This article is an excerpt from NauticEd’s online Skipper Large Keelboats Course, a comprehensive online sailing course for beginner to intermediate sailors to learn how to sail large sailboats 26 ft (8m) and above. The Skipper Large Keelboats course is part of the Skipper Course Bundle of online courses, also teaching you how to master maneuvering under power and docking!

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Motor Sailing

If the wind is light and your time is short you might want to consider motor sailing—using your auxiliary engine for propulsion, sometimes in conjunction with your sail(s). When using sails and engine power, be careful to make sure the boat does not heel to the point where the water intake comes out of the water. You will burn out the water impeller and damage the engine.

If you are sailing directly into the wind in waves or swell, keeping the mainsail up and tightly sheeted will stabilize or at least reduce rocking. Certainly, douse the headsail otherwise it will flog, luff, flap, and make a lot of noise. Also, flogging fatigues the sails and the parts to which they are connected.

For purposes of give-way versus stand-on in the navigation rules of the road, you are now a power vessel, even if your sails are up. When your engine is used for propulsion, the sailing vessel under the rules becomes a power vessel.

Rule 25 (e) also applies: A vessel proceeding under sail when also being propelled by machinery shall exhibit forward where it can best be seen a conical shape, apex downward.

Below, the sailing vessel under power and sail is on a starboard tack, correctly displaying the under-power day shape. She must give way to the port-tack sailing vessel.


motor sailing with cone

Motor Sailing

A Final Word on Sailing

A sailor who refuses to learn is indeed a dangerous sailor. Knowledge of sailing techniques is infinite and continually evolving. It is the heart of sailing. Even if you are experienced, you will continually be adding to your sailing lexicon each time you get on the water. Always keep an open mind, douse your ego, open your eyes, and raise your ears. We guarantee you’ll be a better sailor for it.

You can learn more in the Skipper Course....

Knowledge and theory for longer distances and overnight sailing in diverse conditions. The Skipper Course is a comprehensive online sailing course for beginner to intermediate sailors wanting to learn how to sail larger sailboats 26ft to 56ft. Or upgrade to the Skipper Course Bundle of online courses to also master maneuvering under power and docking!

Source: Skipper
Topic: Sailing Maneuvers
Authors: Grant Headifen, NauticEd Global Director of Education
NauticEd is a fully recognized education and certification platform for sailing students combining online and on-the-water real instruction (and now VR). NauticEd offers +24 online courses, a free sailor's toolkit that includes 2 free courses, and six ranks of certification – all integrated into NauticEd’s proprietary platform. The USCG and NASBLA recognize NauticEd as having met the established American National Standards.