Can You Sail A Sailboat By Yourself? 9 Things To Consider

Can You Sail A Sailboat By Yourself?

Sailing by yourself is enjoyable and rewarding, and many dreams about heading out to sea to sail their boat alone. You might already have spent hours thinking about being on the water with the sun on your face while the wind fills the sails to the sound of your boat pushing through the waves.

The freedom to not rely on anyone but yourself to enjoy fantastic sailing appeals to many. But is it possible to sail a boat with just one person? From experience, I can tell you this:

It is possible to sail a sailboat by yourself as long as you have basic sailing skills and know how to operate the systems on your boat. It is also essential to consider your safety a high priority by making sure your boat and equipment are in good shape and knowing how to operate your VHF radio if you need to call for help or assistance.

Sailing solo is probably more common than you might think, and it is a delightful experience that gives you great freedom and achievement. It is also great for growing your sailing skills as you only have yourself to rely on in every situation. I say this from my own experience as I sail solo and have many friends doing the same.

Sailing solo
Sailing Ellidah Solo

Essential Aspects to Consider When Sailing By Yourself

I don’t recommend anyone to go solo sailing without any prior experience. You need to learn and master many aspects of sailing before you are ready to take them on by yourself. It is, for example, wise to practice maneuvering the boat in and out of a marina or harbor and learn to operate all the systems. It is also essential to understand how a sailboat and its sails work, and many countries require a boating license.

Bring some friends the first few times or sail with others until you get to an experience level where you feel comfortable handling a sailboat yourself. You can even enter a sailing course in your local area or walk around the marina to ask if anyone needs a hand on their boat.

Reading up on some basic sailing theory also goes a long way, and I recommend you to take a look at The Sailors Guide To Nautical Terms. This guide will take you through the basics of the boat and prepare you well for your first sailing adventure.

Now let’s take a look at some factors of safety.

First sailing experience
My first sailing experience was as a crew

9 Important Safety Considerations For Sailing Solo

Before you head off to take your sailboat out by yourself, there are essential things you need to consider for your safety. If unprepared, your sailing adventure can turn into a nightmare of surprises, danger, and intimidating situations.

However, if you prepare well, you should be well set for most situations. Here is a list of things you should consider before you head out sailing solo:

  1. Check the local weather forecast and understand the maritime conditions in the intended area.
    There are great sailing apps for this freely available, and I wrote an article with my recommendations that you can read here: The Only 5 Sailing Apps You Need

  2. Inform someone that you intend to sail by yourself and where you are going.
    It will make it easier for people to help or assist you if you get into a bad situation. Notifying someone might be as simple as announcing your trip on social media.

  3. Make sure your sailboat is prepared and set up in a way that makes it easy to handle for one person. You should be able to hoist, reef, and manage the sails by yourself in a straightforward manner, preferably from the cockpit. Make a sound system for handling mooring lines while entering and exiting your marina or dock.

  4. Check that your safety equipment is in good condition and that your VHF radio is working.
    The safety equipment includes your clothing, life jacket, clip-on lines, your boat’s safety lines, life raft, and VHF radio. If you intend to do extended sailing offshore, it is a good idea to have an AIS, EPIRB, and a form of satellite communication.

  5. Do an inspection of all systems on your sailboat to make sure everything is ship shape.
    Check your engine, steering, bilge pumps, fire extinguishers, sails, rig, and instruments to make sure everything is ship shape.

  6. Work out an ICE plan – In Case of Emergency.
    Having a plan in case something goes wrong or breaks is smart and makes it easier to act accordingly if the accident happens. It would be best if you worked out this based on your skill level and physical fitness. The plan should include what to do if you fall overboard, if a line snaps or your engine breaks down, et cetera. Take your time on this point and consider everything that can go wrong. Things break underway, and it is essential to know how to handle a situation on the go.

  7. Make a packing list – Food, water, clothing to keep you warm, and items necessary for the trip.
    Sailing solo can be physically challenging, and keeping yourself hydrated and fed is vital to avoid fatigue. Whether you plan to sail for a few hours or days, having these things available is a must. Consider what clothing is necessary to keep you warm and items to keep you comfortable, like a torch, pillows, blankets, camera gear, sunscreen, et cetera.

  8. Have a good set of tools onboard for making repairs.
    Do not leave the port without tools to help you fix things that may break underway. A set of screwdrivers, spanners and a selection of pliers will get you a long way. Duct tape and tie wraps are also highly convenient.

  9. Bring crucial spare parts for your sailboat.
    Having extra lines and rope onboard is helpful in several situations. Additional fuel filters, impellers, a spare bilge pump, and winch handles are essential. It is good practice to critically assess the condition of your boat and systems to figure out which spares you should bring.
Racing solo
I was racing this boat single-handedly – Excellent sailing practice

How Hard Is It To Sail Alone?

The next question you probably have is how difficult it will be when you get out there by yourself. When you sail alone, you only have yourself and your sailboat to rely on. You will realize that tasks that are easy for two or more people to handle may be more challenging to do yourself.

Sailing alone can be challenging unless your sailboat is configured to be sailed single-handedly. Luckily, you can set up your boat to make it easier to sail by yourself, like having all lines lead back to the cockpit, a reliable autopilot, and good sailing instruments.

With good physical fitness and the ability to focus on safety and shifting conditions, you should easily be able to sail your boat alone.


This article looks at a few important aspects of sailing alone. I advise you to get some basic sailing experience and familiarize yourself with the different systems on your sailboat. Read up on fundamental theory and take time to consider the safety aspects. With good preparation and planning, you will enjoy your single-handed sailing adventure before you know it. I do it, and so can you – I highly recommend it!

Check out the posts from my sailing journey from beginner to experienced here!

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