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Old 23-05-2015, 20:36   #1
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Question Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

It's been almost twenty years since I last sailed a boat singlehanded. I served six years in the Navy, including one year at Annapolis before I washed out and went to the fleet as an enlisted engineer (MM1). After the Navy I spent two years in the Merchant Marine, again in the engineroom, before landing a job on shore.

In the mid-1990s I took up sailing for a couple of years; I challenged and passed the qualification sail from a local (and now defunct) sailing center which allowed me to charter small sailboats...Hunter 28s and the like. I did day sails only, and never left Galveston bay. Then I ran into some difficult times and dropped the hobby entirely.

I'm looking to get back into sailing. I was considering a local sailing school, but it looks as though I could spend nearly $2000 taking their classes and, at the end of it, would be able to do nothing more than spend $500 to charter one of their boats for a weekend. As an example, they want $350 for the self-study version of their navigation course...I took, and aced, a college-level (Navy ROTC) navigation course while I was sailing in the '90s. Have there been enough changes that I couldn't catch up on by studying a recent issue of Bowditch in my spare time?

Is it worth it to spend this kind of money for (re)training? I'm thinking that, instead, I could use the money to buy a decent used sailboat in the 25-30 foot range and...just go sailing. Maybe try to find someone with recent experience to crew with me, at least the first few times out. Does anyone have strong feelings about this, either way?
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Old 23-05-2015, 21:04   #2
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Re: Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

Full Disclosure: I teach sailing courses, particularly catamaran courses in the BVI, and think they are very worthwhile, but in your situation, I think I would just get a few books - could be the same ones used in the courses or others - and go sailing. Another option would be to "challenge" the courses, which means you demonstrate that you are qualified, which is easier and less expensive than taking the whole course. I repeat, I am a great believer in the courses....many things are covered which you might otherwise miss....but it seems like you would be a good candidate to just resume sailing. Best of luck.
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Old 23-05-2015, 21:41   #3
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Re: Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

Full disclosure: I'm not that keen on sailing schools.

You already have more experience than most when they get into sailing. Spend your money on a boat and get out there. Enjoy and learn.

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Old 23-05-2015, 22:13   #4
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Re: Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

You don't need no steenkin' badges, mon!"

You might consider "renting" a small daysailor from somewhere to get the feel back and then find your own boat.

Good luck.

I, too, am a firm believer in lessons, but it sounds like you're past that point.
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Old 23-05-2015, 22:26   #5
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Re: Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

Howdy EHBowen! Welcome aboard the forum!

You have an unusual background (service and time on ships etc.) and because of your previous experience….

I usually recommend "new" sailors or those who know nothing about boats or sailing, to take some formal lessons from a qualified instructor. I do feel that is the best solution for most people who have NO experience on a boat or sailing.

But, in your case, i would skip that. Go to self study.

If you want to take a class/course for certification, I would also skip the school in Houston. I would go somewhere more challenging and more exciting such as San Francisco (lots of sailing and sailing schools there) or the BVIs or Caribbean (to learn how to anchor and maneuver in the places I would want to visit/charter).

Why do I recommend that?
I sailed for years on lakes and in multiple states and on several types of boats and had fun. But it was only when I got to San Francisco and started sailing in the MUCH more demanding conditions there, that I really learned MUCH more about sailing, boats, and the challenges of "ocean" sailing (offshore and in the SF Bay). The winds were consistently stronger (20 - 30kt) than most of my previous sailing (even in Texas) and the waves, currents, tides, and traffic make it much more challenging and exciting.

Hope that helps.
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Old 23-05-2015, 22:37   #6
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Re: Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

I'm not all that keen on schools either. But others will disagree. Likely it depends on if you learn as a DIY thing, or as a instructor-led kind of thing. I'm definitely a DIY learner. Some folks would _never_ learn to sail if you just dropped them in a sailboat.

I'd take the $2K, and pick up some 4KSB (cheap sailboat) and go sail the crap out of it. Your experience should cover alot of the basics (tides, currents, basic nav, what water is, etc...) - A cheap boat and a copy of a simple sailing manual will take you the rest of the way.

I'd assume you'd be careful to not get into some sort of sailing a catalina 22 in a hurricane situation.

Also know, that some 4knot s box boat will be cheap, but you will likely need to maintain it a bit, and have some sort of exit strategy.
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Old 23-05-2015, 22:51   #7
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Re: Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

I'm entirely self taught except for very short navigation class in Pensacola. Yes you can sail a carrier to Kansas. Also took an adult Ed. Course in celestial before kicking off for SoPac long before GPS.

As far as sailing, read voraciously, built a dinghy and taught myself to sail. Later, bought a slightly bigger boat and tackled the ocean. Then a bigger boat and went cruising. These were all in the days before electronic navigation. Had a 20 year hiatus from sailing raising a family and dealing with life. Bought mother boat and first time sailing was moving the boat from Santa Cruz to Alameda. I was a bit rusty but it'd all came back quickly.

Navigation has gotten brain dead simple in the interim. Now all it seems you need is the ability to pick a destination, program it into the GPS, and follow the magenta line till you get there. Just check to be sure the magenta line doesn't cross land to get to where you want to go.

So, yes, spend the money on a sailboat, be it ever so humble, and go sailing. Use a little common sense in the places you chose to go and the weather that will be prevailing when you do go. Don't go into a srrange harbor at night and don't sail to a rigid schedule.
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Old 24-05-2015, 09:41   #8
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Re: Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

Ehbowen, I have been to your local sailing school. I vote (with the rest of them) that you take a different approach.
1. You have the hours- go down and get USCG qualified for offshore six pack.
2. Become an instructor in said sailing school. You are more qualified that most of their instructors, and you could get paid for more experience on bigger keelboats!
That will show em.
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Old 24-05-2015, 10:03   #9
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Re: Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

Depends a lot on where you plan on sailing as much as anything. Some countries demand some form of formal certificate before you are allowed to sail in their waters or to charter a boat. Croatia is like this and you must have the ICC (International Certificate of Competence) or equivalent to skipper a vessel here. The RYA Day Skipper (Theory and Practical) count for the ICC and this is what I have.

From the sounds of your experience any ICC equivalent course should be a breeze. You might be able to find somewhere online that allows you to do the ICC qualification without having to take a class or do a practical exam, at which point the world is your lobster as they say.

At the end of the day it's your choice. If you feel confident enough in your skills to safely handle a yacht then get out there and sail but if you have the slightest doubts then take the classes then get out there and sail.

My instincts are nothing beats practice but you need to know what you are doing first in order to practice it. And sometimes you need a piece of paper to prove you know what you know.

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Old 24-05-2015, 10:11   #10
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Re: Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

You have experience on ships , , , for now skip the schools, buy a sailboat
and go lake sailing or harbor hopping. Evaluate yourself as you go and
then decide if you need to go to schools. It worked for me!

Richard
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Old 24-05-2015, 10:15   #11
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Re: Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

I have a very similar background as yours with handling powerboats as a youngster, became a rigger apprentice out of High School and ended up as a seamen in the Army. Most of my sailing experience was gained on lakes,(sunfish, force 5's and Hobie's) my larger boat experience came on riverboats in Viet Nam. My wife had never sailed before and I wanted to get back to what I enjoyed so much.
We booked the first 2 sailing courses at an ASA school in Punta Gordo FL each course was 2 days. The instructors where awesome and geared the course to our different needs. Was a great time. I found that I had forgotten a few things but nothing that would have gotten me in trouble. My wife really learned a lot which made me more comfortable sailing with her. Six weeks later I had no problems with sailing my newly purchased Catalina 30 from Hingham NH. back to Portsmouth NH.



I think you should invest in a boat and not lessons. Experience is much more valuable, and do as much reading as you can. Check out the Videos on Utube. I hope you get out there real soon, and enjoy the adventures, life is to short to wait, Get Er Done.
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Old 24-05-2015, 10:15   #12
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Re: Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

Doesn't your local power and sail squadron provide some inexpensive courses that would let you polish up your knowledge base, get certification and meet other new cruisers?
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Old 24-05-2015, 11:04   #13
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Re: Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

Check out John Kretschmer Sailing - Training Passages - Workshops - Presentations - Expeditions - Writing/Photography. John Kretschmer Sailing offers short workshops and cruises that are great refreshers. Sounds like you are an ideal candidate.
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Old 24-05-2015, 11:31   #14
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Re: Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

Like riding a bicycle, you never forget.
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Old 24-05-2015, 12:30   #15
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Re: Is Sailing School Worth It (for me)?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ehbowen View Post
It's been almost twenty years since I last sailed a boat singlehanded. I served six years in the Navy, including one year at Annapolis before I washed out and went to the fleet as an enlisted engineer (MM1). After the Navy I spent two years in the Merchant Marine, again in the engineroom, before landing a job on shore.

In the mid-1990s I took up sailing for a couple of years; I challenged and passed the qualification sail from a local (and now defunct) sailing center which allowed me to charter small sailboats...Hunter 28s and the like. I did day sails only, and never left Galveston bay. Then I ran into some difficult times and dropped the hobby entirely.

I'm looking to get back into sailing. I was considering a local sailing school, but it looks as though I could spend nearly $2000 taking their classes and, at the end of it, would be able to do nothing more than spend $500 to charter one of their boats for a weekend. As an example, they want $350 for the self-study version of their navigation course...I took, and aced, a college-level (Navy ROTC) navigation course while I was sailing in the '90s. Have there been enough changes that I couldn't catch up on by studying a recent issue of Bowditch in my spare time?

Is it worth it to spend this kind of money for (re)training? I'm thinking that, instead, I could use the money to buy a decent used sailboat in the 25-30 foot range and...just go sailing. Maybe try to find someone with recent experience to crew with me, at least the first few times out. Does anyone have strong feelings about this, either way?
Put the money in a boat if your experience is what you have said.
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