Start Keelboat Sailing

Location of course: English Bay
Cost: $425. Includes course fee and workbook. (Deposit: $141.00)


To be able to sail safely as crew of a sloop rigged keelboat 6 to 12 meters with an outboard or inboard motor in 5 – 20 knots (not gusting over 25 knots) of wind by day.



Ashore Knowledge

Section I: Terms and Definitions
The candidate must be able to:

  1. Identify and describe the following:
Hull and keel
Bow, beam and stern
Deck, cabin and companion way
Cockpit and self-bailing cockpit
Rudder and tiller/wheel
Gudgeons and pintles
Rudder post
Mast and boom
Shrouds and stays
Tangs and turnbuckles
Standing rigging
Roller and slab reefing
Spring and breast lines
Boom vang and topping lift
Shackles and fairleads
Cleats and winches
Pulpit and pushpit
Stanchions and lifelines
Main, jib and storm jib
Genoa and spinnaker
Head, tack and clew
Luff, foot and leech
Battens, hanks and slides
Cringles and reef points
Running rigging
Sheets and halyards
Outhaul and cunningham
Roller furling
Masthead fly
  1. Describe the following:
    Ahead, abeam and astern, forward and aft;
  2. Define and be able to identify these terms:
Starboard Luffing (of sail)
Windward Close hauled
Leeward Beating
Tacking Running
Gybing Sailing by the lee
Port tack Heading up
Starboard tack Bearing away
Reaching (Close, beam and broad)
In irons
Luffing (of sail)
Close hauled
Sailing by the lee
Heading up
Bearing away

Section II: Weather
The candidate must be able to:

  1. Identify the wind direction by pointing to it, using their senses.
  2. State three sources of marine weather information;
  3. Interpret the marine weather forecast applicable to the area of operation, and describe how to apply the information as follows:
    1. Decide what changes are forecast for the next six hours and what effect these should have on the day’s planned activities,
    2. Choosing the appropriate clothing suited for the day’s weather conditions;
  4. Identify the wind speeds associated with:
Light winds
Strong wind warning
Moderate winds
Gale warning
Strong winds
Storm warning

Section III: Duties of the Skipper and Crew
The candidate must be able to:

  1. List the main responsibilities of the skipper and crew as listed below:

    1. Safety of crew and boat,
    2. Briefing on location and operation of lifesaving and other safety equipment prior to getting underway,
    3. Assigning duties,
    4. Instruction in the safe use of the boat’s equipment while underway,
    5. Obligations on observing an accident or vessel in distress,
    6. Actions to demonstrate respect for other boaters and other’s property,


    1. Obey skipper,
    2. Assist skipper.


Afloat Skills

Section IV: Preliminaries
The candidate must be able to:

  1. Demonstrate on land the correct method of putting on a personal flotation device in the water;
  2. Demonstrate the correct use of a heaving line;
    1. Carry out a check of the vessel’s required (Safe Boating Guide) and recommended equipment in accordance with the Sail Canada Cruising Boat Checklist,
    2. Demonstrate use and care of onboard equipment,
    3. Proper stowage of the equipment;
  3. Complete a pre-departure checklist;
  4. Bend on, check and stow sails;
  5. Safely manoeuvre around the boat, at all times, maintaining appropriate hand holds.

Section V: Manoeuvring Under Power
The candidate must be able to:

  1. Demonstrate safe care and control of the helm;
  2. Maintain a required course and alter course to new heading(s) when requested.

Section VI: Handling Under Sail
The candidate must be able to:

  1. Hoist the basic sails while under power (head to wind, hoist mainsail first), set appropriate luff tensions, and flake halyards;
  2. Act as crew (both as trimmer and helm) while demonstrating the proper techniques of beating, reaching and running; tacking and gybing; heading up, bearing away, luffing and heaving to; using the following commands and responses:
    “Head Up”
    “Bear Away”
    “Ease Sheets”
    “Harden Sheets”
    “Ready About”
    “Ready to Gybe”




  3. Demonstrate, as crew, the management of the sail plan for different wind conditions while keeping the vessel under control, either at the helm or controlling the sails by:
    1. Reefing and shaking out the reef in the mainsail,
    2. Reefing and shaking out the reef, or changing the headsail;
  4. Understands and participates as crew the actions/commands from the time a member of the crew falls overboard without warning, until the crew is safely recovered. Consider the crew overboard is wearing a PFD and able to assist him/herself. Include the following minimum actions:
    1. Sound alarm “Crew Overboard!”,
    2. Deploy marker and buoyant object(s),
    3. Appoint and maintain a look out,
    4. Triangle method of return (under sail),
    5. Describe at least two methods of getting a person out of the water and back aboard;
  5. Lower sail while under power.

Section V: Manoeuvring Dockside or at Mooring
The candidate must be able to:

  1. Demonstrate line preparation and safe line handling while undocking and docking;
  2. Demonstrate the correct way to board and disembark the vessel in a safe manor;
  3. Properly stow lines and fenders, once underway;
  4. Participate in securing a vessel to a dock to prevent excessive movement using appropriate dock lines and set out fenders correctly.

Section VI: Seamanship
The candidate must be able to:

  1. Demonstrate safe winch techniques with particular emphasis on:
    1. Prevention of excessive strain on sheet/halyard,
    2. How to avoid over-riding turns (and how to clear),
    3. Position of hands/fingers,
    4. Fitting and removal of winch handles.
  2. Coil a line and secure (sea coil);
  3. Tie the following knots, bends and hitches within 30 seconds each:
    1. Figure Eight,
    2. Bowline,
    3. Round Turn & Two Half Hitches,
    4. Reef knot,
    5. Belay a cleat;
  4. Flake sails, stow equipment and put the boat to bed.


Resource Material

Sail Canada Basic Cruising Skills by Gillian West
Performance Sailing and Racing by Steve Colgate
source: copyright Sail Canada.