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Old 26-04-2010, 11:21   #1
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Beginning Boat Types - Basic Questions

I think this is the appropriate forum to post these questions:


I’m looking for some input from the community regarding the direction I should go to best learn the sailing game via a boat purchase. I will attempt to outline the key tenants of my situation and what I am looking to accomplish. Based on that, I would enjoy some feedback on options and alternatives:

I plan on taking a sailing course offered by a local yacht club this summer. Other than being on a sailing boat, I have never owned one. I do live about a mile from a large inland lake, and about ½ hour drive from Lake Michigan, so there should be ample opportunity to get out there. At this time I do not plan on mooring the boat on either of these lakes on a permanent basis, so I am really in the market for something I can drop in for a weekend and go. Basically a ‘trailer sailer’.

For those who have some experience, it would be interesting to hear about the difference between a ‘dinghy’ and a standing rig vessel. As I see it, I could purchase a 22-25 foot ‘standing rig’ boat (I have seen some local boats for sail in the low-20’s various makes and models), but that would mean taking the mast up and down whenever I want to go out. Is this really a big deal? On the other hand, I may be better off with just a smaller dinghy type boat that I could go out for a few hours and get the hang of sailing, then going with a bigger boat a few years down the line. If the objective is to learn the tricks of the trade, which direction would you recommend? I could see that if getting a standing rig type boat ready to sail is a big hassle, it will sit in my yard more than being on the water which defeats the whole intent.

The second category of question is around hull configuration. If I decide to go with a smaller dinghy type boat like a sunfish or something similar, is there really any difference between a monohull and a catamaran like a hobie cat? I’m speaking in terms of sail configuration, etc. I understand they will obviously handle differently due to construction. I guess the key question is whether any one configuration is better from a learning perspective. From what I’ve seen and read, it seems like sailing is sailing, take your pick. Most things learned on a monohull would be transferrable to a cat if I decided to go that route. I realize the experience is different, but from the perspective of learning the appropriate sail angles, trim, and all the things that go into making a competent sailer. I would like to hear the perspective of folks that have done it, however. At this point in my life, I don’t think a standing rig catamaran is feasible. Other than a hobie cat, I haven’t seen too many reasonable sized cats for trailer sailing that would work for an overnight jaunt.

I guess the real question is, if I pick up say an early to mid 70’s Catalina 23’ type boat or something of that ilk for a few thousand bucks, without knowing all that much, am I asking for trouble? Or would I be better off just getting a little sunfish and going out for a few times a month during the summer and deciding on something later, after I learn my rear end from my elbow? The money isn’t really the issue for me, it is more about the learning experience and getting my beak wet in this whole sailing business.

Thanks in advance

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Old 26-04-2010, 12:41   #2
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Originally Posted by Badkyd View Post
I think this is the appropriate forum to post these questions... If I decide to go with a smaller dinghy type boat like a sunfish or something similar, is there really any difference between a monohull and a catamaran like a hobie cat? I’m speaking in terms of sail configuration, etc. I understand they will obviously handle differently due to construction. I guess the key question is whether any one configuration is better from a learning perspective...
I’m sure some of the old-salts will jump in here soon enough, but since you already know where and when you’re going to take sailing lessons, you might hold off boat-buying decisions until you lessons are well along. You’ll be amazed how much a few weekends on the water will help you come to your own answers on these questions – new v. old, multi v. mono, dinghy v. trailer-sailor, etc., etc., etc… I don’t think you’ll find any universal solutions to these questions even though many (especially me…) have some very heartfelt opinions on these and almost limitless other inquiries… scan these threads and use the search feature and you’ll see your questions get asked quite often, attracting almost every answer imaginable…

Happy sailing – and welcome…


Worry: misuse of imagination…
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Old 26-04-2010, 14:16   #3
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The smaller the boat, the faster you'll learn..

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Old 26-04-2010, 14:47   #4
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I'll share my personal experience. I grew up sailing a Hobie 16 on mid sized inland lakes out west. If you want to have fun and go fast, this is the way to go. The Hobie has downsides though. First, you tend to get really wet since the boat kicks up a lot of spray. Second, although the danger tends to be overexaggerated, these boats can flip and when (notice I did not say if ) they do they are much more difficult to right than a comparable sailing dingy. I think I only turned turtle in my Hobie twice, but both times were major ordeals to get the boat right. Of course, I was much younger then and all I really cared about was going fast without thinking of the potential concequences . Anyway, if you like thrills, the Hobie is the only way to go.

After the Hobie, the only other boat I've owned is a Catalina 22 which fits nicely into the catagory of trailer sailor. I have no particular attachment to the Catalina and there are lots of other boats that would be just as good if not better for trailering to the lake on weekends. The thing that is nice about a boat like this (as compared to a hobie or a sailing dingy) is that you have a bit of a cabin. If you're out all day it is nice to have a place to at least get out of the sun. I mostly sail with my wife and 2 young daughters and it is absolutely essential for me to have a place down below where they can take a rest and get out of the sun. If I had an open boat I'd never be able to go out for more than a few hours at a time. Plus I've even managed to do a few overnighters with my girls, which I would never attempt with a hobie cat.

Best of Luck
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Old 26-04-2010, 15:31   #5
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Since it sounds like your main goal is to learn to sail, My suggestion would be to not buy a boat at this time. Spend a season crewing on race boat. You will learn tons about actually sailing the boat. You'll have a good time and the costs will be minimal. Any local sailing club that has racing will easily be able to hook you up on some boat that needs additional crew. If you like the skipper, then give them a commitment to be at all the races (or most) for a season. Then be helpful and learn. You'll sail in all kinds of conditions and you will see all kinds of boats in those conditions.

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Old 26-04-2010, 15:57   #6
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I sailed a dingy (Laser) for 10 years before buying a bigger boat. Then I went to a Hobie, then a Compac, and now a Valiant. I would suggest that route. You learn the basics first.
That said, your boating course may try to get you into a keelboat first.
Keep it simple, get the itch before you scratch it with a 50 foot mast...
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Old 27-04-2010, 17:17   #7
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Join a small club

I'm very new to sailing, too. I've gotten very lucky and I joined a very inexpensive club that has lots of classes and chances to sail on other peoples' boats. Ask around your local marina if there any clubs around you. If not, find someplace to post that you're willing to crew. You'll be able to get on a couple of different boats that way and form your own opinions about what you want. You'll also hear about boats that are for sale in your area but not listed anywhere. In any event, take your time. Don't buy the first boat you see that you think you can make work for you. Just like with houses, it a buyer's market. If you look around and get a little experience before you buy you'll find what you want, not what you'll settle for.

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Old 27-04-2010, 18:22   #8
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Regarding a setup time for a trailerable boat. It depends on a design and can vary from about 15 minutes to a couple of hours. You need to ask the owners of a patticular model how laborious their boat is to setup. As for the type of boat to get started, it is a matter of taste. For example, I don't care about boats where you cannot spend at least a week away from civilization, so anything without a cabin does not interest me. I learned to sail in a light displacement 26 foot boat, it felt the right size for me. It was 2 years old when i bought it. I looked at older models and did not want to buy someone's problems, but there is no universal rule here.
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Old 27-04-2010, 18:30   #9
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Aloha and welcome to the forum of many opinions.
I think that the advice to wait a bit is good. See what your instructor uses for a boat. Check local clubs to see which dinghy they use for racing and instruction. There are many boats that you could gain lots of experience on but it'd be more fun to be on the same design as others on the lake are using. That way you can compare your sailing skills. I started in Rebels, Lidos, Capris and Catalinas as well as a smattering of old German wood lake boats and a Wildflower. If I were to buy my "first boat" again it would be a Sunfish or Laser. They have the same sail area but since the Sunfish is a hardchined boat is a bit more forgiving. The Laser is a bit faster to windward because it has a marconi sail vs the lateen the Sunfish uses. Either is cartopable or little trailerable. Both are easily rigged and launched by one person. Each can be had in great condition for less than $1000. You'll learn quickly because a wrong move on a jibe will toss you in the drink pretty fast. The first boat I bought was a fin keel Catalina 22 and I never regretted the purchase but sail trim is learned faster in a dinghy.
kind regards,

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