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Old 24-04-2015, 09:25   #16
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

I think your question has been answered pretty well, so not much for me to add, except I am you. When I read your initial question I thought for a moment that I had posed it. I have no mechanical experience either and have now owned a 30 year old 41 foot Islander Freeport for a year. Pretty much all the systems, navigation electronics, batteries, head, refrigeration are replaced or in the process of being rebuilt, and I still have no mechanical experience. I have watched. I have read. I have asked a million questions and received ten million answers (for no two sailors agree on anything!) I have been fortunate to be surrounded by cruisers here at the Balboa Yacht Club in Panama City, Panama. And yes, cruisers will go way out of there way to help you as they have me. It has been a long frustrating year in a lot of respects. &*@%* BOATS! I think that I am a month away from actually having things in order. I still have much to learn, but I know the maintenance jobs and will just take things as they come/break. I haven't regretted buying the boat for a minute. Well...okay, maybe there were a couple of times I wanted to take a sledgehammer to the bow and work my way aft, but they passed. And they will continue to pass. It ain't easy, but it's all worth it. Good luck!


“If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your ****, then you deserve it.” ― Frank Zappa
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Old 24-04-2015, 09:28   #17
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Everything ok, just go ahead, as long as you can keep it in the learn-trial-learn-trial loop instead of the trial-error-trial-error loop.

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Old 24-04-2015, 09:46   #18
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Originally Posted by rajsach View Post
I'm a relative newbie to the site but I've posted a couple of times. We are in the market for a new catamaran in the mid 40s range and have narrowed it down to a couple of choices. Timeline is 3-6 months before pulling the trigger. We plan to use the boat ourselves and not put it in charter. We plan to sail about half the year and work the rest. My sailing experience is relatively limited... we had a mono when I was younger and in retrospect we had no idea what we were doing. We recently got back into sailing after a 15 year hiatus and took multiple ASA courses to get back to a level of proficiency. Since then we've chartered about 6 times in the BVIs on cats ranging to about 45ft.
Here's the problem. I'm not mechanical at all. The more I hang out on this site the more intimidated I become. Everyone seems to be very knowledgeable sure about what they're doing.There are so many systems on a modern boat and so many maintenance items to deal with. I just don't know if I can handle it. How do you get from A to B? Did all of you just learn as you went along or do you have to have a certain level of competence before even considering buying a boat. Some may say just buy a smaller boat but that doesn't solve the problem. Its still the same systems just on a smaller scale. I don't mind paying someone to take care of it all but that doesn't help me when I'm out by myself and something goes wrong. I guess my question is... is this a trial and error thing and you learn as you go? That doesn't sound too safe or responsible to me. Do you take courses on this stuff? If so, where and what?
I'm starting to question the whole thing

A newbie! What a great place to be. So many great things to learn. I've been boating 40 years and thought I knew it all, but then I found out about the United States Power Squadron. Join one close to your location and get the educdation of a lifetime.
Learn about engines; 12 volt electricity; weather, plotting and charting, and a great numbert of seminars such as how to deal with an emergency at sea, how to prepare your boat when a hurricane is heading your way; how to anchor so you stay put; and so much more.
And now after boating 73 years and cruising the entire eastern coastline of the U.S. and sailing to Bermuda and down to Trinidad and having taken every course the Power Squadron teaches, I have gained the knowledge and confidence to go anywhere in the world.
The Power Squadron is the quickest (and cheapest) way to learn everything you will need to learn about going from point A to B. And you will learn it in the company of other great people who like you want to become competent boaters. The classroom is a better way to learn surrounded by your peers rather than trying to learn at night in 35 knots of wind and six foot seas.
Do yourself a favor...take a few seminars from the power squadron. See if you like it and then join one squadron and take as many courses as you can.

Good luck!

Howard Rolthstein
"Sweet Freedom"
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Old 24-04-2015, 10:47   #19
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

I've been sailing for 45+ years, living aboard full time for a year and a half. Still learning! I started with a daysailer which was a good way to learn about sailing and costal pilotage but not until I had to deal with the complex systems of a cruising boat did I begin to learn any of the numerous skills needed for diesel, pressure water, anchoring systems, wiring, batteries, electric monitoring and electric generation. Not to mention electronic navigation, radar, radio, fiberglass repair and so much more. I was not mechanically experienced or all. I have learned quit a bit about this boat. I have even been able to help some less experienced people learn some things about their boats. But I'm still learning.

I think that is the key for me. I admit I'm still learning. There are are some truly knowledge people on this forum, engineers, airplane mechanics, and marine industry professionals. It took me a while to form my own opinion of whose opinions to listen to. You will get what you need from experience, yours and the experts. Try not to let it overwhelm you. You don't have to know it all at once. You will learn one thing at a time and you will do just fine.

S/V B'Shert
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Old 24-04-2015, 10:56   #20
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Thank you everyone for the great advice. This excercise has been very reassuring and encouraging . Thank you again

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Old 24-04-2015, 11:56   #21
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

It is only when you look at the whole picture, and only if you are less experienced.

Tackle one system at a time. Split things into easily learn'able chunks.

Learn the basics before going into anything more complex. Use the A+1 rule of learning.

I would make the sole exception for your sailing skills: try to become a competent sailor/driver before you venture off and mix up with the crowd. You become a competent sailor by sailing and then sailing more.

Boat systems are just systems. Few people are omnicompetent. Most of us are good at X but we tend to suck at Y.

Keep on learning. That's part of the game.

Sursum corda. You can.

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Old 24-04-2015, 12:06   #22
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Hi Monte, I was in a similar position (been a pen-pusher all my life) a couple of years ago and bought a 30 year old boat (34 foot single hull)...I was a bit overwhelmed by all the stuff I needed to learn...I have spent a lot of time on my boat and made lots of small improvements since then. Any time I have a professional fix something I watch and learn....Youtube is a fantastic source of free learning material...from servicing a winch to changing engine impellers to 'Man overboard' exercises....And read lots of books.
Just do it and immerse yourself in it....Two years into owning my own boat I am confident to take her offshore on short cruises single handed, knowing what she is capable of and becoming more and more knowledgable myself on each trip....I have fixed a few things that I didn't know existed a couple of years ago...It is very rewarding.

Good Luck!
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Old 24-04-2015, 13:20   #23
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

What in particular is inhibiting you? You've chartered a similar size repeatedly so I assume you are comfortable maneuvering and sailing a cat? Engine, electrical, plumbing? Or is it the fear of danger? " I'm starting to rethink the whole thing " makes me think there is something other than the mechanics that worries you.
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Old 24-04-2015, 13:40   #24
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Hello again rajsach - a lot of good input here except for this piece:

Originally Posted by scottmills View Post
My opinion (and you'll be getting a ton of them) is to re-think catamaran and get a monohull. I truly believe you'll be happier in the long run.

We can all have our opinions and "beliefs", but only you can know what're the best decisions for you.

As for boat maintenance and systems knowledge, maintaining a boat requires the same basic aptitudes and ability to learn as for maintaining a car or a house. If you are handy with household and automotive tools and know how to use them, a boat is just an extension of these skills with a few more things to learn as you go. Indeed, you may discover as I and many others have, that being confronted with another thing to fix is just another opportunity to learn. If you yearn to learn, you will be forever gratified as a boat owner.

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Old 24-04-2015, 13:56   #25
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

When I was growing up, my father considered changing a lightbulb to be pretty technical. I learned zero mechanical skills at all and was pretty intimidated.

It wasn't until I bought a boat that I decided I had to force myself to do virtually all of my own work to force myself to learn.

Boy am I happy I did that! I have some ridiculously stupid stories to tell now, and I certainly broke a few things, but I've saved a ton of money and, much more importantly, gained a lot of knowledge and competence.

The great thing about buying a used boat is that you will very quickly get the opportunity to learn about just about every system!

I don't remember the last time everything was working at the same time. I'm pretty sure it never has. You will also learn Triage!
Chris - Become the Confident Skipper of Your Own Sailboat
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Old 24-04-2015, 13:58   #26
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!


The first thing I recommend you do, is breath. Sit down and take a deep breath, then another....

I've not even set foot on a sailboat yet, and I'm not stressing this much.

I also recommend you read Lin and Larry Pardey's books, Cruising on Serraffyn is a great place to start. Their advice is pretty straight forward: Go simple, Go small, Go now.

From what I'm learning, getting a bigger or a smaller boat isn't just a case of scaling everything up or down, respectively. Things work different on different sized boats, and you need different systems. A 40+ foot Cat is a LOT of boat. (not that I'm speaking from experience of course)

Having a smaller boat may give you a chance to learn things when it isn't all so advanced and complex.

Learning sailing and boat maintenance is like learning anything else. It is full of jargon and everyone has an opinion. But no one learned it over night.

My blog, Sofa to Sailboat where you'll also find sample chapters from my upcoming novel.
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Old 24-04-2015, 14:11   #27
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Aloha and welcome to the forum of many opinions.

I liked Scottmills comment but didn't make it myself because of all those multi hornets nests out there.

My best advice would be take everyone's advice unless you learn that they don't know much more than you do. Here's one good thing I learned from experience many years ago about diesel engines. Don't go messing about with them when you don't know what you're doing. Just turning one nut a bit one way or the other can make the engine inoperable. I had to have a mechanic come aboard and give me a "how to bleed a diesel engine" lesson. I was never so happy as the hear that engine start again and learned from then on to really get to know your diesel before taking a wrench to it.

You said new boat so I'll also just say that buying a new boat does not guarantee that things will work any better or longer than buying a good condition used boat. You might be able to get satisfaction from a builder or supplier but who know?
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Old 24-04-2015, 17:28   #28
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

You've got lots of good advice here. I'm assuming there's been enough to keep you moving. Let me just give you one caution for when others help you - which they will and is invaluable and is part of the cruising experience.

Listen carefully to how they approach helping you. If they say "this is how it must be done", slow down and get another opinion first, they may well be right, but then again they may not. If they say something more along the lines of "this is how I've done it myself (or seen it done), but lets look at your boat and see if that works on your boat" you can be a little more confident that someone is approaching the problem with an open mind. A second opinion still doesn't hurt, and they are both free!

Don't let this put you off getting help. Just a caution. I love how the cruising community is always ready to help out, and I try to pay it back. It is a great part of the life.

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Old 24-04-2015, 18:29   #29
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Originally Posted by duefocena View Post
What in particular is inhibiting you? You've chartered a similar size repeatedly so I assume you are comfortable maneuvering and sailing a cat? Engine, electrical, plumbing? Or is it the fear of danger? " I'm starting to rethink the whole thing " makes me think there is something other than the mechanics that worries you.
No its not the sailing but the mechanics and the potential for things breaking and not knowing what to do about it. I know that becoming a better sailor takes practice and just getting out there and doing it. Sounds like its the same for boat maintenance and such based on everyones advice.
Your observation is quite astute though. I 've been very fortunate in that I've never had any issues with things breaking in the few times we chartered...until last week...
We had chartered a Lagoon 450 and were moored in North Sound, Virgin Gorda. I kept hearing a hissing sound in the starboard hull. I took off the cover to look in the bilge and there was water spraying everywhere. I ofcourse panicked. I thought it was a thru hull leaking at first but it took a few minutes to figure out that it was the waterline going to the shower in the forward head. I didn't really know how to fix the large slit in the line and there was no valve to shut off to the line. So I just turned off the water pressure pump and just slowed the leak and watched as the starboard water tank spilled slowly into the bilge and subsequently overboard via the bilge pump. The charter company sent someone over right away. His solution to the problem was to cut the hose in the bilge and insert a bolt wrapped in rigging tape into the lumen of the cut hose and tighten it all together with a hose clamp. He said "Ok, line is bypassed. You should be fine now" and then went on his way. This whole experience left me with one thought....this is complete BS!. Or was it? I just don't know. He did solve the problem but I think if that was my boat I would consider that solution suboptimal at best. This turned out to be a very small problem in the end but this experience was the impetus for the OP and has me questioning my ability and experience to deal with serious problems while underway .

Based on all of the posts here, it seems like a lot of it can be mitigated by reading and learning as much as you can, being a sponge when someone offers advice/help, learning as you go and a little flying by the seat of your pants.
Thanks again everyone for the help and words of encouragement. I'm definitely moving forward with this. We are chartering a Helia 44 in a week as I narrow my choices down. I know one thing... bring a bolt and rigging tape
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Old 24-04-2015, 20:10   #30
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Great story.

We ALL were there at one time or another, too.

Two books: This Old Boat by Don Casey, and Boatowners Manual by Nigel Calder.

Or did we say that on page 1?

Happy boat hunting.

Stu Jackson
Catalina 34 #224 (1986) C34IA Secretary
Cowichan Bay, BC, (Maple Bay Marina) SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)
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