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Sailing on Shabbat


Rabbi Yoel Lieberman

Av 19, 5773
I would like to go aboard a sailing yacht (no motor) on Wednesday and sail until after Shabbat using the wind only. From my undersatnding of the halachot, if we have a goy skipper doing all the work, there is room to permit this. However, my question is: Can I (or any other Jew) help steer the yacht, such as turning the steering wheel and move the sails around using the various ropes on the winches? I could only find answers to questions regarding cruise ships and freighter ships. My question has more to do with operation of a sailboat on Shabbat assuming that all of the other factors have been overcome (3 days, 10 tfachim, etc...). Thanks!!!
Your question is a bit more complex than what it seems. The prohibition of having a goy do our work for us on Shabbat applies also to work, i.e. "melacha" which is also Rabbinically forbidden unless there are other mitigating circumstances ( e.g. for a mitzvah or for someone ill etc. see Rambam Hilchot Shabbat 6:9-10, Shulchan Aruch 307:5), therefore the use of the motor is not the only the only issue. In this case the goy is doing the work specifically for you and therefore it is not the same circumstances when going on a cruise on a large ship with there are many non-Jewish passengers for whom the work is being done. Furthermore, as I am not familiar enough with sailing, as my pastime when I was younger was with canoes and boats, there may be something which is forbidden by the Torah such as tying professional knots with ropes. In addition, Rav Waldenberg zt"l (ציץ אליעזר ח"א סי' כא אות י) makes the reservation that the shaking and the movement of the vessel takes away Oneg Shabbat. Although Rav Waldenberg wrote this reservation about theoretically being in an airplane on Shabbat, the same would definitely apply on a small ocean bound sailing vessel. Rav Akiva Eiger in his responsa clearly made this distinction between a small craft and a big boat. שו"ת רבי עקיבא איגר מהדורא קמא סימן יג) and see also Yalkut Yosef סי' רמח, הערה ג) All this only relates just to the technical aspects of being present on such a vessel on Shabbat and having it operated by a goy without getting into other Shabbat requirements and issues and the three days prior and Tchum Shabbat which you are familiar with, Therefore, I am afraid your cruise will have to be on a day other than Shabbat. The question was received was brought to my attention only on Wednesday, so I hope you were referring to "a" Wednesday and not this particular last Wednesday.
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