Start sailing

Want to start sailing in Holland? Never sailed before ?
No problem. You can join a sailing trip as a (learning) crew or sign-up for a sailing course.

In this article we describe how you can start sailing: how to get acquainted with sailing and also what your next steps can be if you want to develop further. Here we put our focus specifically on cruising sailing and cruising yachts and to a lesser extent – on the dinghies and open boats.

As you can imagine, there are various types of sailing yachts: from tiny Optimists made for children or small dinghies with just one sail to large ships that need many crew to sail them. Here are some details about the ones that are most popular for cruising or day sailing:

Open boat

Start to sail - ValkIf you want to start sailing in The Netherlands and to begin small, take a lesson on an open boat like Valk. It’s good for up to 4 people, it’s pretty safe and stable too. Some boats can be equipped with an outboard engine to help you get out on open water or to get back in the harbour. Depending on your prior knowledge and ability to learn, chances are that you will be able to sail by yourself after a day or two of training.

The best waters to sail with this boat are inshore lakes and canals because there are usually no waves, these areas are protected from heavy winds and a shore is never too far away. Besides that, if you like simple sleeping outside in secluded nature spots, there is a possibility to sleep on such a boat while attaching a cover to the boom and therefore making an improvised tent.

Cruising sailing yacht

For more intense emotions, spacious waters, more comfort and finally for longer trips you can join a trip or sign-up for a course on a cruising sailing yacht. These yachts also vary in size. The favorite sizes for cruising are from approximately 30 ft (9 meter) to 40 ft (12 meter). In terms of sailing areas, one can sail on these boats in all larger waters in The Netherlands like IJsselmeer, Markermeer, Wadden Sea, Zeeland and even on the North Sea. (See our page “Sailing areas in The Netherlands” that describes these areas)

Start to sail - Sailing cruiserSailing cruisers are mostly suitable for 4 to 8 persons and have sleeping cabins for all the crew. Furthermore, yachts are usually comfortably equipped. There is a stove, refrigerator, galley with a sink, boat toilet cabin which also generally has a washstand and a shower in it. (A limited reserve of) gas, water and electricity helps sailors feel not to be too far from civilization. In the main cabin one of course will find a table with sitting places to enjoy meals and cozy evening drinks and discussions. And finally, for the navigation purposes there is also a separate navigation corner available on these boats. 

To give you a better idea about a cruising sailing yacht, here are a few pictures of the interior:

Cruising sailing yacht: Cabin Cruising sailing yacht: washstand Cruising sailing yacht: galley Cruising sailing yacht: front cabin Cruising sailing yacht: Rear cabin

Sailing trip

So what can one expect from a usual sailing trip? Here is an example:

After having slept on a boat, you wake up with the sound of water splashing gently against the boat hull. Then – a quick shower, morning wash, and maybe a walk or a dive. (The most Dutch marina’s have modern comfortable facilities, and of course the shower cabin on the boat can be used as well) Coffee/tea, cozy breakfast with fellow sailors – in the main cabin or if the weather permits – outside in the cockpit while enjoying the views of the place where the yacht is moored.

If you’re a beginner, now it’s time to learn the boat and to spend some time understanding safety rules and measures. The itinerary for the day gets planned/confirmed while taking into account the weather forecast, wind strength and direction, the goal of the trip, abilities of the crew and finally personal wishes.

As the yacht is prepared to sail, the docking lines are cast off and the journey begins. First, we get out to open waters under engine. Then the sails go up. When the wind fills up the sails, our boat picks up some speed and the engine goes off. From this moment – it’s all about sailing and enjoying!

As a crew, you will have some tasks on the boat, for example: handle fenders and lines, hoist sails or keeping a lookout.  Chances are you will like steering the most :-). During the trip you will learn various sailing maneuvers, tricks and new words.

How far?

The day format and the distances can be defined individually. In general, you can count on 4 to 6 hours sailing per day plus maybe an hour for a lunch stop (on the water, at anchor or in a harbour). With an average wind strength, a typical yacht will make 4 to 7 knots of speed. (These are nautical miles per hour – yes, we’re starting to learn already). Depending on the wind direction and wind speed, an average day sailing trip will come to approximately 15 to 25 nautical miles. To give you an idea, in the Netherlands this can be for example a trip from Volendam to Enkhuizen or from Lemmer to Hoorn.

When arrived at the destination, the boat gets prepared for the night and then the tired but happy crew can relax in the cockpit with a “docking beer” in the hand while enjoying the sunset. Or maybe you will want to stroll through the streets of a picturesque town where the yacht is moored? The choice is yours! For the dinner, the crew can to go to a pub or a restaurant or to cook and have a meal on the boat while sharing impressions of a lovely and active day on the water.

What do I need on a sailing trip?

Depending on the time of the year, the nature and the duration of your sailing trip, you will need to take different kind of clothes on the trip. Take into account that it’s always colder while on the water than on land. Because storage space on a boat is limited, it makes sense to take your belongings with you in a soft bag rather than in a hard case. Although there is no universal list of things you would require during a sailing trip, here we have tried to give you an overview of the most needed items:

  • Sunglasses – Preferably polarized. Light and the UV radiation get reflected by the water and will have negative effect on your eyes if not protected.
  • Sun cream – On the water your skin will get burnt even quicker than on land.
  • Lip balm
  • Cap / hood – Preferably with straps.
  • Sailing gloves – (can also be fitness gloves) to prevent burns on your hands due to potential lines slipping through your hands.
  • Sleeping bag – The best option for sleeping if not in a tropical climate.
  • Shoes – With a light and non-marking sole, preferably anti-slipping.
  • Sea sickness pills – in case you’re prone to sea sickness.
  • Photo camera – For all your beautiful sailing pictures!

If it’s cold or if it’s raining, it’s wise to have a sailing suit on.  You will stay dry and warm which is very important for a successful and enjoyable trip. You can buy one or you can often rent one. Many charter companies have sailing suits for rent per day.

Next steps ?

Have you enjoyed your first sailing adventure and do you want to sail on? Here are some possibilities:

  • Sailing courses
  • Find other boats, join as crew
  • Charter a boat
  • Buy a boat

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