Here is my direct answer to the OP:
- Started with a 14' 25HP outboard runabout in 1954 with no instruction. After a short time on the water I had a high level of confidence, with a limited percent of required skills.
- Survived that and had a 19 foot IO with 130 HP in the late 1960's.
- Rented a 34' low powered Grand Banks in the 1970's, still no instruction.
- Rented a 40' low powered trawler displacement hull also in the 1970's.
- Took the Power Squadron boating course upon purchasing a larger twin engine cruiser in the 1980's, and have owned such boats up to the present.
Much of what I needed to know was learned in the smaller boats. The major thing to grasp is how things happen at idle power, and the affect of wind
at low speed. Those skills are absolutely required to be able to dock
the boat in a variety of conditions, and running it in open water
on a clear day at cruise
speed actually requires much less skill. Boats vary widely in how they react. There is a big difference between singles, and twins. Also, between semi planning and displacement
hulls. The most important thing to be learned in any of them is proper low speed operation.
Next for actual cruising you need to learn navigation
skills, rules of the road, traffic control systems in shipping
operation procedures, weather
, and how your particular boat behaves in rougher seas. In the PNW there are areas where tidal rapids occur with significant over-falls, and whirl pools on the tail-outs. Instruction is the best way to learn these issues, but hands on experience is required to develop proficiency. You should also learn radar
and low viability navigation
skills for running in fog
. These are needed skills even if you do not intend to run in the fog
because you will no doubt get caught in it when you do not expect to get in it.
operations that are necessary to learn are: man overboard
response, and fire response. And finally, to learn how to provision critical spare parts
, and the ability to perform enough maintenance/repair functions to deal with situations that arise away from support facilities.
process is of itself a rewarding experience. In current
times instruction is best in the beginning. In the 1950's there was much less to run into, and boats moved slower except for a few hydroplanes on Lake Washington