“If you can sail in Lake Ontario, you can sail anywhere.”
I can’t tell you how many times we have heard this. Perhaps it is just a my-place-is-better-than-your-place kind of thing, or perhaps it is true. I do know that we appear to live in the land of wind shifts. There is definitely no setting the sails and relaxing for hours around here.
Everyone knows that sailing has its own jargon or vocabulary. One of the things we were introduced to during our sailing course is the language that sailors use to describe changes in wind direction, specifically veering, backing, headers and lifts.
The first two that I listed, veering and backing, were relatively simple for me to get. A veering wind is one that has shifted clockwise (ex. north-east to east) while a backing wind would be the opposite, a counter-clockwise shift in direction (east to north-east).
The second two, headers and lifts, were a bit harder for me to grasp as they initially seemed to describe the same thing. That isn’t really the case though. As all sailors know, you can’t sail directly at the wind. The closest point of sail that we can move forward on is called close hauled. When you are trying to get to a destination that is directly upwind of where you are, you must sail a zig-zag pattern towards it. This is called beating. So, assuming that we are beating towards a destination, sailing as close to the wind as we can (close hauled) and the wind shifts towards our bow (the front of the boat), we would need to steer further away from our destination to keep moving (or tack). This is called a header. If, however, the wind shifted away from our bow, we would then be able to point even closer to our destination. This good thing is called a lift. Note that either of these shifts could be veering or backing, depending on which tack we are sailing on.
Dealing with wind shifts like I am describing was a huge part of yesterday’s sailing, or for that matter, any day out on the water around here.
Note: Standard disclaimer applies here. We’re pretty new at this, including how to talk like a sailor. If any of the above is incorrect feel free to make fun of me and point out the errors.