New Mexico Sailing Courses

There are a number of commercial sailing classes in the USA that are approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA).  Most incorporate the formal 8-hour Boating Basics Course as provided by New Mexico State Parks in their curriculum.

New Mexico has a NASBLA affiliated sail boating course that is offered through US Sail, and the American Sailing Association (ASA) the not for profit education group. 

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary has also an in-depth course in Sailing and Seamanship (S&S).  It is offered infrequently as a 7-to-14 lesson course.  Certificates are awarded to graduates.

Contact us for the local contact. 1-888-NMPARKS.

This course is available only as water levels allow at Heron Lake and if a current certified instructor is available.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary also teaches an add on course to their America's Boating Course if there is enough public interest each year for those wanting to start sailing but have no background in it.


Let's Go SailingLet's Go Sailing (LGS) is a fun course for beginning sailors. The course is designed for the person who wants to begin sailing in a small boat, learning each step the right way, and in the process build the skills and confidence that will serve as the foundation for a lifetime of enjoyment.

It uses a short, well illustrated text published by the American Sailing Association to introduce fledgling sailors to the equipment, nomenclature and safe operation of small sailboats. Each of the text's four chapters has review questions and there is an extensive glossary and index. The course has it's own exam and certificate of accomplishment.

By itself, Let's Go Sailing is NOT approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) as a boating safety course. Only when taught in conjunction with NASBLA approved courses such as "America's Boating Course" or "Boating Skills and Seamanship", can a state boating safety certificate be issued.


  • Beginning To Sail - The sailboat and the wind, the sailor's language, parts of a boat, sails and control terms, sailing terms, points of sail, how a sail works, tacking vs. jibing, heading up, heading down, in irons, sail care and folding.
  • Let's Go Sailing - Rigging, launching, getting going, your first sail, close hauled sailing, coming about/tacking, running-sailing, downwind, steering, jibing, safety considerations.
  • Safe Sailing - Capsizing, righting, scoop recovery method, rescuing, heavy air sailing, upwind and close reaching, downwind, man overboard, what to wear, cold and hypothermia, dealing with the sun.
  • Advanced Topics - Crewing, centerboards, planning your sail, wind and weather, tides and currents, sailing in a confined area, steering and sailing rules, docking/mooring/beaching, knots and lines.

Many insurance companies will offer discounts on boat insurance to individuals who successfully complete this course.

Individuals who successfully complete the course and exam are awarded certificates and cards.

As a refresher on basic sailboat rules....

There are only three basic possibilities, and three basic rules to follow, when your sailboat approaches another sailboat. (Excerpted from Colgate Sailing School)

Rule 1: When you are on the same tack as the other boat, the leeward boat has the right-of-way.

Rule 2: When you are on opposite tacks, the starboard tack boat has the right-of-way.

Rule 3: If you are overtaking the other boat, or it is overtaking you, the boat ahead (the overtaken boat) has the right-of-way.

sail crossing

In Figure 8-2, two boats are approaching each other and subject to the same tack rule. Sailors refer to the boat with right-of-way as the stand-on vessel – the boat that must hold its course. The leeward boat has right-of-way, and the windward boat has to keep clear, or give way. Which boat is the leeward boat? If you said the boat on the left, you were correct.

sail overtaking

Figure 8-3 shows the opposite tack rule. The starboard tack boat is the stand-on vessel and has right-of-way. The port tack boat has to keep clear or give way. Which boat is on port tack? If you said the boat on the right, you are correct.

sail crossing

Figure 8-4 shows two boats involved in the overtaking rule. In this case the boat ahead is the stand-on vessel and has right-of-way. The overtaking boat has to keep clear or give way. Which boat is overtaking and what tack is that boat on? If you said the boat behind is overtaking and is on starboard tack, you are correct. Note that these boats are sailing downwind, with the wind pushing from behind, and they are on opposite tacks. In the overtaking rule, the difference in tacks is not relevant, unless you are racing. Over many years, a complete set of rules specifically for sailboat racing has been developed and administered by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF); but these are not relevant to recreational sailing.


New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department ©
1220 South St. Francis Drive | Santa Fe, NM 87505
EMNRD Legal Disclaimer