New Sailboat Owner Checklist, Tips, and Advice

Becoming the owner of a New or New to you sailboat can be one of the most exciting days of your life. Being a new sailboat owner, you are now in charge of of the adventure ahead. Preparing yourself, your crew and your vessel is one of the most important parts. You are going to learn lessons, tips and tricks during the entire relationship with a new sailboat, but we wanted to start you off on the right path with pre-launch tips and advice, along with a checklist for new sailboat owners. Here is a checklist of the things you will need as well as the things you will need to note before embarking on your sailing adventure, no matter how big or small.

Keep in mind that there are many things that that will work for you and not for others. Each sailboat is unique just as each sailor is unique. This is a general piece of advice for new sailboat owners to build a foundation of knowledge of off.

What You Want To Put Your Hands On

On Deck Needs

You Need To Know How To

  • Start and operate the engine 
  • Reef your sails 
  • Rig Jack lines 
  • Understand the electrical panel, fuses and circuit breakers.
  • Operate the VHF in case of an emergency
  • Operate electric and manual bilge pumps
  • Produce an ethical plan for any garbage
  • Release halyards

Things To Be Aware Of

  • The boom
  • All persons onboard 
  • Moving carefully on deck. One hand for you, one for the boat
  • Don't block the helm when docking, in port or near busy channels
  • Careful placement of things like equipment, open drinks and food 
  • Be quick to tell the helmsman about anything ahead. It doesnt matter if its a ship or a lobster pot, make it known.  
  • Make sure to turn off the propane safety switch after using the stove. 
  • If the boat policy is to keep the main water panel switch off when not in use, make sure it is off.

If you are an avid sailor, please comment below and offer your experience and advice to the new captains of freedom and adventure!

Feel free to download and keep this checklist onboard.


  • This is an excellent list for new sailboat owners West Marine! Thank you for putting the time into building a proper foundation for new owners. I'd like to also add for the new owners who may be trailering their boats to stay on top of proper trailer maintenance as well. Axles, brakes, electrical and the bunks.

    As far as safety is concerned, personal locater beacons and MOB illuminating beacons are very valuable for any size of boat.

  • I'd highly recommend a quality, heavy duty boat hook pole for any new boat owner. Docks and marinas will oftentimes be the most crowded and intimidating navigating you will encounter. A good boat hook pole will help you dock or moor your boat without risk of hitting someone else or hitting the dock before your fenders are placed. The deck of a sailboat is typically higher than the dock platform so make sure to choose a boat hook pole with an appropriate reach. The boat hook pole is also beneficial in grabbing a mooring buoy or a line from the water.

    This 12' telescoping pole is the same boat hook that I use and it has lasted about 5 years without issue.

  • I've made so many mistakes since day 1 of owning my first sailboat. I am still making mistakes to this day but I am always learning. That is the most important part. Never stop learning.

    I highly recommend joining a sailing club or taking an in-person sailing class. Not only will you gain a lot of valuable information from experienced people, you will meet friends and potential sailing resources that will expedite the learning curve.

    Great read, this new owner checklist has reminded me of a few things I may have been neglecting for some time.

  • I wish someone gave me a list of things to look for and new sailboat owner tips and tricks... I learned the hard way but the lessons are things I will never take for granted or forget because of it. Great starting point for new boat owners. Don't forget to include a proper naming ceremony (or name removal ceremony for an already named boat). Stay in Poseidon's good graces. Here's a link on how to christen a boat properly.

  • Sailor étiquette is something that nobody teaches enough. I wish I had been told about dock etiquette when we purchased our boat. It's a guaranteed way to either make some friends or enemies.

    • Keep your halyard secured in your mooring spot. Nobody wants to hear that line slapping your mast while they're trying to sleep.
    • Don't throw your trash overboard. Even if it's biodegradable trash, some things take weeks or even months to disappear. So keep that in mind when bringing things along. Have a good plan for your trash.
    • Running your generator.... Just be mindful of the hours. Early morning and after dark are just bad times to run your generator. I know it's necessary sometimes, especially for those who need medical equipment to be powered. If you have to run your generator when near others, be mindful. This also goes with music and parties. Sound travels far on the water.
    • Remove your shoes before boarding another boat and always ask permission to come aboard. It's tradition and good etiquette.
    • Keep your dinghy outboard trimmed all the way down when docking. This keeps your prop from damaging other dinghies that may dock behind you.
    • When passing boats with your dinghy, pass across the bow. This allows the bow to absorb your wake and keeps the noise away from the occupants.
    • Be cognizant of other boats in the area and the distance between them. This will indicate how far away from other boats you should be.

  • I highly recommend that all new sailboat owners start and maintain a detailed maintenance log. There are a lot of parts to keep track of and keeping a log of inspections and maintenance will give you a schedule and a routine that will keep you ahead of unforeseen problems. If you have purchased a used boat, make sure to ask the previous owner if they kept a maintenance log as well. If not, make sure to create a very detailed log and go over everything yourself to start fresh.

    That being said, Congratulations on your new sailboat!

  • Excellent list full of excellent tips. @GraceOMalley1530 couldn't have said it better when it comes to sailor etiquette. Sailboat manners are very important. I learned very quickly that every sailor does not want to be your friend and talk sailing. While it is rare, those types of sailors do exist.

    I have purchased 4 boats in my lifetime and one of the most overlooked things on owning a boat is boat storage. Boat storage is one of the biggest expenses of owning a boat. Storing a dock in a marina, boat yard or on a mooring yard can be expensive and there is usually a long wait list to even get a spot. This is something that should be considered well ahead of time. The size of the boat is going to change the slip fee. Prices for a smaller boat in a slip are typically between 300-800 a month depending on where you're located. A mooring ball is much cheaper than a dock but accessing the boat takes a lot more effort.

  • Choose calm and uncrowded waters to get started with a "new to you" sailboat. Just until you get a hang of things and have a better understanding of how your new boat handles.

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