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Old 28-12-2007, 11:14   #16
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GTO, I think people here have been trying to be helpful - but your response to 44'cruisingcats initial post concerning complying with the laws of other countries was rather sarcastic and disingenuous, to say the least - ie, 'good enough to become a local attorney?'

Seems you are asking for either incredible detail - ie, what EXACTLY do I have to learn? Or, for approval to embark on a trip to the Bahamas with minimal experience, skills and equipment. I think that you have to read some books on the subject of sailing, cruising and navigation. I think you need to get out on the water in varying conditions and put some of what you have read into practise. In time you will develop your own comfort level and will be able to decide if and when you know enough, and have enough equipment to make the voyage you are planning on.

Ultimately, as has been pointed out, it is the captain's (your) responsibility with respect to navigation, seamanship, etc., etc. There are no shortcuts.
Will YOU feel you need to have years of experience to make a good weather crossing from Fla to the Bahamas? Likely not. Will YOU feel you will need a drogue/sea anchor if you have access to good weather forecasts and make passages in only fair conditions? Again, likely not. Will YOU feel you need some experience in anchoring on different bottoms and with varying winds/currents? I suspect so. Will YOU feel you need to learn the 'rules of the road'. Likely, unless you are reckless and prepared to be a hazard to other vessels.

The skill set which would be ideal for cruising knows no bounds. In a sense, being an international lawyer, a chef, an electrical and mechanical engineer, a diesel mechanic, a carpenter, a rigger, having your Ham license, your Master's ticket and an MD, a DDS and of course huge sailing experience would all be useful. What do you really NEED? Again, its ultimately up to you. Tanya Aebi started her circumnavigation as a 16 year old with minimal experience/ knowledge of navigation, heavy weather sailing and anchoring. She later said she didn't know enough to know better. But she went, learned and survived. Who knows, maybe God does look out for drunks and sailors, although I've always found a little knowledge to be way less dangerous than none at all.


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Old 28-12-2007, 11:48   #17
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<When you first started out, did you already know how to handle everything?>

Goodness no, and I still don’t… I was fortunate in two respects 1) none of my early mistakes caused any permanent damage although they could have, and 2) some guys from the local United States Power Squadron took me under their wing and tutored me rather forcefully…

If you have not availed yourself of one of the Coast Guard Auxiliary or USPS basic boating courses, I would… they won’t teach you a whole lot about your particular boat, and unless they’ve changed since I was a member (decades ago) they don’t concentrate a whole lot on the specifics of sailing, but they will open your eyes on boating safety, equipment requirements as well as the basics of boat handling, piloting and weather. Coincident with this you might begin assembling a ditty-bag of tools you know how to use specific for your boat -- and as you gain experience and move up to larger vessels over the years simply add to it… a little formal instruction will lay some groundwork, but your informed experience will be the final teacher…

Like I said, one of my first lessons was having the steering gear come adrift on a smallish flybrdge cruiser (while running a North Carolina inlet…) and only having the equipment in my fishing tackle box to attempt a get-home repair – used a fishing fillet knife to cut big slivers off the keel, to temporarily reseat the lag-screws that had pulled loose… three technical lessons were immediate: 1) carry some basic tools when depending on any mechanical device, 2) inspect the boat before heading out in moderately heavy water, and 3) don’t allow anyone to install lag-screws on heavily loaded apparatuses where bolts are called for – and finally two lessons on captaining 1) know the weather (as forecast, it was gusting over 25kts, way too much for that size boat in that inlet, but the young operator – me – didn’t really understand what that might mean) and 2) don’t run an inlet wind against tide in those conditions…

That’s a lot to learn in afternoon and it is a sequence much better learned at a more sedate pace… I was fortunate my Guardian Angel was on full alert because I could have lost the boat (usually had about 3-4 fatalities a year trying such a stupid stunt in that inlet) and after that I started paying a lot more attention to boating…


Worry: misuse of imagination…
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Old 28-12-2007, 13:27   #18
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I think the starting point is you are responsible for the safety of your vessel and its crew.
It is difficult to say what is essential and what not for possibilities some years out. It is unlikely you will ever know everything, and you may luck out.
Experience is a good teacher and there are often alternative ways to handle something ie manage rather than do it well.
I suspect that attitude is important and if one endeavours to take shortcuts that shortcut may well cause you problems.
You have the basics of learning to sail, learning to handle a bigger boat, doing the courses because yes the rules of the road may be unknown to many, however that ignorance can kill you. You also need to be able to read charts, calculate tides etc that a coastal course will teach you.
It is debatable that you need to learn to use a sextant, certainly at this stage, unless you were doing ocean passages, and did not carry 3 GPS's (two may well fail).
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Old 28-12-2007, 16:41   #19
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Not sure what’s going on with this thread, but whatever:

Learning how to sail, dock, anchor, basic navigation, etc. is not difficult and needn’t take a long time. All these things can be practiced under relatively safe conditions. However, there are certain things that you don’t or at least shouldn’t practice. Accordingly, there is something to be said for the "just go" idea.

Probably, the two biggest concerns of cruisers are getting caught in bad weather (or anchored in the wrong spot in bad weather) and running aground. Cruisers spend considerable time and effort trying to avoid these things. No one deliberately leaves port in a gale force storm just to see what it’s like or practice storm tactics. No one deliberately runs a cruising sailboat aground so that hey can practice getting off. You can read about these things, ask questions and get advice, make sure you have and can use any equipment you think might help you deal with them; but you will never have any real experience until you go cruising and they happen despite your best efforts to avoid them.

As far as Florida-Bahamas is concerned, this can be an uneventful one day or overnight sail. But, you will be crossing the Gulf Stream and you must understand how it works, how winds affect it, and how to pick a safe weather window. Once you get there, with the exception of Nassau and maybe Freeport, you don’t need to know anything about aids to navigation - there aren’t any. You do need good charts and a good cruising guide. I have never met anyone who used a drogue or parachute anchor in the Bahamas and we didn’t have them - doesn’t mean you might not find a good occasion to use them.
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Old 28-12-2007, 19:14   #20
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I am also struggling with this thread. It is impossible to "learn" everything about riding a bike by reading a book. Any physical activity has theory and practice.

In a 16 foot boat on a lake you go long on practice and short on theory. Sailing a 90 foot trimaran on a solo circimnavigation is much longer on theory.

A basic book on sailing dinghy's or a weekend course at a local club will get you started. Then get about 2-300 days on the water. Then if you want to go bigger, you'll know the path that needs to be taken.

Not trying to offend but at this point talking about the legal requirements of other countries is like talking to a 5 year old about teh stock market.
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Old 28-12-2007, 21:49   #21
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Originally Posted by GT0 View Post
Well thanks for that. But it hits directly the root of my question. When you first started out, did you already know how to handle everything? At least, everything you were aware of that you needed to know. Or was it an on-the-boat, learn as you went, put it to use experience?

You'll encounter two types of people on the water:

- Nice, humble, and genuine people who don't mind making jokes about themselves and all the things they've screwed up. Life (including sailing) is one big learning curve, and only a fool thinks that there isn't a ton more to learn.

- Arrogant know-it-alls who like to find the above people, and riddle them with unsolicitated advice. They are quite positive that you don't know anything, and feel it is their duty to insult you (for your own good, of course).

I would really recommend this book. It's a great fun/fast read, but addresses the core of I think what you're going after: Innocents at Sea: The Sailing Misadventures of Two at Sea: Books: James A. McCracken

To answer your question directly, the basics of sailing are fairly easy to master. You can show someone how to operate a sloop in a weekend. But there are so many variations on the theme, and experience is dealing with those variations. Fog, storms (big variety there), foriegn ports, different rigs, different anchoring conditions, etc.

I'll shut up with this piece of advice: if you find a sailor who is 100% confident in their skills, run the other way.
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Old 28-12-2007, 23:06   #22
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Thanks for the replies.

I believe I have what I was looking for, except maybe the local law aspect. But considering the confusion the question seemed to cause, my assumption is that no one really does any type of review of the laws of countries into which they plan to sail.

Since I made it through Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and England (and English territories) without being arrested, I guess entering a country on a boat adds little more to be concerned about, excepting maybe the clearing in and out procedures.

So, I'll sign up for the boating coursework as suggested. Trailer my little boat to the Florida panhandle to sail the semi-protected bays a few times this coming year to expand my horizons and exposure to navaids and such.

Then determine whether to build a larger coastal boat (perhaps a Ruel Parker design) or buy one. From there, well, I'll see as I go.

And I'll certainly buy the book, thanks for the link!

Appreciate those that took the time to make useful replies to my question. Heading back into my small boat world now. More comfortable to me. Thanks again!

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