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Old 03-09-2007, 05:46   #1
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Our First Boat at Age 50

OK, here goes, I am throwing us to the lions! We have done lots of homework (books, magazines, forums such as this) and after careful consideration, have made the decision to retire to a sailboat (we are mid forties and early 50's in good health). We have never owned a sailboat, but have sailed with friends on boats 42-100 feet in the waters around Miami. SO, the decision was made and over the past several years we have sold off all our collections (lots and lots) via Ebay, sold the house a couple of years ago, and now are in the process of selling our business. We are in a rental apartment with no strings, owned by a good friend who allows us to make our own lease. Once the business is sold, we are planning on purchasing outright an Amel Maramu based on all of our research. It will be a few years old (5 or so, but not older), but will be paid for up front, no note.
SO NOW WHAT? We are planning on having it delivered to us down hear and starting our sailing lessons from here while having a dock space, as we are very new to this and want instruction on our own boat. We are thinking the instruction and practice will take about 1 year in the Florida waters and Bahamas before we are skilled enough to take off.
NOW, based on this, in your humble opinions, ARE WE CRAZY, or does this sound like a sound plan?
Thanks in advance for your input.

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Old 03-09-2007, 06:19   #2
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I would STRONGLY recommend that before you head off anywhere in your Amel (nice boat), that you buy two small sailing dinghies - one each - and learn to sail them properly. There are things that you should know about sailing that you will never learn on a boat as big as an Amel. If you don't feel agile or athletic enough to be able to sail a small dinghy - you are probably not athletic or agile enough to retire on a boat.

Good Luck !

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Old 03-09-2007, 06:43   #3
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An open cockpit day sailor would give the same lessons but also let you learn to sail together as a team. Once you "graduate" to your own vessel, find an experienced sailor or couple to take a couple of cruises with - that way you accelearte the On the Job Training and reduce the chances for misfortune.

Years ago we met a French couple sailing a 35' - 40' sloop in the Caribbean. They had given up desk jobs, taken a sailing course in Brittany, bought the boat and cast off making their way, slowly, transatlantic.

It can be done.

Good luck!
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Old 03-09-2007, 07:41   #4
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Hi and best of luck! For my tuppence worth it's also important to have the ancilliary disciplines covered and there's no time like the present! - VHF/SSB courses and certification, sea survival course, Met, heavy weather techniques, anchoring techniques, elements of Nav both electronic and traditional, passage planning, provisioning, Man Overboard recovery techniques, etc etc, a good book for someone in your position would be "Living Aboard" by Libby Allcard- very informative and a "helicopter view" of everything to consider brfore you set off. Would love to hear of your progress as you go . . once again good luck!
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Old 03-09-2007, 08:11   #5
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Probably Not What You Want to Hear

The broker’s slips in certain marina’s in San Diego, Ft. Lauderdale, the VI et al are not know as “Ports of Broken Dreams” for no reason. They are filled with perfectly sound, well equipped, yachts abandoned for sale (and frequently sold at huge discounts) by disenchanted owner’s who, too late, discovered that the fantasy and reality of owning and cruising a yacht have very little in common. Sailing as a guest on a friend’s yacht for a day, or a few days, or even a charter—where a chase boat with spares and knowledgeable technicians—is only a cell phone or radio call away, fosters major misconceptions.

Rather than learning to sail on a newly purchased, and not inexpensive, large yacht, it would be wiser to delay (tho’ Joel Potter will no doubt be disappointed with such advice) and start by taking some sailing courses such as those offered by the Colgate School—or the Annapolis School of Sailing. Despite the adverts, I suggest you do not start with a “Learn to Cruise” course (which leaves one nominally prepared at best) but with the most basic course—which teaches the essentials of sail and boat handling—and then work up through the courses from there. You might also purchase an inexpensive day-sailor to practice on. You’ll learn a lot, quickly. Then do a couple of Long Distance crew trips. There is one from the northeast to the BVI each year that delivers charter-boats to their seasonal charter bases. And/or, do a school trip on a boat such as John and Amanda Swan Neal’s (see Mahina Expeditions - 2007-2010 Expedition Sailing Schedule).

Once you’ve done the foregoing, and spent a few days living at a 20 degree heel; or worse, rolling out down-wind, then decide if and what yacht to buy. While the Amel is a good boat, you might discover that it is not the boat for you, or is.


s/v HyLyte
"It is not so much for its beauty that the Sea makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the waves, that so wonderfully renews a weary spirit."
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Old 03-09-2007, 08:45   #6
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Of course, you're crazy. Get used to it; you're not alone.

I hadn't owned a sailboat in over 20 years when we bought our H34 at the age of 52. We spent 4 months refitting and daysailing. Then we took a 'practice' cruise from Tampa to the Dry Tortugas and the Keys. While we were in Key West a weather window opened to cross the Gulf stream. Everyone else was leaving - so we made some phone calls, and we went too. We spent the next two years island hopping the Bahamas/Caribbean.
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Old 03-09-2007, 09:57   #7
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Why a Maramu? Great ocean going and well built boats but draft and mast height are a bit much for your part of the world. Rules out ICW trips and is sure not Bahamas friendly.
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Old 03-09-2007, 10:15   #8

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Starting your sailing lessons on a 40+ foot boat is like learning to drive on a tractor-trailer rig. Just not the way most folks would want to do it.

I'd also suggest taking sailing lessons in something way smaller, less intimidating, and less expensive to smash, in the 22-28' range. Any ASA certified sailing school, or go over to Sanibel where the Colgates have Offshore Sailing School headquartered now.

Typically a "learn to sail" course is 3 days, on weekends. Following by another 3 days of intermediate/advanced sailing, although some places will give you a straight week and combine them. You may be surprised to find that you "should" also take a racing course--because racing isn't just about the sport/rules, it is about the tweaks that make your boat go faster, and sooner or later every cruiser wants to make their boat go faster--to get the last spot in the anchorage, to get into port before sunset, to make dinner reservations. Whatever. < G >

From there, most folks plunging in would take a one-week cruise on a larger boat, 36-45' range, to learn "bareboat" sailing. How to check your engine, set an anchor, not blow up the stove. Those skills are totally separate from "sailing the boat" and, again, I'd urge you to take a bareboating course before your purchase--to make sure you know what you are getting into with having to maintain and operate the boat. If you are already sure of that, and changing engine oil, stopping leaks, checking the prop shaft gland, are all old hat to you--then by all means skip it.
But a couple of weeks before you make that six-figure investment, isn't such a bad way to start.
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Old 03-09-2007, 11:21   #9
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We're reading this thread with interest. Our story is as follows:

Mark and I were high school classmates some 40 years ago and in the interim have become a widower and a divorcee. We re-met at a class reunion several years ago and have been together since then. Discovering that we both have a desire to live aboard a boat we have approached it considering all of the suggestions mentioned above. In fact Mark, being a Project Manager, started our planning by tacking a huge piece of paper over a wall in our house. We listed all of our assumptions about living aboard as well as perceived advantages and disadvantages. We then listed everything we thought we needed to do before we take the big step of buying a boat and living aboard it. This began with listing "milestones" followed by "tasks" which would get us to those milestones. We have categories such as "house" (getting it ready to sell), and "boat" (including training, decisions leading to purchase of the boat, etc.). All lists are long and detailed. After covering the wall with post-its, the plan was transferred to a spreadsheet with dates to start and finish each task.

So far, we have done a great deal of research using the Internet, a high stack of books, magazines, and talking to friends and acquaintances who have been sailing for years. Mark's son and daughter-in-law bought and lived aboard a large sailboat a few years ago, traveling from Annapolis to South America. We are now going to start the process in interest by taking classes, visiting boat shows, and narrowing our decision on a used boat to purchase. Reading this forum (it's the home page on my computer) has been extremely helpful.

Yes, we know that a very high percentage of people who plan to do what we are hoping to achieve fail and their boats end up in the "Ports of Broken Dreams" as mentioned above. We are convinced this won't happen to us, but realize it could. Yet, we are determined to try, as we look on this as an adventure, and our only regret would be if we didn't go forward with our plans. We also know that no matter how much research and training we do, there will be "surprises" along the way.

This is my first post to this forum and probably won't be the last. We have been reading it for many months, but the more one learns, the more one realizes there is more to learn, and that has been our experience thus far. At least we are now at the point where we know some questions to ask.

Thanks to all who have posted such helpful messages on this forum. While we wish we could have had the experience most of you have, we are learning much vicariously, including the knowledge that the learning will never stop. Incidentally, while we haven't decided on our boat, we do have possible names, including "Seize the Day" and "Soulmaties." Both describe us well.
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Old 03-09-2007, 11:32   #10
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Do sail a small boat for bit.


Go for it!

And good luck.
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Old 03-09-2007, 12:32   #11
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There is nothing wrong with your plan. Many will say that you have to learn to sail in a dinghy but you don't. You can learn in a large keelboat and your knees will be much better for it. But learning to sail is the easy part of cruising, proper seamanship is the hard part and this usually takes a few years and hopefully you will learn. Some sail for years and know little of seamanship. I have seen hot shot sailors who would beat most around the cans who don't know how to anchor a vessel, or splice a line, tie knots or change an impeller. Seamanship is what you need, learning to sail is relatively easy.

The ideal sailor, it is said, is one who says and does the proper thing in just the proper way and at the proper time. But there is a new breed of sailor out there these days, tied to the chartplotter and lost when anything unusual arises. Many get by this way, having a large checking account helps.
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Old 03-09-2007, 12:59   #12
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Originally Posted by Vasco View Post
There is nothing wrong with your plan. . . learning to sail is the easy part of cruising, proper seamanship is the hard part and this usually takes a few years and hopefully you will learn. Some sail for years and know little of seamanship. . . Seamanship is what you need, learning to sail is relatively easy.

The ideal sailor, it is said, is one who says and does the proper thing in just the proper way and at the proper time. But there is a new breed of sailor out there these days, tied to the chartplotter and lost when anything unusual arises. Many get by this way, having a large checking account helps.
I have to agree completely with what Vasco has posted.

Maybe we need a "ditto" icon on here somewhere. (No, wait, would that make me a "ditto-head?") So maybe we need something that indicates "I'll co-sign for (fill-in-the-blank), posted above."

"Your vision becomes clear only when you look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks within, awakens."
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)
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Old 03-09-2007, 13:15   #13
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Second the idea of buying a small trailerable sailboat with a main and jib and preferably a spinnaker. A Rhodes 19 would be a good stable platform to learn on. A very common, relatively cheap sailboat with a good following and established value. Sail it often and long, even to the point of sleeping overnight. Use it as a floating small camper. The overnighters, etc. will give you a first hand idea of what you really need to go cruising.

Sailing a big boat just doesn't give you the gut level feel for the forces of nature that you need. A big boat is like doing surgery with winter gloves on, possible but not enough tactile feel to be really successful.

FWIW, my wife sailed with me from Tampa to Norfolk, and many daysails in Hawaii, all on 30' plus boats. She was a great cook and learned to do what I told her and was great crew. Still, she just didn't get the intricacies of making the boat move by the wind. On her own, she signed up for a dinghy class. It included a 1/2 day of classwork, and a half day rigging and dry sailing, an hour or so of solo sailing with a couple of instructors in a separate boat, and a couple of mornings of unsupervised solo sailing. That modest training was key to her finally really understanding 'sailing.'

In my case, I built a Sailfish at 12 years old, launched it and taught myself to sail. Learned all I needed to know about sailing on that boat over the next four years. Read a lot and bought a 26' boat when I got my first significant pay check after college. Sailed the hell out of that boat for two years. Learned the intracies of sailing a more complicated boat and the rudiments of coastal navigation but not much more about the down and dirty of sailing. Bought a 35 footer that I sailed with my future wife on the East Coast and I lived aboard. In two years gained more experience with a larger, but no more complicated, boat. Bought a Westsail 32 bare hull and finished it out. Took a celestial navigation class at a local JC. After a year of coastal cruising and final construction, sailed off for two years in SoPac.

Did it all with no sailing instruction and only rudimentary navigation training. Had the Naval Aviation OCS navigation training, yes the carrier ended up in Iowa. Other than that, all the knowledge came from books.

Yes you can do it, but can't stress enough, starting out on a smaller boat.

Peter O.
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Old 03-09-2007, 13:30   #14
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I will also add to what Vasco says mostly because he really is right on this one. The learning to sail part really is the easy part. Most people can learn to sail and quite quickly. Seamanship takes a life time to master and a few years to really know why it takes your whole life and only then you may have enough to go out on your own within limits you will then really understand. I would suggest a class on school boats of a small enough nature that you each can learn to single hand and feel the boat and see the response. You won't see or feel it as easy on a big boat. Once you know what it's like you'll know what to look for. Then start doing short trips on a larger boat with a small crew of friends and better yet experienced cruisers / sailors. Join a yacht club that cruises and go on club trips. You basically have to screw up a few times to get the hang of it and better to do it close to home in friendly if not familiar places. You really want to have some time on your own boat after you you learn the basics. A full sailing season before you jump off the edge of the world is worthwhile. Docking and undocking alone could be a whole season. Setting anchors and all the other boat chores need to be very familiar and well practiced. You need to work as a team. 50 anchorages and 50 strange docks will tell you the whole story of if you are ready.

The bottom line is all of it is supposed to be fun. Don't make it a new job you hate to show up for in the morning. Learn and grow in ways you can easily be winners based on your own terms. Learn not to be in a hurry - it's a sailboat!
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Old 03-09-2007, 15:25   #15
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Amels are great boats, for sure (I'm jealous). I think your plan is great and there is no reason why it cannot be a success. But here are a few friendly pieces of advice:

The cost of maintianing a boat is proportional to the square of it's length (i.e. not directly proportional), so a 50 footer would cost at least four times as much to maintain as a 25 footer. Just as an exercise, get a quote for a new mainsail for a typical 30' yacht and for a typical 50' yacht!

Bigger boats are, generally, more comfortable when in a decent sea, and, of course, more comfortable at anchor, but the bigger the boat, generally, the less manoueverable it is, and it can be a real handfull trying to bring a big boat into a marina pen with only 2 people on board (especially in a cross breeze).

People often seem to decide on the boat they are going to buy based on how big a boat they can afford, but in my opinion they would, in many cases, be advised to buy based on how small aboat they could be comfortable in. I have a 40' boat, which has plenty of space for my partner and I and is big enough to be comfortable in open ocean with decent swell, but is small enough for the two of us to handle reasonably well. We couldn't afford the upkeep on a bigger boat.

Personally, I don't think that it is necessary to buy sailing dinghys, nor to learn to sail in a small tippy boat. I certainly wouldn't advocate buying 2 and single handing them. I learned to sail on keelboats and, having sailed 18' dinghys subsequently, don't feel that I missed out by mot learning in a small dinghy. Having said that, I do think that it would be wise to try and get some sailing experience before you buy your dream boat. You can often sign up for learn to sail courses at your local marina / yacht club, or even put your name down as inexperienced (but keen) crew in the local yacht club's low-key "round the cans" races. I picked up most of my skills from crewing on other people's boats with skillful & experienced sailors. You may also wish to try a charter for a week or two, just to get a feel for what life afloat is like.

Good luck with your adventure. Don't be put off by setbacks or naysayers. Enjoy!

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