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Old 01-11-2014, 07:57   #1
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Help with long-term training and experience plan

Hi all, the wife and I have been traveling to the Caribbean for many many years mostly on large cruise ships and land vacations. We have been in small sailboats and catamarans extensively BUT only during day trips as tourists during our Caribbean vacations (dreaded cruise ship excursions, day charters, etc). For years, we have talked about learning to sail, chartering our own boats, and eventually retire early and move to a live-aboard down south (I know, that's everyone's dream here). So this year we are finally financially able to start to make this happen. However, I want some guidance and opinions about our current plan.

I have read many many posts about sailing school, the need for experience, etc., and I think I understand the basic issues. So what would be most useful to us is to hear your thoughts on how to improve the plan that we present below.

Our initial overall (zero to charting) plan is to gain as much experience as possible in a combination of formal sailing school and general experience during the next 12 months so that we can start chartering safely in progressively larger boats during the next 2-5 years.

Our plan is a as follow:

Winter 2015:
- I will do an ASA 101-to-104/114 Catamaran 7 day sailing liveonboard course this coming winter. The wife can't join me for work reasons.

Spring 2015:
- The wife will do a combined ASA 101-103 2-day school in Spring in a monohull.
- While the wife is doing the 101-103 course, I will be doing the ASA Docking Endorsement course.

Summer 2015:
- The wife will do a 2-day 104 course in the summer. Since this is in a monohull and my 104 training would have been in a catamaran, I thought about doing this 104 course also with her without taking the exam (since I would already have the 104 certification). The goal for me is to gain more sailing time on a different boat (although this may be an expensive way to gain sailing time!).

Fall 2015:
- The wife and I will do a ASA 105 and 106 week-long course that involves gulf stream passage (FL to Bahamas and Back).

Winter 2016:
- We'll charter our first boat in the BVIs.

Long term, after we gain more experience we want to take the 107-108 passage making course. We will also take a 1-year sabbatical to do a test of living in a boat before we commit to do this during retirement.

Questions for the group:

1. What are your general thoughts about the training plan?

2. How do we gain more hands on experience between courses? I know some people may think this is too much formal instruction and may be a waste of money but we enjoy the formal instruction and want to learn everything "by the book". Yet, I do agree 100% that experience is necessary. My question is HOW to get more experience outside the formal courses before we start charting in the BVIs? The "just buy a boat" suggestion is not feasible at this time. We also don't live near the coast but we do live near the great lakes. I've read people suggest to others to simply get experience "crewing" for others. How do you do this? I have images of us standing by the marina with a "free crew" sign, but I assume that's not how it is done . Is there a way to get more crewing experience without having to simply buy daily charters?

Thank you all for your suggestions and advice. Best wishes!
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Old 01-11-2014, 19:44   #2
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Re: Help with long-term training and experience plan

Just one quick update. We found a "sailing club" a couple of hours from our home in one of the great lakes (Michigan). They ask for a monthly membership and then you have access to their sailboats for a number of days per month. This sounds excellent to gain more sailing experience time. I still would like to know how to gain added experience in larger sail boats as crew. There are several large marinas in the lake closest to us (West lake Erie, Lake St Clair, south lake Huron). Any suggestions appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 01-11-2014, 19:54   #3
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Re: Help with long-term training and experience plan

I wouldn't worry so much about the formal training as much as just getting out there and sailing. If you feel you learn better doing it formally, then by all means do that, but after you get once course under your belt, you can really learn most of what you need by getting out there as much as possible.

I think the biggest factor is your comfort level - don't go beyond it and if more training is needed to improve it, then do it. Club sounds like a great idea and a great way to get the added experience.
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Old 01-11-2014, 20:11   #4
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Re: Help with long-term training and experience plan

blue bhudda,

It is often helpful for people to sail with a variety of skippers. Classes are great, but you are right, you need to get out on the water, and I'd suggest a small El Toro or Sabot or Mirror that you buy used, for those days when you're not sailing on other people's boats. A little dinghy like that will teach you to pay attention to minute changes in the wind. If you don't, you get a dunking, and if you capsize during a race, you've most likely lost. It's great motivation, and it all happens unconsciously. It is a form of fun which will train you to be closely aware of the breeze at all times. Or, if you're sure you're a multihull family, do it with a trailer cat, it has to be easy to do, for only part of a day, or an evening sail...it will make you a better sailor.

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Old 01-11-2014, 21:30   #5
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Re: Help with long-term training and experience plan

I'd buy a day sailor like a oday 19 or catalina 22
And go sailing. Then do some crewing. If the club you mention has
Some beer mug races get on a crew
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Old 02-11-2014, 09:44   #6
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Re: Help with long-term training and experience plan

I am going to 2nd Maytrix. Experience is what you really need. Joining a sailing club and getting out on the water is a must. Think about chartering a boat with a Captain. Explain that you want to learn and not be chauffeured about. Talk to the Captain in person before you seal the deal! Good luck.
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Old 02-11-2014, 10:29   #7
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Re: Help with long-term training and experience plan

I may be an anachronism, but I was a commercial capt. on my own power boats for a number of years and decided to go to sail. Absolutely zero experience. An acquaintance at the boat yard advised that I don't worry about training, just buy the boat I intend to sail on and learn as I go. Best advise I ever got! I bought a 37' Irwin Ketch and my wife and I took it sea, put up the sails and sailed it all over the East Coast, Forida and the Bahama's. We sold it a few years ago and just bought a 35' sloop, never sailed one of those either, so we will learn as we go once again. Read up, talk to people who know an go!
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Old 02-11-2014, 11:03   #8
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Re: Help with long-term training and experience plan

Everyone learns differently. Some do better with formal training, others do just fine self taught and trial by fire.

Your plan for the formal part sounds great but yes, get as much hands on experience as you can. I was mostly self taught by reading and study but so much of it was so abstract and theoretical until I had a chance to get on a boat and see it happen in real life. Then the light bulb(s) lit up and so many things started making so much sense.

So how to get the hands on? Probably the most common question for new sailors.

1. Like Ann said, get a small boat. No better way to learn sail handling and trim than a small boat. Everything you do gives instant results. Do something right and you see the boat sail better. Do something wrong and you might go swimming.

2. Your local club idea is great, not only to get hands on but also to meet other sailors and learn from them.

3. If you have the time and schedule, cruisers frequently need an extra hand or two for long passages. Sometimes only for experienced hands many times in the past I have taken on totally green crew so we had an extra hand or two to stand watch. This forum and a number of others have sections where you can post your availability to crew. By the way, weekend racers in your area are probably looking for a few strong backs to help as well.
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Old 02-11-2014, 11:21   #9
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Re: Help with long-term training and experience plan

[/QUOTE]

. I've read people suggest to others to simply get experience "crewing" for others. How do you do this? I have images of us standing by the marina with a "free crew" sign, but I assume that's not how it is done . Is there a way to get more crewing experience without having to simply buy daily charters?

Thank you all for your suggestions and advice. Best wishes![/QUOTE]

traditionally the sign needs to be written on 12 pack of beer, otherwise you have it right.

Seriously thou find a nearby racing club and just call up for when and where crew should show up to get on a boat. Everywhere in the world I have seen people get rides like this. It is more likely to work on weekly fun races than world championship stuff, but a friend of mine won the Zoo Regatta in Guadaloup (all professional crew) with all pickup crew basically because they had a sign (and a lot of beer).
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Old 02-11-2014, 18:38   #10
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Re: Help with long-term training and experience plan

Thank you all for the feedback and suggestions.

Buying a boat is unfortunately not an option, so we will join a local club we found and try to sail with them as much as possible in between courses. I also think I found a local racing club and will contact them with questions when the season starts again.

Regarding the formal courses, I know some people are pretty opposed to formal courses, and that makes sense when people use them as substitute for experience. We are academic nerds that feel more comfortable if we get formal training. But we also agree 100% that experience is needed and I would not feel comfortable charting a boat with just a few weeks of formal courses. So we'll make sure we get the formal instruction AND the experience before we charter our first boat.

PS, Stumble, I will definitely write the sign on a 12 pack of beer. Whether it should be craft microbrew beer or Budweiser is really the question. :-)
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Old 02-11-2014, 21:53   #11
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Re: Help with long-term training and experience plan

For what it's worth I'll tell you my plan. I'am purchasing plans from Angelo Lavranos for his Proteus 106 and built the 34ft Cat myself - all in marine ply (my favourite material) I've done a local waters course in Simon's Town (SA) But for me the things is to get out there ASAP on MY OWN BOAT and do some coastal navigation before take off to places like St Helena or other nearby islands (I must admit here that age is not excactly on my side so I must get off my butt and do something soon!)
It is the cheapest and importantly the most fulfilling plan to suit my circumstances. This way I will know my boat, having lived with it from inception!
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Old 02-11-2014, 23:00   #12
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Re: Help with long-term training and experience plan

I think your plan is great. I did a combination of books, experience and training. I actually started the training pretty late and honestly didn't learn that much as far as specific skills. However, I got great experience and gained a lot of confidence in different conditions and on different boats. You'll be starting earlier, so you'll get even more out of it.

Ann and Skipmac have great advice on the details. Get as much experience as you can in between courses to really cement the knowledge and to keep it fun. Your own small boat if you can.

Also, read lots of books and blogs to keep the excitement up and because you'll learn things by accident or raise questions to ask here or of other sailors.

Let us know how it all goes.
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Old 03-11-2014, 07:42   #13
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Re: Help with long-term training and experience plan

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlueBuddha View Post
Thank you all for the feedback and suggestions.

Buying a boat is unfortunately not an option, so we will join a local club we found and try to sail with them as much as possible in between courses. I also think I found a local racing club and will contact them with questions when the season starts again.

Regarding the formal courses, I know some people are pretty opposed to formal courses, and that makes sense when people use them as substitute for experience. We are academic nerds that feel more comfortable if we get formal training. But we also agree 100% that experience is needed and I would not feel comfortable charting a boat with just a few weeks of formal courses. So we'll make sure we get the formal instruction AND the experience before we charter our first boat.

PS, Stumble, I will definitely write the sign on a 12 pack of beer. Whether it should be craft microbrew beer or Budweiser is really the question. :-)

Formal classes are great, but all they are designed to really do is formalize and make cohesive prior experience. I like the idea, but other than my licensing exams have al most no formal training. Though I am planning on challenging to ASA 106 in the near future.

Bring Bud, if you show up with craft beer you might just start a riot. Heck if you showed up with a nice German Dunkle I might rob you and leave you stranded
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Old 03-11-2014, 08:52   #14
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Re: Help with long-term training and experience plan

Sounds like lots of fun. I would not get to hung up on the cat, mono thing the basics are the same. Get in the touch with Chris and Crystal from LTD sailing in Grenada, nice folks very experienced
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Old 03-11-2014, 08:54   #15
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Re: Help with long-term training and experience plan

Your plan sounds great! I really agree that the more time you can get on the water between courses, the better! The sailing club sounds like an excellent option. I grew up racing and would totally advocate getting time on a race boat. Just find out when your local races and regattas are scheduled - show up ready to go sailing (gloves, shoes, jacket and some beer!). The lighter your sea bag is the better, as long as you have the basics.

Let me know if you have any questions about finding a sailing school - we run LTD Sailing - Living the Dream! in Grenada: www.LTDsailing.com.

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