. 
headstay  a forward stay. 
headway  moving forward. 
heel  a boat's angle to horizontal, to lean over to one side. 
helm  tiller or wheel. 
hoist  the length of the luff of a fore-and-aft sail. 
hull  the body of boat. 
in irons  to head into the wind and refuse to fall off. 
jib  a triangular headsail set on a stay forward of the foremast. 
jibing  changing direction with the wind aft; to change from one tack to other by turning the stern through the wind; also spelled gybing. 
jibsheet  line that controls the jib. 
keel  centerline backbone at the bottom of a boat. 
ketch .    
lashing  a rope used for securing any movable object in place. 
lateen  rig with a triangular sail secured to a yard hoisted to a low mast.
lee  the side opposite that from which the wind blows; the opposite of weather.
leech  outside edge of a sail. 
lee helm .  the tendency of a boat to swing leeward unless held on course
leeward  away from the wind; the direction to which the wind blows, down wind.
line  any length of rope that has a specified use. 
luff  to get so close to the wind that the sail flaps; also the forward edge of a sail.
luff up  to turn the boat's head right into the wind. 
mainmast  principal mast on a boat. 
mainsail  boomed sail projecting aft from the mainmast 
mainsheet  line that controls the main boom. 
make fast  secure a line. 
mast  vertical spar to which the sails and rigging are attached. 
masthead  top of the mast. 
mizzen  the shorter, after-mast on a ketch or yawl. 
on the wind  close-hauled. 
painter  the bow line by which a dinghy, or tender is towed or made fast.
point  To head close to the wind. 
point of sail  the different angles from the wind on which a boat may sail; the boat's course relative to the direction of the wind. 
port  the left-hand side of a boat, looking forward towards the bow 
port tack  when a boat sails with the main boom to starboard and wind hits the port side first. (opposite of starboard).
privileged vessel  a boat that has the right-of-way (ROW). 
reach  sailing on a tack with the wind roughly abeam, all sailing points between running and close- hauled. 
ready about  order to prepare for coming about. 
reef  reduce the sail area by folding or rolling surplus material on the boom or forestay. 
rig   arrangements of masts and sails.
rigging  ropes and wire stays of a boat; securing masts and sails. 
rudder  vertical metal or wooden plate attached to the stern, whose movements steer the boat. 
rules of the road Right-of-way (ROW)  regulations to prevent collisions between boats. 
run  to sail with the wind aft and with the sheets eased out. 
running rigging  all of the moving lines, such as sheets and halyards, used in the setting and trimming of sails.
schooner .    
set  to hoist a sail. 
shackle  a U-shaped piece of iron or steel with eyes in the ends, closed by a shackle pin. 
sheave  a grooved wheel in a block or spar for a rope to run on. 
sheet  line that controls a sail or the movement of a boom. 
ship shape  neat, seamanlike. 
shrouds  transverse wires or ropes that support the mast laterally. 
sloop .    
spar  pole, mast, or boom, that supports a sail. 
spinnaker  a large, light, balloon-shaped sail set forward of the mainsail when running before the wind. 
splice  to join ropes or wires by unlaying the strands and interweaving them.
spreaders  horizontal spar attached to the mast, which extend the shrouds and stays and help to support the mast. 
standing rigging  the shrouds and stays which are permanently set up and support the masts. 
starboard  right-hand side of a boat looking forward towards the bow (opposite of port). 
starboard tack  tack on which the wind strikes the starboard side first and the boom is out to port. 
stay  wire or rope which supports the mast in a fore-and-aft direction; part of the standing rigging. 
staysail  sail set on a stay inboard of the forwardmost sail. 
step  a recess into which the fell of the mast is placed. 
stern  after end of a boat. 
stringer  a fore-and-aft member, fitted to strengthen the frames. 
sunfish .    
tack  the lower forward corner of the sail, where the luff and the foot meet; also the diagonal made with the wind by a sailboat when close-hauled, (to change from one tack to another by coming about). 
tacking  working to windward by sailing close-hauled on alternate courses so that the wind is first on one side of the boat, then on the other. 
tell-tales  small lengths of wood sewn through a sail near the luff and leech to allow the air flow over the sail to be checked. 
tender  see dinghy.  
tiller  short piece of wood by which the rudder is turned. 
topsides  the part of a boat's hull which is above the waterline. 
transom  a flat surface at the back of the hull to which the rudder is attached.
traveller  a slide which travels on a track and is used for altering sheet angles. 
trim  to adjust the angle of the sails. 
true wind  the direction and speed of the wind felt when stationary, at anchor or on land.
wake  a boat's track, behind. 
waterline  the line along the hull at which a boat floats. 
weather windward,  opposite of leeward. 
weather helm  boat with a tendency to swing into the wind unless held on course
weather side  the side of a boat on which the wind is blowing. 
whisker pole  a light pole used to hold out the clew of a headsail when running.
winch  a mechanical device, consisting usually of a metal drum turned by a handle, around which a line is wound to give the crew more "help" when tightening a line. 



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