Tacking seemed kind of challenging yesterday - but that was before I learned how to jibe!
When you tack, you are turning the bow of your boat (the nose of your boat) toward the source of the wind and past it. This causes the sails to shift from one side of the boat to the other as the boat turns. The person at the helm needs only to push the tiller toward the sail in order to change the direction of the boat, and then to switch seats from one side to the other so s/he has a clear view. If you don't move, the sail will block your view! So, the sail stays on the leeward side (away from the wind) while the sailor stays on the windward side. The wind was blowing from the mouth of the channel, so we tacked back and forth in a sort of zigzag down the channel toward the wind. Then, we turned the boat around and began jibing back.
In jibing, the stern (back) of the boat is what passes across the source of the wind. When this happens, the sail swings quickly from one side of the boat to the other. When sailing downward, with the wind coming up from behind you, you have the sail out very far over the side of the boat to catch all that wind. This means that the sail and boom swing very far (180 degrees) from one side of the boat to the other. In order to control this, the helmsman begins the jibe by "controlling" the mainsheet. In other words, s/he pulls in on the sheet to draw the sail closer to the boat so it has less distance to travel. As the helmsman pulls in the sail, he is simultaneously turning the boat by pulling the tiller over, away from the sail. As the boat passes and the wind begins to pull the sails over to the other side, the helmsman lets let the mainsheet go free so the sail will swing all the way out. S/he also has to shift seats from one side to the other, again so s/he can see ahead.
That was a lot to remember at first! I know that I tacked at least once when I was told to jibe. Whoops! But with some practice, I can see how it becomes pretty automatic. As for now, I can say that it is a lot of fun! I can't wait until next weekend... Maybe I will go out on Wednesday night for a social sail to practice what I've learned so far.