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Old 29-10-2013, 11:41   #1
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Minimum Experience Required

I know this is one of those questions with a million answers..just thought I would try to get some ideas. I have long wanted to cruise the East Coast and head toward the Keys and Carribean. I have not begun my "formal" education yet, but am planning to asap. I have sailed a little (very limited) on local lakes, but never on the ocean. I plan on taking a couple of ASA certification classes in Charleston, SC in the coming months...then getting out as often as possible to practice, although that will be mostly on lakes as I live a few hours from the ocean at present. My question is this: what is the least amount of on-the-water hours you would consider minimum before setting sail for an extended period? Now, I know that depends on the sailor, etc. and I will need to get on the ocean/ICW for much of that time. I just wanted to have a discussion to see what most people think...I am excited about sailing so I sometimes just like talking about / hearing about it...Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

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Old 29-10-2013, 11:55   #2
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Re: Minimum Experience Required

Hiya SC! The answer to your question is...Six (6) months of weekly sailing under diverse weather conditions including night time jaunts. It's not the hours that you're aiming for, but rather how good is your seamanship; you'll know it, when you make crossings with minimal or no hiccups.

Similarly in aviation, if you can land a small plane with precision and fly to distant airports'll have earned your license!

Good luck!


Retired - Don't Ask Me To Do A Damn Thing!
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Old 29-10-2013, 12:37   #3
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Re: Minimum Experience Required

Originally Posted by scgilligan View Post
My question is this: what is the least amount of on-the-water hours you would consider minimum before setting sail for an extended period?

0 hours experience required. When it comes right down to it doing day sails to "get experience" is the same as just taking short hops down the coast, you spend the same number of hours sailing, breaking stuff, and learning what to do. You start with short hops is great weather and slowly build to doing longer hops in harder weather.

So go forth and sail!
stop blowing smoke up my rear, blow it at the sails instead
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Old 29-10-2013, 12:57   #4
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Re: Minimum Experience Required

I did exactly what Sailorboy suggests. I bought my boat and "delivered" it 1500 miles from Georgean bay (sp?) Ontario to Prince Edward Island. My only previous experience was an hour's sail on a friend's boat. I liked it and jumped in with both feet.
You learn every time you sail. There is no need to start and finish at the same place for a certain period of time.
I had no formal training, nor have I ever.
Different strokes for different folks. If you're not mechanically inclined, it may take you longer.

Good luck, and get out there!

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Old 29-10-2013, 13:21   #5
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Re: Minimum Experience Required

For the east coast and keys, none. Sailing those areas are great experience. If you spent some time sailing those areas you will know when you are ready to cross the gulf stream and start heading for the Caribbean.

I would suggest you read some cruising guides for that like The Thornless Path to Windward to start learning about the areas your are planning to head. Reading blogs can also offer some good first person experience. There are a couple of early twenties girls that have been sailing their 27 foot boat in these areas with minimal experience and they did just fine.

Good luck and fair winds,

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Old 30-10-2013, 04:27   #6
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Re: Minimum Experience Required

If you can read a chart, start the engine, drive the boat and get your anchor down and back up you are ready for the ICW. As a past post said its just a series of daysails. Good luck and go now.
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Old 30-10-2013, 05:05   #7
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Re: Minimum Experience Required

Did my sailing exercises on a pond, motored on a channel than got the ICC.
First experience I got as crew member by delivery of a 50" Helmsman from Spain to Denmark. 1400nm that changed my life. Simply great, did deliveries from that time on. Experiences came alone.
Good luck and fair winds
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Old 30-10-2013, 05:16   #8
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Re: Minimum Experience Required

I've known people to go cruising with little experience and do great. I've know people with 20 years of sailing that when they final went, they were a disaster.

There is no basic. It's what your comfortable with and being safe. If you have little experience and are doing the icw, at worse you could wreck your boat. If you go offshore on the east coast, at worst, you could lose your life. Be prudent in your decisions and honest with your capability.

Know the basics cold - safety first (can you heave to, reef, and know how to use the safety gear), navigation and rules of the road, anchoring, etc, etc.

Practice, learn your boat and have fun.
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Old 30-10-2013, 07:26   #9
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Re: Minimum Experience Required

I started sailing being 4 y.o., we ventured far offshore when I was 35 y.o. Hence 30 years of sailing experience may be enough.

Now if you read some sailing adventure books, you will quickly find that many sailors crossed oceans with nil prior experience.

My advice to any beginner: sail, sail, then sail some more. Best start with a very unforgiving dinghy - they tend to punish all the mistakes a beginner can make. Then step up to a keel boat where you will get bashed some more. When you notice it all stops being pain and starts being fun, you may be getting close to being 'ready'.

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Old 05-11-2013, 07:54   #10
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Re: Minimum Experience Required

The critical factor that is difficullt to measure is the ability to analize risk and make sound decisions in new circumstances. Some people have this and some seem hopeless. I'm reminded of a classmate in my high school driver's education class who never seemed able to cope. The rest of us were always stressed when he was behind the wheel. I saw him a few years later leaning against his car oddly parked at a street corner. After a brief greeting, he asked me if I could help him free his car from the stop sign that was wedged beneath it!

It's a tough question and the answer seems to vary with the person.

Take care and joy, Aythya crew
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