Teaching it --- useful tips?

nolatom

Super Anarchist
3,519
556
New Orleans
Sailing.  I've taught it off and on over the years, or done lessons on the water, and on land.  

Presently I'm helping out occasionally at the new Community Sailing program here in "Nola".  Gig tomorrow for "adult introduction to sailing (keelboats)", 2 hours.  It'll be on land for the first session, parts of the boat and sails, how it works on various points of sail, diagrams to give out on both.  

Keelboats are Freedom 21, a bunch of 420s, couple of Lasers, and one small 26-foot overnighter.  Very nice facility.  And the marina location means frequent tacks or jibes, it has historically been a "sailing marina", not just a marina with some (auxiliary) sailboats.  Getting from dock to "outside" Lake means sailing west, then north, then east.  Which makes for good boathandling experience in tight quarters, borne of necessity.

So--Tell them how it works reaching, running, beating, the "push" versus the "pull" aspect of wind and sails. Bernoulli's principle if any aviators or engineers in the (small) crowd.  If time, rig up a 420, and breeze permitting, rotate it around on the dolly to illustrate the points of sail and trim on an actual boat.

 Enough blabbing from me.  Any particular tips or ideas or phrases for the beginner on-shore class that you've learned or used  and might suggest, in keeping interest and attention alive for the students?  And in not laying too much on them in the first session?  Or too little?  thanks for any wisdom or insight.

 
Last edited by a moderator:

stief

Super Anarchist
8,118
2,440
Sask Canada
Quick thought: Biggest barrier for really new newbies is the wind. Most of them don't understand that sailors are constantly and unconsciously aware of direction and variation. 

So, in the parking lot, the most basic and useful skill newbies appreciate is learning to "see" the breeze . . .

Get them to call the direction and changes, using the feel of the breeze on their cheeks, and make it a game.

They'll go home and impress their fellows with their new found nautical skills :)  

(this also helps the instructor learn who needs what kind of help)

 

Breamerly

Member
398
110
Quick thought: Biggest barrier for really new newbies is the wind. Most of them don't understand that sailors are constantly and unconsciously aware of direction and variation. 
+1

Continually amazed at how unconscious this is for folks who sail - and how invisible it is to people who don't.

 

stief

Super Anarchist
8,118
2,440
Sask Canada
Another quick bit that students find cool--have then hold two pieces of paper slightly apart (finger-width works), and see if they can blow between them to get the two pieces to separate. They are usually puzzled when the pieces counter-intuitively want to come together. 

Good way to teach that sails can suck, not just blow :)  . Easier than aerodynamic theory.

 
Last edited by a moderator:

Tax Man

Super Anarchist
1,928
299
Toronto
rig up a 420, and breeze permitting, rotate it around on the dolly to illustrate the points of sail and trim on an actual boat.
Start with this - they are much more likely to absorb your blabbering with "show and tell" instead of a lecture.  After they see what happens you can go back through the theory and they have the pictures.

 

Breamerly

Member
398
110
Too, newbies find it cool calling gusts on the water, once they can "see" gusts coming by the catspaws (etc) 
Even sailing with my significant other, who has been sailing with me of and on for 5+ years, I notice she has to 'watch' the wind in a way I just don't. I feel where the wind is coming from, and by looking at the sails I can see where it is in relation to the (and vice-versa). She has that sometimes - but other times I can see she still has to stop, look at where it's coming from, then orient that to the centerline of the boat and the set of the sails.

Still remember sailing as a teenager with a crusty old wooden boat fella who mocked me for looking at the anemometer when the sails luffed. 

 

nolatom

Super Anarchist
3,519
556
New Orleans
Grateful for the tips so far, thanks gang. 

 I'm aware there are different learning "styles"--visual, kinetic, auditory, reading/writing---because I looked it up.  So I guess I try to shape teaching or hands-on accordingly, but I probably don't.  Honestly, I prefer to take them out, let them steer and trim and ease and tack and jibe their asses off, then let them read and find out afterwards how the book is "right".   Maybe because that's how I learned. 

Had a Turnabout back in the stone age, no lessons other than sailing with family where Dad usually steered.  The kids at the Pleon YC got the classroom teaching, I, a "townie", didn't, just kept sailing that little 9-footer until I knew it as if i was wearing it for clothes.  Then started racing and getting killed by the better ones (the Doyle brothers, among others) on boatspeed and tactics, til I learned those the hard way.  Then dinghy racing in  College, then Coaching them during grad school.

I still don't have an ASA Cert, it didn't exist back then.  I suppose I should.

I don't suggest this as the right way.  It just happened to work though.  But I have to realize not everyone will want to do it in that order.

 

tizak

Member
My $.02 is to connect the compass to the wind and landmarks. Throw in brief info concerning typical prevailing conditions / compass directions and what usually happens when other than typical weather is afoot.

 

sledracr

Super Anarchist
4,734
825
PNW, ex-SoCal
Quick thought: Biggest barrier for really new newbies is the wind. Most of them don't understand that sailors are constantly and unconsciously aware of direction and variation. 
+1

For really-really-really newbies, before getting on a boat I put a fan (like, literally, an electric fan) on a table and tell them it's where the wind comes from.  Gives them a context for understanding going upwind (towards the fan), tacking (turning the boat so the fan goes from one side of the bow to the other), etc. 

Really shallow, but super-effective, and it "sticks" - once we get out on the water, if a student is confused I ask "ok, so, where's the fan right now?"... and when they get good at paying attention to where the wind is coming from, a lot of other stuff gets unlocked.

 

TJSoCal

Super Anarchist
I agree, keep whiteboard time in the first session to a minimum. Getting out into the yard with a rigged 420 on a dolly is more important than explaining Bernoulli. You can teach parts of the boat, terminology (port, starboard, etc.), wind direction, points of sail and sail trim in that setting probably more effectively than in the classroom.

Might emphasize "when in doubt, let it out." Ease sheets until the sail starts to luff, then trim in until they just stop. I expect most beginners tend to overtrim.

One of the first things my dad taught me was if things start to go pear-shaped, push everything (tiller, sheets) away from you.

 

d'ranger

Super Anarchist
28,716
4,016
Good stuff, i teach informally and welcome being taught. Since I mainly race I like to start with my 3 rules

1. have fun

2. be competitive

3. learn something   

  I strive for those every time I go out.  The worst to teach are those who bought a boat with all the electronics and won't get their head out of the boat - a sail maker years ago shared how his coach would blindfold him to learn how to feel.  So much has to be felt beyond what can be seen. If someone wants to learn I try to ask questions to ascertain what they know as it then helps to correct anything wrong right away.  The best learning is a mix of theory and practical as you mentioned earlier better to get some practical in then study to see how it applies and reinforce it.  Asking questions is helpful also since if they can't explain it they don't really know it (also applies to me as I have learned over the years).  Someone somewhere also explained the only way to really know something is to teach it and students coaching each other gets that started as well.

And remember #1 is the most important.

 

sledracr

Super Anarchist
4,734
825
PNW, ex-SoCal
...take them out, let them steer and trim and ease and tack and jibe their asses off, then let them read and find out afterwards how the book is "right"
IME, that works great with kids who have sponges for brains and no conceptual barriers.  For older learners, people will tend to think of things in terms of "stuff I already know won't work", and it's sometimes difficult to get them around those barriers.

My approach (back in the day) was to layer the topics.  My theory was that there are a number of discrete steps in the journey, and until someone really "gets" a step the next one will be confusing.

So.... things like
-- steering (knowing which way the boat will turn when you move the tiller)
-- using that knowledge to adjust the boat's orientation to the wind
-- using that to add in adjusting the sails to suit the boat's direction
-- adding "feel" as a way of noticing that the sails and boat and wind are working together

...etc

 

Steam Flyer

Super Anarchist
40,957
7,983
Eastern NC
I've found that getting them to DO stuff is much more effective that telling or showing them. Boat parts & terminology... play "snipe hunt" with a short list of basic boat parts... rudder, tiller, boom, mast, side stay, fore stay, gun'l, port jib sheet, starboard, jib sheet, main halyard, centerboard, vang, jib halyard, main sheet... I have a box with little pieces of paper that they draw and hunt.

Rig and hoist the sail. Practice steering while in the slip. Practice tacking, once it looks like they've got some slight familiarity with steering.

The more familiar they are with the basic workings of the boat, BEFORE going out to do battle with the gods of wind and sea, the less they are going to struggle with yanking on the vang thinking it's the jib sheet, turning the wrong way into a crash gybe, etc etc.

The first on-water maneuver I like to teach is to bring the boat to a controlled stop.

We're getting geared up to do an adult sailing course this summer, hopefully it will work out

The main lesson I always go back to, once we're no longer struggling with "what does this rope do" and "how do I stop falling out of the boat," is WIND DIRECTION. For some reason this is very elusive for many people.

Warning: Always use the SAME simple terminology. One of the biggest blunders I always see in sailing classes is the instructors using 4 different words for the same thing. Yeah we have to learn that, at some point, "luff" means the front of the sail and it also means "turn the bow towards the wind (which way is the wind?)" and it means "head up" etc etc etc. Unless your goal is to confuse the students and convince them that sailing is impossible... and this seems to be the true goal of most sailing instructors I interact with, I think subconsciously it makes them feel smarter.... then DO NOT USE words you have not taught them, repeatedly.

Being a sailing instructor is kind of like being a stage manager. You have to do a lot of work that you will never never get credit for, to make everything seem easy and have student succeed.

FB- Doug

 

d'ranger

Super Anarchist
28,716
4,016
Great point about terminology - understanding nomenclature is key to understanding any subject - makes me think of the scene in Princess Bride where Vizzini yells "pull that thing, no the other thing, sail faster".  When using words the student doesn't understand confusion follows. Then frustration.

 
Last edited by a moderator:

nolatom

Super Anarchist
3,519
556
New Orleans
These are great ideas and viewpoints.  I know I'm stuck on land for this first class.  I'm a fill-in I think, so not sure if I'll keep teaching that adult group.

But there is also a high-school student class who have made it off the parking lot and into the keelboats.  Small rectangle of water to go back and forth in, then a narrow connecting "alley" to the next larger piece of marina water.  

One thing I noticed at first was a couple of them, when told Okay, tacking, push tiller away from you and then change side, would face aft while doing it.  Which in a way  would seem logical to them?  But once told "Nuh uh, face forward, and pass the tiller into the new hand behind your back", they soon they got downright graceful at it.  Teenagers learn fast.  And I'm happy to note that it's a decidedly mixed-race group.  

Even more basic, a few of them try to use their dominant hand/arm on the tiller on both tacks.  I tell them their (usually left) arm is going to become "smart", and equal to that trusty right arm.  Man, I'm grateful I'm not teaching them on a wheel.

 
Last edited by a moderator:

nolatom

Super Anarchist
3,519
556
New Orleans
Well this is ironic.  Just got word tomorrow class is cancelled.  Ah well, there's next time... 

And your feedback is most welcome, and will last til the next outing and all the others after that.

 

nolatom

Super Anarchist
3,519
556
New Orleans
My $.02 is to connect the compass to the wind and landmarks. Throw in brief info concerning typical prevailing conditions / compass directions and what usually happens when other than typical weather is afoot.
Which makes me realize everyone with an iPhone has that "utility" app that has a GPS-based compass, that most have never used.  I do use it.

 
Top