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Old 25-05-2012, 12:45   #16
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Originally Posted by breakersailer
I am retired Coast Guard and avid sailor maybe I can give some advice here as I have read more than one post from people with no experience wanting to sail the ocean.

Size of boat; I have launched in 20 foot seas in a 10" bathtub called a MSB, self baling and all open to the elements so size has little to do with it, type of vessel and skill of the man at the helm has everything to do with it.

So that said lets please learn to think in different terms, not can my boat make it but can I make it in my boat. Boston Whaler makes a great small boat and is used at sea comfortably by many. How many times have I heard owners brag about it unsinkability? It is advertised as unsinkable and for sure it is and don't get me wrong it is a very good boat. The trouble is that when you spend hours or days looking for one that did not come back typically you find the boat or someone does and typically it is not sunk as advertised but there is no one on it. The boat will make it home, the owner will not. I wonder if the owner had risked too much having put his faith and confidence in a boat and not himself. I see that with people trying to buy the safest boat they can to compensate for a lack of ability. This is a bad combination.

I have seen beautiful boats abandoned in heavy weather by experienced Captains caught in storms, the boat was left behind still floating, the problem was not the boat, not even the skills of the captain, the problem was that it was being crewed by humans.

Unless you have been at sea in a storm riding it out for days on end you can not imagine how taxing it can be, mentally and physically. Getting thrown around the deck constantly paying attention to where you are in your position to the seas, getting knocked down, the boat gets back up, do you? Water stinging your face blown into your eyes, you can't see anything... How many times do you have the energy to get back up? The stress and the lack of sleep destroys the most skilled sailors.

I have tied myself into the rack just to be able to sleep without being thrown out, I slept a bit with one arm wrapped around a pole and my body roped and jammed into a wedged rack. Gratefully skilled sailors took their watch and allowed me that possibility. I don't wish the experience on anyone but some temp the weather and that is what the Coast Guard does first is look for those in distress.

I want to share an experience that may give you some healthy perspective. In 1986 while crossing the N Atlantic a rouge wave swept me overboard. It was 10 foot seas and low visibility the wave had to have been 20. It banged me up pretty good sweeping me across the deck. I then found myself in the ocean and around me were walls of water. I was going up the wall cresting I could see my ship turning and then tumbling back down the waver into the trough and nothing but water around me again. It is liked being sealed into a tomb of water.

A skilled CG crew knows how to come back on course and eyes are on deck looking for you. Now unless they are looking for you in the one piece of the vast ocean and looking in that very second and for that second when you crest a wave you will never be seen.

If they are scared, and now alone on the boat trying to navigate in heavy seas and needing to see you in that second in the vast ocean which has no perspective and no point of reference...My friend you will most likely have some time to remember your family, your love and trust me since i have been there those are the only things you will be thinking about before the sea takes you.

Safety gear should be on you not below deck. Something as cheap and simple as a whistle tied to your life jacket can be the difference between you being found and never being seen again.

Gratefully after 23 minutes, I still think the log book has an error as it seemed like 23 hours in cold water I was located. A Coast Guard good is your crew? My friends and whoever is sailing with me always goes through a drill when we go out, without exception they take turns coming about and dropping sails at a minimum.

You don't want to fall off your boat and watch people panic to stop her who have no idea what they are doing...there is no key to turn off the sails. We make fun of the drills and people always without exception enjoy the learning experience and the refresher course for the experienced. It is hard sometimes for the skilled sailor to swallow his pride a bit and drill but trust me if my shipmates who have a lot more experience than most sailors had not drilled I would not be writing this.

Do you know what the last thing a sailor does before he dies at sea? He panics. Why? He panics because he is way over his head and has not taken little bites out of the learning curve there is to learn how to navigate, how to handle a boat at sea, how to respect the sea.

I sail whenever I can and the one thing I see that bothers me is all the untrimmed sails on very costly boats or sailboats under power and not sail at sea. I wonder when there is wind do they not know how to sail? I do think that those under untrimmed sail don't know they are under untrimmed sail...

Why do people not go to a sailing school? Many around and you can learn so so much in just a few days that will be with you forever. Your sails will be trimmed and I will give you a wave. You will have the respect of other sailors who are looking at the same thing I am.

I had years at sea as a Coast Guardsman but when I wanted to learn to sail I went to St Augustine sailing school. In two days I learned so much that I have carried with me for years and am so glad I did that. You need that foundation to build your skills upon. Without it I believe you will never truly find a love for sailing. Your boat will set on the trailer or at the dock. Lots of good schools around, find one that offers ASA certificate.

When you know how to sail, when your confident and the school can do that for you then you can not wait to get out of that marina and turn off that noisy engine and hoist those sails, underway and under the power of the wind becomes a religion and powering up the motor becomes a sin. Sailing is one of the "true" things left in this world to experience. Being at sea is the other, sea and sky connecting all around you, it is an experience not to be missed.

I hope I did not scare you away from the experience but I hope that I have given you a perspective that will allow you to wait for the weather window when your pressed for time, train your crew, be generous with your knowledge to those who sail with you. Always remember that the sea is like a woman she can pat you on the head one minute and let you feel her fury in the next and you may have no idea what you did to deserve it, but for sure there is no escaping it. Sorry ladies...
This is one I will share with my son who has a Westsail 32 and has attended a sailing school. A very well thought out post.

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Old 25-05-2012, 12:57   #17
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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Bradenton Beach, Florida
Boat: 27' Albin Vega - mangomuffins
Posts: 277
Re: Small Boat, Big Ocean

Hey there stoke!!

As a small boat sailor ( Hurley 20, Vivacity 21, Albin Vega 27) with lots of offshore experience... what breaker said...ditto, ditto, ditto!!


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