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Old 19-05-2014, 22:51   #1
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New to sailing, where to start?

Hi everyone,

I'm not only new to this forum, but also to sailing in general. I don't even own my own boat yet, however I've been out with friends learning small things here and there. I am a big fan of powered boats, however I have an extreme fascination with sailboats, especially after seeing a video my friend showed me about a man living on his boat sailing the world. I have a few basic questions for everyone:

1. Learning to sail: I have seen some people buying 24' boats (and sometimes larger) to start out with, however I was also looking at some smaller laser and hobie type boats. If my goal is to go to a 30'+ boat eventually then should I start out with a small boat to learn on, or is it safe to learn on something larger?

2. I don't believe there is a racing community in my area to crew with, so how would you suggest I start out? My friend is going to take me on his boat and I'm hoping to learn a lot of basic skills that way, do you have any other ideas?

3. Is there a particular benefit to learning on either a catamaran or mono-hulled boat? I really like cats, but I'm open to both.

Keep in mind I'm only 28 and I still have yet to sail, so I'm basically starting from scratch. I would like to be sailing my own 24'+ boat in a couple of years, so the more I can learn between now and then the better. Thanks for any info!

Chris
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Old 19-05-2014, 23:13   #2
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Re: New to sailing, where to start?

If you buy a boat under 32' make sure that a trailer is included in the deal.
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Old 19-05-2014, 23:19   #3
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Re: New to sailing, where to start?

Hi Chris,
I'll give you some advice that is likely to draw some criticism, but it's based on my experience.

First, think about what kind of sailor you think you'd like to be. I'm a cruiser, though I also appreciate the value of technical and sport sailing. Based on your comments, I think you're a cruiser too.

Despite the clear identification of this website as a "Cruiser's" forum, I've been surprised at how derisive the sport sailors can be.


Learning to sail:
There are many aspects to learning to sail, and you can start wherever you are ready:
1) The cruising lifestyle (if you're a cruiser) - you can start right on this website, or in an armchair at the library, or hanging out around your nearby live-aboard marina bar. This about reading books, talking to people, and making lifestyle decisions for and about yourself and your family, or your partner, or your dogs and cats depending on what you are left with by the time you get there.

2) Technical - The most basic technical class can be had for about $150-$200. At this price you get training in knot-tying, parts of a boat, the points of sail, and a chance to sail a tiny toy-like thing with a single triangular sail called a "Sunfish" (or Lazer, or...)

3) Practical - If you're a cruiser, your most practical experience will be aboard a cruising sailboat. This is a boat that is designed to be sailed by two people, each of whom have a drink in one hand, while entertaining a small party.

4) Sport-sailing: Sport sailing is all about sailing performance. Most sailors I meet are sport sailors. They just love to get on their little boat and harness the wind and go as fast and as steeply as they can. They're not going anywhere, they're just having fun

5) Racing: Racing can be very serious, but not always. Racers will take you more seriously if you have your own boat, or did have your own boat, or know something about racing that the other members of the crew don't already know. Periodically a yacht club will "encourage" their racers to bring newbies aboard, but near as I can tell that is a membership ploy and they don't like it a bit - at least that's what I found here in Honolulu.

6) Certification: If you want to make a time-and-money commitment, there are certification courses that go well beyond the $150 basics course mentioned before. The courses are professionally administered, can be done in a variety of settings, and could (and often does) lead to professional certifications. ASA is one provider of the courses, and there are many ways to take them. For example, I completed 101 and 102 entirely aboard a chartered sailboat in a 5-day class. Other course are almost entirely conducted in a classroom, sometimes with a simulator, and just a minimal amount of onboard time on a school or instructor-owned boat.
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Old 19-05-2014, 23:22   #4
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Re: New to sailing, where to start?

Quote:
Originally Posted by NightBl1d3 View Post
3. Is there a particular benefit to learning on either a catamaran or mono-hulled boat? I really like cats, but I'm open to both.
Chris
I also like cats - maybe we should get together sometime - but the monohull is the "standard". You will learn to sail a monohull, name the parts of a monohull, and be tested for skills aboard a monohull boat during which experiences I recommend not mentioning that you're a cat-lover.

Sailing a cat is just like sailing a monohull in all major aspects. The differences are in the nuances, which are hottly debated in many threads here in the CF. The basic operation is identical.
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Old 19-05-2014, 23:29   #5
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Re: New to sailing, where to start?

ArtM,

Thank you very much for that information, I am thoroughly intrigued with the information. I believe you're right, I'm not the type to go out and race/speed my way through the waves. I used to be that person, however I have been taking my time to enjoy life a lot more since having kids. You are correct, I believe I am a cruiser and I would definitely love to sail a two-man boat with a friend enjoying the waves and weather with a drink in hand.

As far as training, I would most certainly be open to taking courses, especially if it will make me a safer sailor. I'm not only looking to protect myself and my investment, but also my family/friends who I happen to bring along.

And in regards to cats, I would love to go out for a sail on one, and we can definitely get together to talk about them and sailing in general. I watched a video of a fellow doing cat tours down in St.John and I fell in love with his boat right away. I do believe that will be my retirement one day.

I will do some research into courses in my area to learn the fundamentals, and will try to log as much learning/sea time with friends as possible.

Thank you!
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Old 19-05-2014, 23:39   #6
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Re: New to sailing, where to start?

1st: Buy/build a small boat, any small boat you like, and sail the paint/gelcoat off of it. So many people think sailing is learned in a class, and if you want to take classes that's cool, but the FEEL for it and the instincts come from time on the water, and a small boat with very low risks will teach you very fast. You'll "try" stuff and fiogure out the results when the worst thing that can happen is you'll get wet.

2nd: Use the search function of this website. There have been many, MANY threads just like this where people have put very valuable information already.
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Old 19-05-2014, 23:45   #7
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Re: New to sailing, where to start?

I promised some controversial advice, then forgot to provide it.

Buy yourself a boat, no matter how big or small. Despite the promises of your local sailing club, or the yacht club, or your friends with sailboats, the bottom line is nobody wants you sail their boat. They break easily, are expensive to repair, and people just want to sail their own boat, not let someone else do it.
If you have the money and room to store it, just go out and buy something you can carry on a trailer. A trailer-sailor is a good choice for learning and relaxing. A hobie-cat is fun if you live near warm water, or don't mind a bit of cold-water splash-back. The most important thing is that you don't get a boat that you can't control. Keep it away from people and property until you can control it.

If you know how to use a motorboat, you can put a little motor on your little 20' pocket sailor and motor out to open water before raising your sails for the first time, and nobody will get hurt in the process.
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Old 19-05-2014, 23:55   #8
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Re: New to sailing, where to start?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ArtM View Post
I promised some controversial advice, then forgot to provide it.

Buy yourself a boat, no matter how big or small. Despite the promises of your local sailing club, or the yacht club, or your friends with sailboats, the bottom line is nobody wants you sail their boat. They break easily, are expensive to repair, and people just want to sail their own boat, not let someone else do it.
If you have the money and room to store it, just go out and buy something you can carry on a trailer. A trailer-sailor is a good choice for learning and relaxing. A hobie-cat is fun if you live near warm water, or don't mind a bit of cold-water splash-back. The most important thing is that you don't get a boat that you can't control. Keep it away from people and property until you can control it.

If you know how to use a motorboat, you can put a little motor on your little 20' pocket sailor and motor out to open water before raising your sails for the first time, and nobody will get hurt in the process.
What could be controversial about that? I think that's PERFECT advice! Not only don't they want you sailing their boat, YOU won't REALLY sail it to the max. You'll always be like "oooh I better be careful!". I'll go further. If you want to learn fast...buy an ugly boat and LEAVE it ugly! 20' on a trailer with a good reliable outboard is perfect.

I'm a HORRIBLE example, but I built a dead simple 8' dingy and taught myself. Well, read books, THEN sailed. That's how I roll. But NOTHING beats time on the water!
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Old 19-05-2014, 23:59   #9
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Re: New to sailing, where to start?

Learning to sail is very easy and doesn't take very long at all.

What is hard is learning all the new vocabulary, as everything about a boat and sailing has some funky name. The toilet is a head? I get behind not ahead.

For a cruising boat, you must learn about all the systems, plumbing, engine, props, wiring, navigation, it all has little to do with sailing.

Sailing is fun, but just reading threads on CF you learn a lot more about cruising.

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Old 20-05-2014, 08:26   #10
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Re: New to sailing, where to start?

A trailer sailor is a lot cheaper to own. Just sayin. Easier maintenance, less deterioration, no marina slip or mooring fees. Usually a smaller up front cost.

A 26-35 ft boat can be a good first boat if you are willing to live aboard and give up house or apartment. Usually a slip is cheaper than shore accomodations. A dependable engine makes good training wheels while learning.

Classes can teach you a lot, even in a classroom environment. There is more to sailing than just making the boat go. You MUST KNOW the Rules Of The Road. Completely. Not just the part that says you have the right of way over a powerboat. (Hint: the Rules never say that!) You need to READ the Rules front to back, and often. MEMORIZE, and work out scenarios in your head and on paper, and practice identifying vessels by their lights and dayshapes.

Basic safety and damage control are also of paramount importance and you need some of this knowledge before operating a vessel unsupervised in waters too deep to wade ashore. For obvious, I hope, reasons. What do you do if your galley is on fire? Your bilge is rapidly filling with water... what do you do? Wow your mast broke loose and all that cabley stuff is everywhere and the sails are dragging in the water... what now? Caught out in a storm in a little day sailer... what can you do to increase ur survival chances? Engine conked out... now what? MAN OVERBOARD! Can you write down the steps in detail for recovering your crew, or do an actual recovery of a volunteer or a dummy? What if it's YOU over the side, with your unmanned boat sailing onward as you dog paddle in disbelief and dismay? Most importantly, how do you prevent these disasters from happening in the first place? Or prepare, for the unforeseen and unexpected?

Next, complying with all the regulations and laws that effect you, the sailor. You must know about pollution placards, securing of overboard discharges, where you can and can't dump garbage, (even your unfinished sandwich is garbage and subject to anti pollution regulations) number of flares, fire extinguishers, life jackets and other floatation devices, required documents and publications, radio requirements and procedures, and so on. Classes, even powerboat oriented classes, can teach you a lot of this stuff. You can and should still educate yourself but don't skip over the boring parts or stuff you think you know or stuff you don't think is important. It's ALL important.

Back to your choice of boat and, size, remember you can always upgrade later. You want to not lose anything to depreciation so an older but still sound boat would be my choice, of whatever size, unless money is no object, in which case a new boat generally offers fewer problems and frustrations.

You will learn more about actually sailing a boat in one day on a dinghy than a month on a keel boat. Plus you can car top a dinghy to some local lake or pond and sail around. And if you buy a cruiser, you will have a dinghy for it. You might find something serviceable for just a couple hundred bucks if u look around and don't mind a few cosmetic blemishes from being knocked around a bit.

A proper daysailor give you more options and opens up bigger waters for you. In spite of the name you can certainly do an overnight in something like that, and you usually have some sort of cuddy where you can curl up out of the rain. You will have room for some food, and the all important beer cooler.

Catamarans are fun, I must admit. A hobie on a reach goes fast and feels even faster. When you are flying the windward hull a foot out of the water, the mainsail is hard as a sheet of iron, and you are hiked out horizontally over the water trying to get every bit of speed out of this unlikely contraption, you can't help but grin in wide eyed delight. Eventually you will push the envelop a bit too much and flip her. This isn't common, but it happens. A little hobie can be righted. A bigger cat is a problem. So when it comes to cruising cats bear that in mind. There are lots of good qualities to cats and I have no issues with folks who prefer them. But I would recommend avoiding a cat as your first boat, at least your first cruising boat. In spite of the flipping thing, cats are pretty safe, and compare reasonably well with keel boats. Cats can flip and they stay flipped, but they float forever. Keel monohulls can sink, but if it doesnt fill up with water it can take a knockdown or even a rollover and end up right side up again, all by itself. These things are not common but they can happen. Keep this in mind when buying or sailing a boat.

A small cruiser is quite acceptable as a first boat, even if it isn't my top recommendation. There are advantages. You have a place to just get away to. The boat itself can be your mini vacation destination. You can still take short day sails, but now you can cook food, maybe even keep your beer in an electric refrigerator. You can sleep in a reasonable degree of comfort. You can have all the comforts of a very simple and crowded apartment. You could even go completely off grid and live aboard with solar and wind power, a watermaker, and electric motor for propulsion instead of a gas or diesel engine. When you are ready for cruising, you already have the boat. But you have to keep the bottom clean, pay for a slip, stuff like that. Price need not be an issue, though. There are lots of 70s built fiberglass cruisers around 30 foot for way under $10k.

Before you buy a boat, learn about buying a boat. A boat selling for more than a couple g, or a boat that isn't trailerable, should have a recent survey report. You need to understand that even with a $1000 boat, you may need $300k in insurance against salvage and removal, and/or liability. There is registration and documentation and checking for and buying required equipment. And you need to arrange for a slip, or transfer of the old, slip to you. So yeah this is doable but a trailer queen is simpler.

Mostly have fun.
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Old 20-05-2014, 13:23   #11
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Re: New to sailing, where to start?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElGatoGordo View Post
What could be controversial about that? I think that's PERFECT advice! Not only don't they want you sailing their boat, YOU won't REALLY sail it to the max. You'll always be like "oooh I better be careful!". I'll go further. If you want to learn fast...buy an ugly boat and LEAVE it ugly! 20' on a trailer with a good reliable outboard is perfect.

I'm a HORRIBLE example, but I built a dead simple 8' dingy and taught myself. Well, read books, THEN sailed. That's how I roll. But NOTHING beats time on the water!
I must be mellowing out in my old age. I really softened that one up.

Just buy a boat and start sailing. It's not that hard. Don't point into the wind, and keep the boom tight if you turn tail to the wind. Pull on the string if it starts flapping and let the string out if the boat starts to lean too hard.

Oh and don't sail where you might damage....

dammit
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Old 20-05-2014, 14:45   #12
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Re: New to sailing, where to start?

Growley's post is great and covers it all.

Learning to sail is like playing tennis. It takes a bit to get the hang of it, and only then you will learn best by doing. It will be a lot less frustrating in the short term if you take a few lessons at the beginning, and the joy will come sooner because of that. There will also be much less danger to yourself, your boat, and others!
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Old 20-05-2014, 15:06   #13
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Re: New to sailing, where to start?

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Growley's post is great and covers it all.

Learning to sail is like playing tennis. It takes a bit to get the hang of it, and only then you will learn best by doing. It will be a lot less frustrating in the short term if you take a few lessons at the beginning, and the joy will come sooner because of that. There will also be much less danger to yourself, your boat, and others!
Agreed, except for the parts about cruising cats flipping over. This is commonly overstated and nearly impossible scenario with most conventional cruising catamarans. The few exceptions are those with a dagger board that can be pressed for performance. A Lagoon, FP, or similar boat is not going to go over under any ordinary circumstances.
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Old 20-05-2014, 21:39   #14
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Re: New to sailing, where to start?

My first sail boat was a MacGregor 26D.
There affordable, come with a trailer, light enough to pull with my SAAB, easy to sail, fast, and come stuffed with Styrofoam blocks.
I did a ton of research when I was looking for my first boat.
The best advice I got was; Get as big as you can afford. Next best was join a yacht club. Next was go race.
I found it really advantageous to walk the docks and talk to other sailors about there boats and why they chose there particular boat over others.
(Who amongst us won't take a few min to talk to a stranger about there boat.... See... Note: Everyone I met on the docks told be to get as big as I could.) I've had sailing invitations from people I just walked up to and introduced my self to.
There are a ton of small differences in each make and model of sail boat. I just kept checking off my personal positives and came up with the Mac 26D or 26S.
I just picked up my 3rd sail boat a few weeks back. It's a Siren 17! Tiny! (I originally had it high on my first boat list .... Bad first boat! I'd be looking for another after 1 mo.)
My other boats are tied up this year and I needed something to sail this summer. It was free and came with a trailer...
I'm going to put oversize sails on it and have a blast.
Here is a great site for younger sailors.
(language and content warning.) sailinganarchy.com
You will learn more than you ever want to form there.
Also google around for sailing forums. Join them and ask questions. I found a couple specific MacGregor forums that sealed the deal for me on the 26D. Every make has a forum somewhere.
Even the Siren 17. (Not the boat for you.)
Good luck. Keep asking questions!
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Old 20-05-2014, 21:43   #15
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Re: New to sailing, where to start?

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Agreed, except for the parts about cruising cats flipping over. This is commonly overstated and nearly impossible scenario with most conventional cruising catamarans. The few exceptions are those with a dagger board that can be pressed for performance. A Lagoon, FP, or similar boat is not going to go over under any ordinary circumstances.
You are right. It won't go over under any ordinary circumstances. I'll stop right there.
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