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Old 05-07-2014, 20:00   #1
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want to go offshore but

Hi all,
As I grew up, sailboats had always fascinated me, finally I bought a 10' sailing dinghy, when I was doing my graduate school, then ungraded to 23', and few years ago, I went to 30' (Siedddleman) which I've used but not frequently.
And with the job, family, continuing education, my sailing time came second, however, I managed to take multiple courses like: basic navigation, basic diesel engines, celestial navigation, the 12 volt electric system for sailboats, level I and level II. I also attended countless hours of lectures during the boat show season.
Also took a week long barefoot course in the British Virgin Islands.
I never felt comfortable taking my sailboat out of the slip by myself, and that was another reason why I didn't use the boat much in the last few years.
Last month, I took a two day docking (hands on) course and I feel more comfortable about docking now.
My long term plan for sailing is the following: To be able to go off shore comfortably, and specifically to cross the Atlantic Ocean at some point.
My issue is this: I think I have subconscious fear of going off shore ( which is exactly what I like to do ultimately). I am not sure what caused it, maybe over the years watching some sailboats that were caught in a really bad weather on youtube, and other documental movies, also part of it, might be the idea of the boat taking water, and so on.
I don't know much about interpreting weather maps, and I don't have a radar on my current sailboat (which I don't believe that it is a good choice for offshore sailing anyway).
Also I still don't feel comfortable fixing any major break in the diesel engine.
I am fairly comfortable sailing and steering the boat without any help, except for example is to put the sails.
The most distance I sailed on my boat is around 20 knots total, and that is in the Chesapeake Bay.
I never sailed at night, and still don't feel comfortable using the sextant.
I've heared of an ocean passage called Atlantic ARC ( it is done each year from The Canary Islands to St Lucia, and got excited about it).
My question is this: Do you think that my fears are unrealistic and how can I eventually realize my dream, in a fairly safe and planned way.
I feel that each year I am taking course after course, but still not taking actual steps, and I am afraid to waste more years, without fulfilling much.
I spent so much time getting better at what I do best (dentist), and now I am trying to catch up with what I love almost equally ( sailing).
Currently the max I can be out of the office is 2 weeks at the time, and I want to be able to take more time after 2 years.
I only know one guy who is into sailing, and I am thinking that if I go more frequently with someone who has a sailboat and pick up some from him, it might rub on me, or what do you think?
Going off shore in general requires more than more person, how do I get to meet some people who share my intentions, that eventually you can count on one or more people to sail with you?
I am a strong believer that life is too short to compromise on your dreams. Also I am a proactive person, and I don whatever it takes to get what I want.
I would appreciate any positive feedback, suggestions or ideas. Or you can even send me a private message.

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Old 05-07-2014, 20:36   #2
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Re: want to go offshore but

Hi Andy!

I searched through some of your old posts to get an idea of where you are at on the "sailing scale." Forgive me if I am making assumptions.

- Fear is healthy to a point. It makes us cautious and helps limit us from over-reaching. However it can be paralyzing and stop us form moving forward into unknown territory. Don't even think about "off-shore" sailing right now. By some measure's you can go all the way to Florida and not be "off-shore" sailing (whatever that is).
- You've been doing a lot of theoretical learning and that is good. However you need help putting the theory into practice.
- You don't note where your family fits into the sailing equation and while it is not my business, work and family can play a big role in how much time you have to put theory into reality.

I might suggest finding a yacht club near you. One with a restaurant and a pool and maybe dinghy's for the kids (you don't specify their ages). Meet other sailors and go sailing with them especially crewing on informal club races - your family (hopefully) enjoys the club facilities while you mess around in boats.

Quite frankly I have entertained many guys on my boat - I'll get a PM on CF from a newbie and invite the guy for a sail (I am always looking for crew) - 90% are flakes and lookie Lous's and never come back. The point being is that when you get to the point of "owning" a sailboat - especially with family you need to get everyone "on-board" so to speak and integrate it into you lifestyle as a family. My lookie-Lou's have no clue about the commitment needed to make sense of boat ownership.

Your biggest issue right now is you are isolated - force yourself into a sailing social situation and you will meet some great folks and start gaining the confidence you need to get more use from your boat.

Remember a 40 mile trip is just 2 X 20 mile trips. I see you also have some boat maintenance and mods going on. That's all learning too.

I sure wish I was in your neck of the woods - I'd love to hook up and help get your confidence up.

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Old 05-07-2014, 21:08   #3
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Re: want to go offshore but

Hi Andy,

I think it’s healthy to have fears. They’re not unrealistic, and things we all have to deal with, but they aren’t insurmountable either. You can absolutely realize your dream, in that “fairly safe and planned” way!

It sounds like the main issue for you is to get away from the theoretical and log time on the water, but I’ve got some thoughts for your specific points.
  • Interpreting weather maps: there is little burden on the average cruiser to do sophisticated interpretation of weather data. This is overwhelmingly done for you in the text forecasts, where professionals interpret available data. If you want help or more security with weather choices, hire a weather router. They’re not that expensive, and it might be the peace of mind you need.
  • Fixing a diesel engine: we can’t be experts in everything. Diesel smarts would not be a strong point on our boat and we (by which I mean, my husband!) have learned a lot over the years. We still managed to cruise for six years and more than 26,000 miles… so far! (Although… we are currently dealing with engine issues…)
  • Sailing: not sure what you mean by “except for example is to put up the sails”- but if you’re not comfortable getting sails up/down/reefed on your own, bring an experienced friend or hire someone to come out on your boat. Have them work with you and work out an approach that you repeat comfortably repeat on your own. Then, go out and do it: again, and again, and again. It really won't take that long for it to become like muscle memory you can do more instinctively. Or, you may find you have limitations in your rig that you can address to simplify it or make it easier for your family to help. My husband could get our main up, but I struggled, so we installed a track on our mast to make it easier for me to get it up.
  • Fear of going offshore: volunteer to crew for someone on an ocean passage, hire an instructor to do a passage on your boat, or sign up for a training course that will include a passage. It sounds to me like you just need to get some miles under your belt so you can put this fear in a box and tell it what you’re going to do.
  • ARC: I think putting your faith in a rally because you are inexperienced a bad idea. You should be confident that you can make decisions on your own, rally or no rally. Rallies like the ARC are great for socializing and events in rally destinations, but they are *not* safety nets. Be really honest with yourself: if you’re choosing a rally to make decisions for you, you’re probably not ready.

Besides just getting out on the water, see if you can surround yourself with a community of friends who are into boats: if it’s sailboats and cruising, so much the better. Looks like you’re in the Chesapeake? There are a LOT of sailing clubs, yacht clubs, marinas, chandleries… organizations you can join, or locations that have bulletin boards, that will help you connect with other sailors. You can start by crewing and then take your own boat out. We have really enjoyed having people on board who are trying to figure out if cruising is for them: I think you'll find that generally people will be welcoming and eager to help someone who is truly interested in learning and doing, vs just looking for a P.O.S.H. day on the water with a beer.

Being a part of a local yacht club that had many cruising events was a great way for us to spend time on the water during our weekends and holidays in the years leading up to cruising. It helped hone our skills, and created great memories as a family for time on the water- so that when it was time for “the big trip” the kids were excited to go.

Best of luck Andy, I hope you let me know how it goes. Please feel free to PM questions!

...a family of five, cruising since 2008 on s/v Totem.
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Old 05-07-2014, 21:13   #4
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Re: want to go offshore but

G'Day Andy,

Dan has given you a lot of good advice above... pay attention!

You know, each of us had a first off-shore voyage sometime in our past. Can't speak for others, but at each stage of increasing distance, complexity and exposure, I sure as hell was apprehensive. It is a normal part of expanding your experience base, and it is often accompanied by use of new skills. When Ann and I took off for Hawaii back in 1983, I had never used a sextant in anger (long before electronic nav systems). So, I was beset by doubts... looking at a series of "x" marks going across the chart, but wondering if they had any relationship with reality. Boy was I glad when we encountered a merchant ship who verified our position via the VHF. The thrill of seeing the Molokai channel light come up over the horizon just as predicted has never been equaled in my experiences!

Anyway, the challenge of new experiences as your sailing horizons expand has been part of the lure for me, and it could be for you as well. You have already had far more formal training than I have ever had, or will have. Now is the time to get your nose out of books and lecture halls and spend lots of time sailing. Dan's suggestions will help you get into some supportive environments, but really, the onus is on you to get lots of sea time, and preferably in command of your own vessel.

Oh... don't worry about feeling unsure of your celestial navigation skills, for (despite my old fart tendencies) I reckon they are nowadays pretty unnecessary. My sextant hasn't been used in anger for over 20 years now.


Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II , lying Pittwater, NSW fora while.
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Old 06-07-2014, 00:22   #5
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Re: want to go offshore but


There's nothing wrong with being a coastal cruiser. I live on a boat 4-5 months of the year and personally... I don't care if I ever cross an ocean. Passages of 2-3 days and solo sailing is something I worked up to, and had a great time along the way.

P.S. I used to be afraid of dentists because of a negative experience as an 8 year old. I got over it.
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Old 06-07-2014, 00:52   #6
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Re: want to go offshore but

Agree with Jim above -- you sound like someone who wants to attend all the classes and will absorb everything and be ready to go -- NOT

you need to stop learning and start doing - no more classes - helm time

take the risk - as nike says - just do it

and as with jim you sure have a lot more classes than we ever took -- and we have been full time cruisers for 7 years and a couple of years ago we did a 2 handed crossing of the atlantic and without the acr as we do not believe in rallies -- we like to make our own decisions

take the sexton and put it in your office as a decoration -- BUT -- learn weather -- we bought a couple of books and still refer to them -- to us the 1st thing we look at is weather then again to a lot of our cruising friends i am known as a weather geek

by the way we first got on a sailboat in dec 2000 for a lesson - by 2003 we bought our 1st and only sailboat - a new jeanneau ds40 and in 2007 we sold up and sailed out - and never looked back

what is fun to look back is when we were in miami getting ready to go there were 7 boats getting ready to go cruising - how many do you think left - can you say 1 - the rest are still getting ready
and this forum is full of folks still getting ready

i will bet your 10,000 leke (currency where we currently are) that you can sail circles around us -- we are not great sailors and never will be -- the difference is we just do it

so stop taking classes and go sailing and as jim and others said find a club or group of folks who sail and go with them and take them out - and then just do it
just our thoughts and opinions
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Old 06-07-2014, 01:09   #7
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Re: want to go offshore but


When I purchased my first larger boat 5 years ago, a Hunter 450, I called the broker to find out who was going to show me how to run the thing. He replied that he was too busy, and the keys were in the compartment under the seat cushion.

Well... the guy at the boat yard showed me how to start up the engine and how to make the thing go into forward and reverse. I put it in gear, left the dock alone (singlehanded)... here I am 5 years later. No classes, no excuses.
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Old 06-07-2014, 04:30   #8
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Re: want to go offshore but

I'd rather stay away from shorelines. Most of the hazards I can think of are much more common closer to coasts. Shallows, fishing (pods, lines and nets), traffic, lee shore, waves are worse than on the open ocean, weather is more unpredictable. Did I say trash glogging the water intakes or fouling the prop.

BR Teddy
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Old 06-07-2014, 06:02   #9
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pirate Re: want to go offshore but

Engines.. all you need to know is how to change the filters, fan belt, oil and check dipsticks.. Oh.. and the fun impeller.
How to rig up an emergency fuel tank is another good one...
Sails... To cope while raising and lowering the sails get a good WP/TP and set the favourable course before going forward..
Weather.. learn a few of the bad signs in the sky.. anything else is good so why memorise em.. also the sea gives notice of what's coming..
Just get out and do some hands on.. and buy a GPS/CP.. start with simple stuff..
Fear is normal.. though I prefer Healthy Survival Instincts..
Every job I take is a nervous time till I get on board.. and for the next couple of days till I get a feel for the boat and its (for me)limits.. then its just sail within my comfort level..
Offshore has only one real time of stress.. coming up on a new landfall.. gets the juices going in a sweet way.
The only thing you lack is self belief and that's not found in the classroom.. its down past the dock in the School of Hard Knocks that most of us have attended to get where we are..
Get out there ya Bludger...

Born To Be Wild
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Old 06-07-2014, 06:41   #10
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Re: want to go offshore but

The two places you can be that are incredibly safe are on an airplane and on a boat. Look at the real stats, boats are vastly safer than bathrooms let alone walking or driving. Safer than the stats for dying from bedsheets (it's a real stat). Remove alcohol and high speed motors and the chance of any problem approaches zero.

Not to say skip doing all the right things, be cautious, engines are tough but if a software guy can keep one running (mostly then anyone can. But listen to the folks and start taking longer and longer sails.
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Old 06-07-2014, 06:49   #11
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Re: want to go offshore but

Thank you guys for all the good tips.
I am checking the different sailing clubs in the area, to see which one I can join. Also working on some minor issues on the boat, so that I can put it soon back in the water, and spend more time practicing.
My wife has taken some courses with me including the barefoot week on a catamaran. She fairly enjoys sailing, but I am the one that has the bug.

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Old 06-07-2014, 08:13   #12
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Re: want to go offshore but

Originally Posted by Ex-Calif View Post

Quite frankly I have entertained many guys on my boat - I'll get a PM on CF from a newbie and invite the guy for a sail (I am always looking for crew)

Same here. Everyone says bring a case of beer to hitch a ride on a boat. But I don't drink (cancer survivor and alcohol is not indicated with the drugs I take to keep it (hopefully) in remission. I am happy with a pizza and some chocolate milk.

But you should have no problem finding a skipper who will take you out for a small affordable bribe if you look around. Where do you dock, is there a yacht club near by, what about a university with a sailing team that has members who would be happy to sail with you. It is common in the marina where my boat is for one guy to take another out on his boat for a sail, and the next time switch to the other boat.

There are really only three things you need to know, keep the crew on the boat, keep the mast side up, and keep the water out. The rest is easy.

When docking remember don't approach the dock any faster than you are willing to hit it. Spend time driving your boat as slowly as possible and get a feel for how to control it. Not sure what your issue is with raising sails, but my technique is to head the boat directly into the wind under power at a fairly slow speed and once you get the boat on a stable course raise the sails with the sheets unsecured. I guess you could use an auto pilot to help if needed. Once the sails are up trim the sheets and motor sail for a minute or so, then take the engine out of gear and sail for five minutes and turn off the motors.

Good luck.
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Old 06-07-2014, 09:24   #13
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Re: want to go offshore but


I suggest you join the Annapolis Sailors Club. It's a Meetup group focused on matching up skippers who have boats and need crew with crew who don't have boats. There is a wide variety of experience in the club from those with very basic sailing skills to those that have been sailing and racing offshore for 20 years. It's a very congenial group, very well run, and is very effective at it's stated purpose. Quite a few boats in the club participated in the Delmarva Rally and the Annapolis to Bermuda Race this year and took club members.

I'll echo the above suggestions that you need to get in time on a boat out in the ocean with an experienced offshore. This will give you knowledge and experience that cannot be acquired through study, including:
  • Helming and managing a boat in a seaway. Sailing out on the open ocean, in some conditions, is completely different than sailing coastally. Running on a deep reach in 10' rollers is just not something you encounter in the Chesapeake.
  • The experience of sailing 24/7. This can be taxing until you fall into a rhythm and get comfortable with watch schedules, a constantly moving boat, preparing meals at sea, etc.
  • Understanding how weather forecast data translates into real-world weather, and it's limitations.
  • Practical experience with safety practices, equipment, and techniques. You don't want to be applying book learning to this stuff. You need hands on experience to fully appreciate what works when why and how.

There are a number of ways to acquire this experience within the constraints of what you can manage (i.e. getting away from work for a week).
  • Volunteer to crew on an ocean race. The Newport to Bermuda, Annapolis to Newport, and Annapolis to Bermuda (Bermuda Ocean Race) all take about 5-7 days depending on the boat and weather. Boats are always looking for crew for these races. The Annapolis to Bermuda Race even holds events/seminars in the months prior to the race which have a secondary purpose of matching up crew to boats. Also, boats in all these races are always looking for return crew as well, which is often more difficult for them to find than for the race itself.
  • Volunteer as a crew member for an offshore delivery with a professional captain. Just make sure you vet the captain well beforehand.
  • Attend the Spinsheet spring crewfinder party in May each year.

I would stay away from the ARC if I were you for a couple of reasons. First, it's a three week commitment, which is longer than you can afford. Second, the crossing is basically a fair weather trade wind milk-run. You'll in all likelihood set the sails and never even tack the boat for 2800 miles, and just be reefing them in and out for the occasional squall. In short, there are shorter, closer events that will give you broader and more useful experience.

Regarding fear, it's a healthy thing and should not be entirely ignored. But you'll quickly find with some offshore experience that much of what you fear is just the unknown and that the reality is almost pedestrian.
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Old 06-07-2014, 09:33   #14
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Re: want to go offshore but

Originally Posted by Suijin View Post

I would stay away from the ARC if I were you for a couple of reasons. First, it's a three week commitment, which is longer than you can afford. Second, the crossing is basically a fair weather trade wind milk-run.

This is a double bladed sword. Some folks would say the smart play is to be a gentleman sailor (this may not mean what you think so look it up). Other folks say you need to be ready to round the great capes at any time.

I do agree with the point that three weeks may be too long for you, or maybe not.

But one thing I am sure of a calendar is one of the most dangerous things you can have on a boat.
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Old 06-07-2014, 10:04   #15
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Re: want to go offshore but

Your questions brought to mind a conversation I had with a tanned, fit couple in their 40's last night as they regaled the cocktail set at the party we attended about their sailing adventures, near misses and exciting times aboard their 30+ footer. They were entertaining to be sure and certainly sounded like they were into the lifestyle big time, although lived shoreside. Some one else asked me whether I'd ever sailed and when I replied, 'yes', they asked, 'what was the longest distance I'd ever sailed?' I replied that I quit counting after 50,000 miles. There was dead silence for about 30 seconds and some one else asked me how I racked up that many miles. I replied that working aboard towboat and commercial fishing vessels for about 20 years then having a delivery business on the west coast for another 30 years gave me ample opportunity to pile on the miles.
The distance is not nearly as important as the experience of how a vessel behaves in different sea conditions and how weather behaves near and offshore and near the equator vs the higher latitudes. You won't find the answers in a book or a course... you need to experince it.
Experience is the best teacher by far... taking courses can prepare you to a point but as Boatman61 will attest, the school of hard knocks deals up lessons learned that will not be forgotten.
I recall studying celestial navigation which was a requirement for a masters ticket many years ago in Canada but almost all I learned was from making mistakes on my own or having an experienced skipper kicking my butt for making an error (in those days, working aboard was a violent and short tempered way to earn a living!).
My advice to you is to get out there, sail your own boat directly away from the coast until it is out of sight and stay out for a couple of nights then find your way back to your home harbor. You will quickly find if you can overcome your fears and gain valuable self confidence. What could possibly go wrong? Good luck, Phil

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