Holdfast: Nations At War – How to Sail a Ship

The Basics

First, you have to man the ship’s wheel. Any class can man it, but the captain can take it back at any time.

Once you take the wheel, you view the ship from high in the third person. You can also switch to first person with CTRL if you want to look around on the ship.

A turns left.

D turns right.

W lowers sails.

S raises them.

There are several sails so each key press raises or lowers one set of sails at a time. The number of keys raises individual sets of sails without having to cycle. 1 to 1-6 depending on the size of the ship.

Your sails need to be lowered to move forward. Raising sails slows you down. In general, more sails lowered makes you go faster. Less, slower.

The Wind

In the lower left of the screen is a compass with a dotted line down the middle with an arrow showing the wind direction. If you sail with the wind, you go fast; if you sail against the wind, you go slow. If you sail dead-on against the wind, you will stop.

Sailing Against the Wind

The trick to sailing against the wind is to not to go at it head on but slightly to the left or right of the wind-line in the compass, about 10-20 degrees.

The Sails

There are two types of sails. Square rig and lateen (triangular and trapezoidal).

Square sails will boost speed a lot but should only be used when sailing with the wind. Sailing against the wind with square sails lowered will slow you way down. Look at the sail. If it’s bulging backwards, then that’s a problem. You should raise them. This starts to happen when you’re perpendicular to the wind. Press the number keys to raise them. On the biggest ships it’s 3 and 5.

Lateen sails are good all-around. They are designed for sailing with or against the wind.


Raising and lowering lateen sails can help make tighter turns. For example, look at how the sails have bulged. If all the sails are bulging right, and you make a right turn, then your rear sails will be fighting against the turn because they are catching wind as the tail of the ship moves left, so raising them will help make the ship turn faster; in the same situation, but making a left turn, the opposite is true. The front sails need to be raised.

The Bigger the Ship, the More Sluggish the Response

On smaller ships, if you turn right or left, you will see an immediate response. On the biggest ships, you can be pressing the D key forever before it starts to turn right. So you have to be patient.

Hope this quick guide helps you sail circles around your enemies.

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