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Old 06-03-2009, 14:50   #1
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A leap of faith… in sailing

Hi everybody,

I’ve been reading cruisersforum.com for a while now, but just today I decided to register. I was never really a “sea person” until last summer; in fact, I think I said at least a few (hundred) times that I “hate” the sea. After all, I was born in a city 2,800 meters above sea level, right on the Equator (Quito).

But all changed when a co-worker took me sailing on August ’08 (my wife was in Ecuador visiting her family, so I went by myself; we live in the US –Tampa Bay). And, of course, I got the bug… BIG TIME! How big? 2,800-meters-above-mean-sea-level big.

I started talking/thinking/dreaming about buying a sailboat (“But you hate everything about the sea”, my wife told me on the other side of the phone, while she was in Ecuador); I bought a dozen books (read them all); got subscriptions to a couple of magazines; I took a Boating Skills and Seamanship class with the Coast Guard Auxiliary (all theory); and, finally, in October 2008 we took a weekend class of sailing in a local sailing club that my friend had recommended. It was very cheap ($350 for both of us) and it included a one year membership that entitled us to use their daysailers on a first-come, first-sail basis.

There’s always boats available (they have six keelboats: two Ideals 18; four Rhodes 19) and we have been sailing (and loving it) for the past five months. I plan to do this until my membership expires in October, renew for a year and then buy a sailboat. I think learning in a small sailboat has a lot of advantages: I’ve learned a good amount of sail trim and boat maneuverability (I still need to learn a lot more, of course). Also, I’ve been reading books and articles about sailing (authors like Vigor, Calder, the Pardeys, Seidman, Rousmaniere, etc.). From time to time, I act as a crew member on my coworker’s 30-footer.

I am taking it very slowly, trying to grasp as much as I can. All this has been almost like a leap of faith for me; after all, I used to “hate” the sea, remember?. Lately, I’ve been thinking that I should take some sort classes (ASA), since I have never even started a boat engine before, let alone “driven” it; and sailing a “big” boat (27-footer or more) kind of scares me.

How do people jump from a 19-footer to a cruising sailboat? Are classes the best way to go? (They are kind of expensive, though.) Or should I just buy a boat and try it, see how it goes? All opinions are welcome.

Thanks.
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Old 06-03-2009, 16:17   #2
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Hi Gaviero,

It certainly sounds like you have contracted the sailing disease. It is truly incurable but the symptoms can be releaved by frequent applications of salt water. The treatment can actually be quite pleasant.

I caught the same disease in a similar way. I had never been on the ocean or even a boat larger than my fathers 12' fishing boat. Came to Florida to visit a college friend with plans to go camping in the keys. My friend suggested we go sailing instead and we ended up two weeks in the Bahamas. I came home, read every boating book and magazine I could find, sold my business, got a job on a boat and ended up spending ten years bumming around the Caribbean.

I completely agree that learning to sail a small boat is a great way to build your sailing skills. A small boat is lighter and reacts more quickly to wind changes and your corresponding adjustments. Bigger boats however do require other skills and concerns. Docking is trickier and forces on lines are greater to name a couple.

Going from small to large boats can be done many different ways. Some sailors increase in small steps, buying or chartering slightly larger boats and moving up once they are familiar with the current size. Some just go for it and jump right into a large boat. You can also try your comfort level on larger boats by doing a captained charter where you can handle as much or as little of the sailing as you like. Then if you hang around the right places and can take off a few weeks you can often find boats looking for crew to help on passages.

Whichever way you choose this is a great place to meet other cruisers, ask questions and learn about sailing.

Welcome aboard.
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Old 06-03-2009, 17:04   #3
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Gaviero,

Your story sounds extremely familiar with the small exception that I've lived near or on the Pacific Ocean all my life and lived on a big gray ship for four years. However I've just recently gotten the sail bug too. I've taken the ASA 101 class and am scheduled for the 103 class in couple weeks.

My plan is similar to yours - sail club for a year or more before jumping into my own boat. Then if the stars align around the daughters 7th birthday we might head over the horizon for a few years.

I don't have any advice, just a kindred spirit saying hello to others like myself. As for Ecuador, I climbed Cotopaxi and Cayabe about a year and a half ago and thoroughly enjoyed visiting Quito and the surrounding areas!

Ray
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Old 06-03-2009, 18:31   #4
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Old 06-03-2009, 18:48   #5
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If cruising, as distinguished from racing is your goal, then the transition is easy. In fact you’ve already made it by crewing on your friend’s 30 footer. Roller furling foresail, reefing the main, and dealing with the boom are about the only likely differences between sailing a heavy ballasted boat and sailing a light weight. The big boats react much more slowly to inputs and develop momentum that you need to compensate for, but the principles are the same and in reasonable conditions your present experience is sufficient to sail a big boat. Obviously there are other issues, such as navigating, anchoring, maintenance, etc., but the sailing itself is mostly easy.

OTOH, docking big boats is, well .... different (I avoid it whenever possible). No matter how much you read, the only way I know to learn how to dock is to find someone who will show you on their boat and then (gasp) let you try it. Most liveaboard cruisers like to anchor - there is more than one reason for this.
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Old 06-03-2009, 23:26   #6
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I went from a Sailfish that I built from a kit, to a 26' keel boat in Hawaii, to a 35' center boarder that we sailed from St Pete to the Chesapeake, to a keel boat that we sailed to SoPac. Did it all without a lesson or sailing on other people's boats. Just took the Sailfish out on a lake and sailed the hell out of it. Bought a 26 footer in Hawaii that I sailed to all the islands. Moved to the Chesapeake and bought a new boat in St Pete that we delivered up to the Bay. Sold that and bought a Westsail 32 bare hull that we built and sailed to SoPac ending back in Hawaii. Now own a Pearson 35 in SF that I plan on taking up to Alaska. Did it all without sailing on other people's boats or taking lessons other than a celestial nav. class at a JC or even a carpentry class.

The sailfish taught me all there is to know about capturing the wind to make a boat go where I wanted. Religiously read sailing magazines from the time I sold the Sailfish when I went to College. Learned all the things necessary to sail a larger boat that I put into practice on the 26 footer. Learned coastal Nav. as well as sailing bigger boat in the ocean sailing the boat in Hawii. Put those skills to use delivering my boat up to the Chesapeake and cruising the bay. Took a Celestial Nav. class while building the W32 and sailed off into the sunset.

A combinnation of book learning, talking with other sailors, sailing a boat that is not too much to handle for your skill level, sailing at any opportunity, and prudent common sense will get you around the world.

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Old 06-03-2009, 23:34   #7
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You have a good program going there Peter. My first exposure was crossing the atlantic from the harbor in Cohb Ireland to Nova Scotia, CA, of course I was five years old and on my way to a new life in america..we ended up in Toronto by train as the St. Lawrence Sea way was frozen at the time of our arrival..interesting times with the Russian invasion of Hungary making the trains full to max..but that was another story...
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Old 07-03-2009, 20:13   #8
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Thanks for the answers, guys.

And trebeyar, that's great. I tried to climb the Cotopaxi, but never made to the top. Tough! I am glad you enjoyed Ecuador, if you ever go back, let me know, I might be able to hook you up. Take care.
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Old 10-03-2009, 14:22   #9
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Aloha Gaviero,
Welcome aboard! You can move up from 19 to 27 pretty easily. You just have to learn the additional systems and stay a little further away from the shallows. The sail theory is the same and control of the sails is the same.
I've taught basic sailing since the mid 70s and never really thought that a person needed follow up classes after the basics unless they had to have some kind of certification.
Good luck.
kind regards,
JohnL
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Old 10-03-2009, 14:55   #10
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Smaller boat sailors are better boat sailors, in my opinion. Any dummy can make a 40' boat move forward, but try dumb luck in a dinghy and see how it works out for you.

The fundamentals of sailing, even if just over a weekend or a week, should be pounded into our skulls in dinghies. Everything from there is just about how to deal with a bigger vessel that has more load and options.

If you really want to *feel* sailing, make sure you spend some time in a sailing dinghy. I promise you it will be time well spent.
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Old 10-03-2009, 16:52   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post
Smaller boat sailors are better boat sailors, in my opinion. Any dummy can make a 40' boat move forward, but try dumb luck in a dinghy and see how it works out for you.

The fundamentals of sailing, even if just over a weekend or a week, should be pounded into our skulls in dinghies. Everything from there is just about how to deal with a bigger vessel that has more load and options.

If you really want to *feel* sailing, make sure you spend some time in a sailing dinghy. I promise you it will be time well spent.
Couldn't agree more. Sailed small boats (Petrels/Albacores/Fireball(THERE'S a boat)) as a teenager. Took my adult life off of boating until I bought a 28' power cruiser in my early 40's. Did that for a few years but it didn't really feel right so we moved from power to a 34' sloop. I got a few raised eyebrows when people found out that my first sailboat was a 34 footer but there were no problems. Everything I learned as a teenager was still there. Learn the basics in small boats and the rest is just load and momentum.
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Old 10-03-2009, 17:26   #12
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Old 10-03-2009, 17:59   #13
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Some things are best learnt from experienced folk. Courses do not suffice - but they may help (with nav) or get you basic qualifications (radio licence?). Sounds like you have made a good start with books, this forum, etc.

Seems to me there are a few steps you need to climb over, without doing everything at one time. Opinion on what knowledge is actually needed in each step will vary (my quick suggestions in brackets, below) ...

[1] Basic crewing, sail & boat handling (covered in messages above - add personal safety, distress / VHF; MoB, search & recovery skills)
[2] Competent skipper (decision making, anticipating the unexpected, building confidence, right boat - right fit, rules of the road, coastal navigation, pilotage, keeping cool, coping with failures, etc). Or see the list in this link:
Boatmaster course - General boating course for yachts, launches and powerboats | Coastguard Boating Education
[3] If going well offshore, ocean skills (attitude, preparing the crew, celestial, route planning, SSB / comms, engine etc repairs, storm tactics, stores, fit & spares, etc).

Speaking personally, there was a huge step between learning to sail safely, and keeping boat and crew safe in remote regions. You can prepare for that by reading, and learning about the oceans, but no course will ever make a good skipper.

My fastest learning as a skipper was driven by surviving my own folly ... a wiser man would have placed more emphasis on learning from the mistakes of others.
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