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Old 29-10-2007, 17:35   #1
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What should we be saying to newbie crusiers?

I recently read one of Bernard Moitessier’s books, which in turn led me to re-read Robin Knox Johnston’s book on his round the world non-stop voyage. I had first read this as a youngster. These are two of, if not the two, most influential yachtsman of the last fifty years, IMHO. What I wondered was, what would the responses have been, had an online sailing forum existed when they made their first voyages? Some of the responses to people who are looking to do extended cruising, and looking to do it on small boats and on small budget, and are asking for advice, get some pretty severe and often rude and discouraging remarks. I know people redline in email way before they would at the tiki bar after a day on the water, but I still like to think that the sailing community operates at a higher level than that of the general internet typist.
I enjoy this forum in particular because it is generally far more civil, helpful, and less ego-driven than other forums like it. I also realize that many of the negative comments people make are well intentioned, and are intended to just cut quickly to what they see as major problems in the potential cruisers plan. The thing is, when I was first set to take off cruising, the responses I got from people who had actually been ‘out there’ were almost always positive and helpful. Most everyone else thought we were crazy. It seemed obvious to me then, who I should listen to, and I hope, as I prepare to take off again in a year and a half, that I give others starting out the positive support.
But back to the original notion, when RKJ decided to enter the around the world non-stop race, he:

1) had a smallish (32’) boat, with an unidentified leak, but it was all he could afford;
2) a cheap home built self steering system that he briefly tried and it didn’t work too well, but he thought he’d have plenty of time ‘out there’ to figure it out;
3) his previous single-handed experience was all of 24 hrs.;
4) his favored method for bathing and exercise was to jump off the bowsprit while under sail and swim as hard as he could until the boat passed him and he could grab the rope he had left trailing in the wake;
5) when in doubt, he consulted the brandy/whiskey/beer bottle.

Now this is Robin Knox Johnston we’re talking about! So considering how well he turned out, I find it a helpful reminder, that as sailors with an ocean or two under our belts (and that my own passages were often an anthology of errors), that we owe it to people to encourage them in the right way. Once you have that blue water experience behind you, some old barnacle telling you that there is only one way of doing something is the right one, will make you laugh (especially if its not your way), but when you are starting out that kind of strident stuff can really discourage the people we should be trying to support.
And thanks to all the people who have taken time to provide technical information on a variety of topics that I have found very useful in many past threads. Electrical, engineering, and computer technical stuff get over my head very quickly and it’s great when people break it down for the simple minded, like me.

S/v Dawn Treader

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Old 29-10-2007, 17:53   #2
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As a newbie...

Give folks your opinion, tis all one can ask.

I've read, and agree with no real basis to backup, there is a prejudice towards smaller boats here vs. larger boats. There is a prejudice here to have sufficient skill sets and "very" tested skill sets before setting out. This has been posted by other forum members

Everything in moderation.

As long as I get both sides of the story, I'm free to make my own decision. I'm an adult, however thankfully I did not get the sailing bug in my early 20's else I'd be on the other side of the world!!!

The advice always seems to be premised with real world experience is where it's at above all else. I think, with nothing to back that up, that is a true statement.

One of the best things I've read here, I forget whom posted it, was if the boat in question was all they could afford, if not going >in the here and now< based on timing/financial issues, would prevent the poster from going on their extended cruise then do it now with that boat. Was in reference to doing an east coast trip to the Caribbean in a Hunter 27' I think it was.

PS Thanks TAREUA... looks like I've got a few more books to read!

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Old 29-10-2007, 18:01   #3
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Well - The very first thing is this.

When you go to the internet for advice you are going to get opinions all over the map. You will sometimes spark heated debate. In a site like this with some members over 2,000 posts, there may be some "history" between members. You must accept this as part of the internet experience. You can't come here and expect a "right-e-o" from everyone on your scheme. I wouldn't want that anyway. By poking theories and hypotheses you make them better. There is a lot of experience here (way more than mine) so often the reponses are colored by what has worked most of the time. That isn't to say going out in a bathtub with a broomstick for a mast and a bedsheet for a sail will fail. But it probably will in most cases.

I will agree with you that this is about the most civil and friendly group I have found.

Now on topic - Here is what I would say.

1/ Don't finance your dream. Sell out, cash out, whatever but don't be in significant debt to do this
2/ Be realistic in what you can afford. Keep at least 50% of of you boat kitty for the first year's upgrades and fixes
3/ Make sure the family is bought in unless this is the dream to divorce over
4/ Make sure that if you are doing this with others that their needs, wants and desires are factored in. Don't put a family of 4 on a 28 foot boat for 6 months for example
5/ Don't over rush it. Sure the dream has been gestating for 20 years but if you have never been on the water, get a starter boat for 2 years and get some coastal experience.

If you have all the above covered I think the boat doesn't really matter. There are lots of boats and lots of choices. Arguing about the pointing ability of one 38 foot full keel over another is a bit like angels dancing on the heads of pins.

But here is what does matter - Do you want to sail or do you want to fix boats? A project boat sounds dreamy but some of the folks around here have been "building" the boat for 5 years. It's hard to keep the family motivated for that long and there are lot's of abandoned projects out there.

I want to sail - I am in the search for the next boat. It is OK for me to do a rolling refit and have the boat out every 3 months for a project or two but between times, that sucker better be able to take me where I want to go and show me a good time.

I look forward to other opinions.
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Old 29-10-2007, 18:08   #4
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In this forum, a balance must be struck between encouraging people to cruise on one hand and on the other hand, letting them know when their ideas may be unreasonable or flat out dangerous.

I think constructive criticism is the key word in letting people know when they may have unrealistic expectations. Never resorting to personal insults is a pretty obvious rule in responding to people. Answers to ideas or questions should always be responded to in a positive light. Responding with an alternative to an idea one sees as not realistic, I think is the best way of responding. In that response one should give a somewhat detailed explanation of why that persons idea may not be so good.

It's a delicate balance. Nobody should be discouraged from cruising but they should be given enough knowledge to be able to make good decisions for themselves..or told where they can go to seek this knowledge.

My first cruising book was Dove which I read when I was 12 yrs.
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Old 29-10-2007, 18:47   #5
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tell a story

Just like describing an anchorage, I tihink that it is best to simply relate your own first-hand experiences. That is certainly what I, as a new cruiser, found most useful.

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Old 29-10-2007, 19:36   #6
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As one of the newbies here, I must admit that I've been quite pleased with the common sense and helpfulness exhibited by members of this forum. So, to all of you "barnacles" ... thanks!
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Old 29-10-2007, 19:56   #7
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In general. we are supportive. The exceptions are generally out of concern that the approach might lead to failure when a simple nudge would lead to success. You will find most of my responses to new members include the words "Just do it" Or Go! We all have opinions, and most are based on personal experiences. I come from a family of professional mariners. My passion for the sea runs deep, and my experience with wrong paths even deeper. If I tell you I tried something and it was a bad choice, you can bet I will follow it up with sound reasoning. You can also bet I approached it with logical forethought in the beginning.
As for first books, "The Graveyard of the Pacific" was the book that inspired my turning point. Reading about ship wrecks and storms might not be the encouragement that some would search for, but it worked for me.
What that has in common with Knox Johnston and Moitessier is a true passion for the sea. The same could be said for every one on this forum. If we did not have that, it is unlikely we would spend the precious little time we have, expressing our thoughts and sharing our ideas here.
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Old 30-10-2007, 17:23   #8
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Robin Knox Johnston, Hal Roth and others were pioneers. It wasn’t that they did things which hadn’t been done before, they just did them in small boats that ordinary people could afford. Even though it was only a couple generations ago, the cruising community was virtually non-existent. It was extreme, outrageous, and the people who did it were thought of as Edmond Hillarys or Roger Banisters or just plain crazy.

Today there is a cruising community - just about everywhere that people on sailboats want to go. Sailboat cruising is a much more ‘conventional’ activity. In 2+ years of cruising the Bahamas/Caribbean (and, NO, we did not cross oceans, but we met plenty of people who had) we never heard anyone say that our boat or someone else’s was unsuitable, or they didn’t have enough experience, or they shouldn’t be here. Maybe they thought it, but they didn’t say it because .... well, the boat and the crew was here. One of the first things you learn when you finally leave your home port (everyone there will tell you that you need a bombproof blue water boat, a zillion electronic gizmos, and 20+ years experience) and go cruising is that you are automatically and unconditionally accepted regardless of age, experience, or boat/bank account size.

Now that we are temporarily (I hope) land-bound, I have some strong opinions about cruising boats and cruising plans - and I’m not shy about sharing them. But, I’m smart enough to know that they are appropriate for me, not everyone. Today, there are an infinite variety of cruising lifestyles - the biggest mistake you can make is to think that you can’t do it or that you have to do it the way someone else did. We met people who grew up sailing and had years of racing/yachtclub sailing experience, but had little navigation experience and had never anchored a cruiser class boat until they went cruising. We met others who had virtually no experience at all until they bought a boat and just decided to go. Is that the best idea? Well, no, but who cares? The best idea is Go simple, Go slow, and most importantly, Go now: Cruising Log
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Old 30-10-2007, 23:27   #9
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Good question and also one that I have considered in the past when sailing neophytes or young deck officers, have asked for general guidance.

Somehow, my successful career in yacht deliveries and as a super yacht captain gave people the flattering impression that I knew what I was doing. The reality, I told them is that I make many mistakes, but have learned to recognize wrong decisions early enough and have dispensed with the ego of refusing to admit it and try something else before the downside becomes significant. I depend on the rest of the crew to second guess me!

Being a good sailor is like being a good manager in any business, where you are able to provide different solutions to various problems.

Firstly, a hidden part of you is the “professional pessimist” that scrutinizes everything with a Murphy mindset, neutralizing the obviously dangerous, while developing a leadership plan for those nightmare scenarios. That’s the duck part, paddling like crazy under the water while appearing calm on the surface.

The second part, is what you could call, “remaining in the zone”. Being sensitive to your surrounds, your ship, and your crew and of course Nature. That part becomes more obvious with experience, but is achieved much faster through serious study of all the technical skills and considerations a mariner should know. It is a never ending journey of learning from others, discovery and most importantly, observation!

Lastly, know that you can do it! Be confident you have what it takes! There is no magic, no innate qualities, just a humble mindset towards your own weaknesses and that you have allowed for them by imagining worst case scenarios as that closet pessimist.

DO worry! (that’s your job as the captain) but be confident and not rushed in your decisions.

Consider this:

We assign a moment to decision, to dignify the process as a timely result of rational and conscious thought. But decisions are made of kneaded feelings; they are more often a lump than a sum.
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Old 31-10-2007, 01:12   #10
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Do take a look at slomotion’s link to the “Little Gidding” logs (“Tips”). Cruising Log
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Old 31-10-2007, 07:06   #11
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I missed that link the first time. Such good advice from David and Eileen!
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Old 01-11-2007, 00:51   #12
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Good link Gord great advice and good reading.
The basis of accomplishment is in never quitting
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Old 01-11-2007, 06:56   #13
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At 45, with four years to go before I take off (and having wanted to do this for 30 years), I personally just ignore people who say you need such and such a boat and this equipment and this amount of money. However, for younger people who are interested in doing this, I sometimes get frustrated when I read those posts. Thanks TAREUA for bringing this up.
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Old 01-11-2007, 10:30   #14
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What should we say to a newbie? Just whatever we want as long as we say in my opinion and with my experience. I think people new to sailing and this forum want your opinions. I've made comments discouraging unsafe (IMO) behavior and I've made discouraging comments about boats that I think are unsafe and badly built.
I've seen folks sign on to the forum, ask a question or make a comment, never get a response and we never see them on the forum again. I really think most folks are looking for contact and should be rewarded with a few messages to get them started. We can't expect them to know how to negotiate this forum the first time they post so they might highjack someone else's meet and greet. I think newbies ought to be encouraged to post and be met with opinions but not hostility.
Kind Regards,
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Old 01-11-2007, 10:39   #15
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I think the reason this topic is extra interesting to me as I prepare to take off sailing again, is that I’m surprised at my own level of apprehension. In some ways experience gives you confidence, but it isn’t quite like riding a bike. I don’t have to worry if I will enjoy cruising, or if I can handle the boat in the middle of the ocean, or make generally good decisions when things are going poorly. At the end of my last stint of cruising, I remember saying that it seemed a waste to stop when I had managed to crawl so far up the learning curve. When we stopped, the difference between sailing from one Greek Island to the next, versus heading across the Atlantic, was really no more than two days prep time. The boat, the wife, and I, were generally ready for the water. I’d be kidding myself to think that we’ll have that kind of readiness in the boat or the crew; or that confidence, after ten years back on land, when we finally take off again. That will have to come with time. It is exactly what Pelagic calls ‘remaining in the zone.’ Cruising under sail is life pretty much lived outdoors, and that alone takes a lot of conditioning. The brain can’t turn off like it might when you put down the car keys after you drive home from work. You sailed the boat all day and now you get to sail it all night, etc.
You guys have brought up so many good points.
Ex-Calif, I would agree with everything you said, which if you knew me, would probably fill you with unease. And I know that even though I’ll think we’re ready when we leave, the first six months will be a repair-fest as we go to using all the systems all the time. Ignorance might have been bliss there.
The real worry for me is that I’m taking off sailing with three children. Now that also is the part of it that makes me the happiest, but I really will be a Newbie cruiser with children. I never met a cruising child I didn’t like, and my kids are eager for adventure. Still, it will be unknown territory, and so a little scary. The advice that has been given to would be cruisers to ‘sail as often as possible’ is something I have paid attention to. The more we’re out, the more I relax, and the more fun they have, as they acclimatize and learn some jobs on board.
One bit of advice I have passed on from time to time is for people who want to take off cruising, to go to the local yacht club and get themselves on a race boat. They can get more sailing in four hours there, than in four weeks in the San Juans. Is that good advice? It took me two years to quit fussing so much with main, and I still can’t get myself to run a chute without a pole.
Slomotion, that is a great site you have, and I look forward to really exploring it thoroughly.

S/v Dawn Treader

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