Just Add Water

Talk Like a Sailor

Lessons for the sailing novice


If you have always wanted to learn a new language, but just don’t have the ear for it, maybe you are trying the wrong language. Forget listening to the CDs in your car on the way to work or practicing with flashcards. Just by using the language you already know, you can learn the entirely new language of sailing. What better time to do it than this summer? 

Unlike a real language, though, you do not need to spend time learning parts of speech, gender nouns, or even full phrases. Learning the language of sailing will be easy: you have your right and left (starboard and port), front and back (bow and stern). Regattas are races. Topsiders are shoes. Nantucket Red is the uniform color, and whales will be your team’s mascot, imprinted all over your belts and shorts. With these terms alone you’ll be able to make your way through any conversation in the yacht club (aka any bar near the water). 

Why is there no better time than now? Simply because of all the events that will be happening on the water this summer. The bicentennial of the War of 1812 is being celebrated alongside the return of the Tall Ships, a leg of the America’s Cup races is returning to our waters, and with the 29 (by one count) yacht clubs in the state, there is no excuse not to join in on the fun. 

Now everyone has probably heard all the sayings like, “Sailing is the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill while slowly going nowhere at great expense” or that the acronym for boat is “break off another thousand,” but the great part of sailing is that it is what you make it. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, competitive or laid back, a complete beginner or an expert, sailing is for everybody. There are programs for everybody, there are different types of boats for everybody and, after all, you do live in Southern New England. 

Let’s be honest, with over 400 miles of coastline and a state that is only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long, you are never far from a place to enjoy watching or joining the wind harvesters. And if fear is holding you back, start with a pond, and eventually you’ll make it out to the not-so-rough waters of the Sakonnet River. So with no Rosetta Stone to rely on, don those seersucker or madras shorts, head down to the coast and launch yourself into that new language.


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