Life Lessons Learned from Sailing
by Mike Thoney
Those of us who sail have learned many things on a boat besides the names of various pieces of hardware, how to tie knots, and sailing terms used to communicate among crewmembers. We might not always realize that we have learned and continue to learn beyond the physical boundaries of the boat, but we do, and whether you sail together as a family, or are part of a crew on a race boat, here are some of the beneficial things that happen aboard a boat which can translated to real life experiences and events. These lessons are fitting for kids and adults alike, and are but a few of the reasons that sailing is a great way to spend leisure time.
Sailing teaches us to be prepared. Because there are always some unknowns involved with being on the water, we learn to be ready to anticipate and deal with things that we might not experience at home, school, or work. A prepared sailor will likely be more prepared for unexpected things that pop up in everyday life as well.
Sailing teaches teamwork. If the crew on a sailboat doesn’t act as a team, the boat will not perform to its fullest potential. Everyone on a sailboat must work together to make sailing easier, faster, and more fun for everyone aboard, which helps us to learn the importance of working well with others as we go through our daily routines.
Sailing teaches patience. If you’ve ever been trying to reach a port that is in sight but the wind is dying or changing directions, you know and understand the importance of being patient and dealing with the situation. Oftentimes in these situations, you learn alternative ways to play the cards you’ve been dealt.
Sailing teaches decision-making. If you’re in charge of a boat, you will be making decisions for the good of the boat and the crew, and you have to learn to make the right ones so that you can get to your destination safely, quickly, and have fun doing it. Your crew will appreciate the fact that you are making the right choices, especially in less than ideal sailing conditions.
Sailing teaches communication. Once you make those decisions mentioned above, it is important to be able to make your crew understand what has to be done aboard the boat to make things work the way they should. If you can do this on a boat, you can do it at school, at home, or on your job.
Sailing teaches confidence. There is confidence in knowing that you have made the choices that make your boat move through the water in light wind, or to get you home safely when something breaks or when the weather turns ugly. You will gain the confidence in knowing that your knowledge of your boat and its environment will make the experience more enjoyable for everyone aboard.
Sailing teaches responsibility. You, as a captain of your boat, are responsible for the safety of the boat and all aboard, and you are the person to whom they will look when the time comes do anything related to the operation of your boat.
Sailing teaches honesty and the importance of playing by the rules. There are certain ways to act and things that must be done aboard a sailboat, and even more so aboard a racing sailboat. There are strict rules that must be followed to be successful, and you have to play by these rules, for there is honor involved, and no one who cheats in a race will ever have the respect of his or her competitors. This is an important lesson that is learned early by junior sailors, and one that usually stays with them for life.
Sailing teaches us how to deal with the unknown and to operate in a constantly changing environment. The old saying – “You can’t fool Mother Nature” is especially true on the water, and sailing is a great way to learn that. We cannot control weather, and we don’t always experience the weather that we would like, so a sailboat becomes an excellent classroom for learning how to handle unexpected situations and changes on the water. This also flows over to everyday life, because if you learn to confidently and competently handle unknowns on the water, it becomes easier to handle unexpected changes that occur daily.
These are merely a few of the beneficial lessons to gain from our experiences aboard a sailboat, and there are certainly many more if we think about it a bit. All the more reasons to learn to sail, get aboard a sailboat and start enjoying a lifestyle that is not only fun, but can enrich the lives of your entire family!
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