What is a good boat to learn on, or how do I learn to sail? These are one (they’re much the same) of the more ubiquitous questions, I see on this and other forums
I can think of several Cruisers Forum members who are qualified to offer some interesting & expert advice. I hope you post.
Assuming someone new (or fairly new) to sailing, with a limited budget
, several years time to invest, who wants to ultimately go cruising:
For what it’s worth, I’d break the learner choices down into three basic types of boat (remember, I’m no expert):
1. The Dinghy
or Open boat:
Optimist, Laser, Olympic 470, Mistral,
2. The Daysailer/Weekender (under 25'):
San Juan(s), Catalina(s), Com-Pac, Nor’Sea, Nimble, West Wight Potter,
3. The entry level cruiser (24-29 foot ?):
is the cheapest option, offering, by far, the quickest basic experience (steepest learning
curve). You will learn more about sailing dynamics in an afternoon aboard a dinghy, than a month (year?) aboard a larger keelboat.
The daysailer/weekender, while more expensive than a dink, offers the opportunity of a small-scale cruising experience, and those differing skills. Generally quite responsive, and, therefor, offering a steep learning
curve, the week-ender might be a good compromise between the dink, and the larger (more expensive) cruiser/racer.
An entry-level racer/cruiser is probably most suited to the requirements of an intermediate sailor, wishing to continue the learning process. Obviously, it’s the most expensive of the 3 listed options, but offers a “larger” experience and usage.
OK, you’ve decided which type of boat best suits your requirements and desires - which model do I chose? I’ll let others, more qualified than I, offer specific advice. There are a couple of general guidelines that might help decide.
1. What are the local favorites? An active class association or fleet, will suggest a boat well-suited to local conditions, and the numerous owners will provide a useful resource of expert knowledge. The boat might be easier to sell, as you decide to “move up” (or out, if you discover sailing doesn’t meet your expectations).
2. Beginners should try to acquire a boat that’s, more or less, ready to go - without significant repair or upgrades. Get the best boat, of it’s type, that you can.
, and learning to sail your own boat is not the only option.
Formal sailing instruction can vary from inexpensive dinghy sailing courses, through live-aboard cruising courses. At some point, we need to acquire the knowledge offered by the various Power & Sail Squadron courses. I was an experienced power-boater, when we bought our first sailboat (Mirage 26'). We day-sailed, week-ended, and cruised “Auspicious” for a glorious season, teaching ourselves to sail & cruise
. The following spring we took a dinghy sailing course - what an enlightenment! More than a quarter- century later, I still remember, and use, many of the lessons learned in the little “Mistrals & Lasers” on Boulevard Lake.
Many people crew aboard others’ boats, especially in club racing events
. This includes beginners and very experienced sailors. I cruised for years, and considered myself an “experienced” sailor, prior to crewing
on local club races (keelboats). I learned most (of the little I know) about performance sailing from my racing skipper
Chartering is another option, either crewed or bareboat
. For those who already have some experience (Charter Companies require that bareboaters prove experience), chartering can offer the opportunity to extend your knowledge into the cruising realm, and to sample the live-aboard experience.
What’s your opinion?