Hey kevbot, I like your style!!! I was in your shoes a few years ago and I may have some great advice for you. First let me tell you what I did, then I'll give the advice...
I had the same goal as you to learn how to sail well and eventually do some bluewater cruising. I don't know what your backround is, but I grew up living on and working on powerboats. So I already had a ton of seamanship skills (volenteered for coastguard as teenager, worked on fishing
boats, etc), but had never sailed a day in my life. The appeal is simple: sailing is the most fun and cost effective way to explore, adventure, and live. The lifestyle is awesome! I started about 2.5 yrs ago and I'm 26 now, and since my first day sailing
I've logged several thousand miles in some incredible places. I'm also new to this forum, and many of the old salts on here might laugh at this story, but here's how I did it and spent less than $10,000 to date on boats, gear
First of all, don't waiste your time or your money saving to "do it big". And if you have experience on boats, there's no need to spend money on sailing lessons
. I read a bunch on forums
like this about what boats are quality well-built boats, and what boats aren't. I took a drive to the bay area (about 8am) in CA (lived in lake tahoe at the time), bought a 1978 23' Ericson sloop
on a trailer for $1,500 from a pregnant mother. Since she was pregnant, I didn't want to ask her to get up on the boat and show me how to rig it (mast and rigging
were down when I bought it). So I stopped at Barnes and Noble on my way back to the lake and bought the book, "Fundamentals of sailing", by Gary Jobson. I got to the launch ramp
at the lake about 4pm just before they closed the gate. I couldnt wait to get on the water, so I launched my new boat with the mast
still down an everything. I motored to the closest calm sheltered cove, opened the book, and proceeded to step the mast
and rig the boat with my girlfriend while floating. This book had a short section on what is what on a sailboat and combining that with common sense, we figured it out around 7pm. I skipped to the chapter with a diagram of how to set the sails
in relation to the wind
direction, set my sails
, and experienced the sweetest feeling: the wind
grabbing my sails, heeling my boat over on angle, and propelling it through the water. 8pm = WAHOO! I'm sailing! ...8:30 wind died, we anchor for the night, and read the book cover to cover. The next morning we sailed all day learning
everything from trimming your sails, to tacking, jibing, reefing your main, etc. I later learned that this was the book many of the sailing schools use to teach the basics over several weeks and hundreds of $$ in lessons. We learned the basics in 36hrs with a $15 book. I sailed almost everyday through that whole summer. Stuff on my boat broke, so I learned how to fix it myself. My next big expense was $200 in used books
off amazon. I bought books
on every topic I might need to learn for bluewater sailing, and again tought myself rather than getting lessons. My sailing library gave me private lessons from the most experienced sailors on the planet, not some sailing club instructor. If you'd like, I can give you a list of the books I found most useful, which cover everything from handling onboard emergencies, to storm tactics, fixing everything on a boat from diesel
engines to wiring
, medicine at sea, cooking
at sea, cruising routes, to books of a particular interest to guys like us like "the cost concious cruiser", by the Pardy's.
Books = cheap
knowledge. Teaching yourself = making mistakes
yourself and learning from them.
I sold that boat for twice as much as I bought it for at the end of the summer and the next year I bought a 30' sloop
and sailed from Northern CA to Mexico
, trying all of the tactics I'd read about in the open ocean (coastal sailing experience is a must before bluewater). I sailed for 3.5 months on the pacific and encountered everything from 25ft+ seas up near Oregon
to 60knot winds in the Channel Islands. I learned how import
jack lines are when waves crash over your bow while tending sails; how important it really is to reef BEFORE the wind picks up too much. One more thing, through 2/3 of this trip I was single
Throughout the trip I fixed up everything on the boat I could learn how to do out of a book, then sold the boat in LA for twice as much as I bought it for.
Next big expense... I got my captains lisence online through www.marinerslearningsystems.com
. The total cost of the course, plus the first aid and CPR classes
, plus the test and all the other BS came out to about $1,200. Now I'm working on a sailing endorsement and starting to log hrs for my Masters upgrade.
Now I know a ton about boats, but I've only been sailing for 2.5 years. Most of my time on the water was ACTUAL cruising, and there's one encouraging thing I learned in my travels for someone like you... For every 1 cruiser out there, there are 100 sailors. These sailers have nice boats that they keep in a nice slip, and some even have a ton of knowledge. But they know very little about what it actually takes to go cruising. They will sometimes be critical of you at the dock
, and will most of the time seem discouraging on how hard it is to actually start cruising on a safe boat. They buy a lot of expensive equipment
and hardly ever leave the dock
in faul weather
When you start cruising you'll quickly realize that the real liveaboard cruisers
are so incredibly nice, helpful, and encouraging. When you meet the guys who are in the midst of a circumnavigation
or have the experience of such, they are VERY generous with their knowledge and aid. They get excited when they see young blood that wants to learn and do it on a budget
There's cruisers who will use niche skills they have to make money while traveling. Yes, this can work in many places. But rebel-heart is correct that some ports
are not as freindly on this topic, particularly the more developed ports
around major US cities. But in my opinion, those aren't the places I want to spend my time anyway.
There's also the occassional professional, like rebel-heart (I've read several of his posts). These guys have a ton of experience, knowledge, and take a more professional approach to a career in the marine industry. You gotta respect those guys, they do it well. But it's not the only way and it's certainly not the easiest way, and these days it's very competative on the professional front.
At any rate, here's my advice:
1. Buy a cheap (safe
) smaller boat and start now. It's cheaper than most would think.
2. Read as many books as you can by the people that have really done it.
3. Learn how to fix everything on your boat yourself, while at sea.
4. Get the right kind of sewing machine, and definitely bring it w/ you.
5. Find some good mentors, show appreciation and latch on to them. Don't let other discourage you.
6. Leave sooner, with less gadgets and less money. You'll be suprised by how much fun and adventure you can have on $500-700 a month with a $10k boat.
7. The safest boat is only as safe as it's captain
, be careful and open minded!
I'm currently in NY and I'm leaving in a few weeks to sail south. I'll be headed through the Bahamas
and Caribbean, and down to either Trinidad or Costa Rica
for the Hurrican season. Hopefully I'll see ya down there sooner rather than later!
And sorry this post turned out to be so rediculously long, I'll shut up now!