Learning to Sail: Is Sailing in the Blood, or are Lessons Necessary?

On Monday 12th June, 2017, Total Croatia Sailing sent me to take over from Tash Peričić in an effort to learn how to sail in a few days. As a proud Dalmatian man who went to Maritime School and spent 8 months in the Croatian Navy, I assumed this was child's play. On Monday I took to the water with Ultra-Sailing School in Split, and did not get what I expected.

When Tash asked me if I was ready for taking the task of a trainee in the sailing school by Ultra-Sailing in Split, I felt a bit insulted – “hey you, Kiwi immigrant, I am Dalmatian all the way, I have sailing in my blood.”

She asked me if I had any experience in sailing, so I had to admit the fact – my only sailing experience was a couple weeks on a sailboat, and my only task onboard was to ensure there was enough cold beer on the boat.

I considered my background; my roots are on the island of Brač, and my ancestors certainly sailed there, as that was the only means of transportation in the 13th century, when my family first inhabited Brač – surely this means something?

There is a matter of my scholastic background too; I graduated Maritime High School in Split and not to finish there, while serving in the army, eight of my ten months were spent proudly in the Croatian Navy.

And yet, I do not actually know how to sail.

I can row, I can swim, I know how to steer the rudder, but never ever did I sail on my own. I do not even get the basic science behind it all.

So, my first encounter with Toni Bušić was a funny one. He tried to explain to me that sailing is easier while going into the wind rather than going with the wind in the stern. I thought that Tash and Paul tried to set me up for an episode of “Punk’d”, but he was persistent with his claim, even though I did not believe a word he was saying.

toni teaching.jpg

After he explained the difference between the stern and the bow, he tried to confuse with me with a number of knots needed to start sailing – although I already ‘knew’ one is enough (note: one is not enough and I learned this the hard way), we embarked the Beneteau 31.7 sailboat and went to sea.


Here is where it gets really complicated – my agreement with Tash was that I send her my daily experience from sailing school as I get back home. The day ended and it took me 48 hours to collect the strength to pick up my laptop and write an article. At least a close to comprehensive one.

Sailing is hard, people. Do not approach it carelessly as I did. I got there, full of confidence, a middle-aged Dalmatian guy, cocky and know-it-all attitude all over.

And then, it started. Just after we raised the main sail, I was close to going for a swim and it was only pure luck that saved me from going overboard; then the hard work began. At first, I was in charge of the jib, after a while my hands got sore, my skin was burning and I was feeling sea-sick – not that I would ever admit this in public.

I love bikes, not bicycles, real bikes. I love the feeling of the wind in my face and, after a while, once I started to grasp what on earth I was doing on the boat, I started to understand – “boy, this is great, I feel the wind in my face, I hear nothing but the waves and the wind whistling past the sails, I am sailing.”

So, after being completely exhausted after my first day at sea and realizing that there is a LOT more to sailing than I ever gave credit for – is it worth the effort and is sailing school really necessary to learn how to sail? Read more tomorrow.

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