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Old 13-10-2010, 16:08   #1
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Unhappy Hello, and a Rookie Question

Hello everyone,

I am from Edmonton, AB Canada, which is very close to being as landlocked as you can be save for a lake west of here. With a mariner history in my family and the spectre of a legendary (on the Queen Charlotte Islands at least) seafairing father looking on from the after life I've taken up sailing. I just took my white sail level I and II over the past summer, loved it and did quite well having been exposed to boats in my youth. With aspirations of eventually living aboard I have been pursuing all manners of sailing education both practical and book. I've just returned from a weekend of sailing on a 27 ft Catalina as both a skipper and crew near Vancouver, BC and have a bit of a rookie question.

Having only had the lake sailing behind me, and a youth spent on the water I found myself a make that a lot nervous about the pitching and rolling and general overall anxiety of being on the boat in what I can imagine are relatively calm seas given you need wind in which to sail. To set the environment:

The winds were blowing out of the south west at the bottom of the Straight of Georgia with enough force to have us heeled over a little bit (not a bunch) and we managed a sustained 5.8 knots (from a convesion of a GPS saying 10.7 km's hope that's right) with the jib and main up. The waves were about 1 meter (maybe 60cm's) from trough to peak but were I think what people call a chop. Occasionally the bow would plunge through them spraying us I know what most of you people are probably thinking ...what a hoot!

However, although I did get a rush of accomplishment and a feeling of cool! I was more of the opposite...more on the ok...are we going to capsize, am I going to drown I want out of here now vibe. ( I do have a bit of a natural fear of the water and am a terrible swimmer as well... but have a pretty large family history to uphold)

So my question for those still with me, is were these rookie jitters? are they something that you can overcome with time, a ton of experience and obviously getting a more rounded experience with regard to seaman skills...(i.e. work on my swimming)

Otherwise are my dreams of sailing offshore without a care in the world still achieavable or should I give it up recognize that sailing on the open ocean isn't for me and see if I can find a "sailing simulator" on a p.c.

I know this is a bit of a subjective question so I appreciate all the old salts sharing their knowledge of their "first time". I can also appreciate the people that may say that this was too big a leap to jump and that my skills weren't in line with the conditions...which I am to be candid completey unaware of whether these were actually "journeyman" conditions or what have you.

Thanks in advance for any responses, I hope very much that I can live the dream like so many of you.

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Old 13-10-2010, 16:48   #2
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Hi Deep and welcome...
Its all down to going out a few more times and seeing if it goes away... for some it never does.
A friend of mine is a dedicated dinghy club racer around Poole Harbour... really really good but... the couple of times I sailed him out in the bay and the wind and waves got up a bit he'd start to freak...
The early signs were him hanging onto a rope... didn't have to be attatched to anything as such... just a sorta security blanket... next it'd be "O ****... O ****"... by that time tho' I'd be heading back into the harbour.
The crazy thing was he'd happily race in F5 upwards... untill a race had to be abandoned because of strength... but only in the harbour,,, at sea anything over a 4 had him winding up.
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Old 13-10-2010, 16:49   #3
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Welcome, and yeah, you'll get used to it. Well, you probably will. Some people never get comfortable with it but most folks do if you stick with it long enough. That catalina 27 is fairly light displacement as well so the motion is going to be very rough and jittery. Imagine riding down a dirt road in geo metro versus a cadillac escalade: you'll have two very different experiences. That being said, you'll probably learn better driving skills when you have to deal with every bump on the road so don't treat it like lost experience.

But in general until you're on a boat that you can control and you know what to expect, it's very normal to feel overwhelmed. Spending more time on the water is the only way to get better at it (studying books helps too), and especially pay attention to ways to reduce canvas. While a properly trimmed boat is pretty safe, you really do have something to worry about if you're over canvased, so once you have that ironed out you can do a lot of sailing feeling pretty confident.
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Old 13-10-2010, 18:17   #4
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You will only know the answer by sailing more.

I myself still have a lot of fear and apprehension anytime we go offshore and things turn sour.

I think we all fear, where we differ is at how we mange fear.

And we also differ at how quickly we forget (or not) our bad experiences.

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Old 13-10-2010, 20:14   #5
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I would agree with all the above, and add, if you feel uncomfortable, take in a reef, or slack the sheets and bear off a little.
"Dont tell me I can't, tell me how I can"
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Old 14-10-2010, 04:16   #6
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A light little boat like that is going to pretty much translate the entire action of the ocean right up to your body. It doesn't mean it's an unsafe boat, though! It's just that there's no real mass there to counteract all the slop that the ocean is chucking your way.

But yes, I agree with the above that it will probably go away with experience. For most of us it's about getting familiar with our boats. Some boats heel over to about 15 degrees without much coaxing, some don't go past 10 without severe protest. You just have to get to know what the heel means, and not be intimidated by the strict value of it, if that makes any sense? Same with waves. My 65' steel crab crusher doesn't even feel 3-6' waves, doesn't play well in 7-10' waves, and absolutely loves anything bigger (so long as it's not rolling over the pilothouse!). Every boat has different 'zones' in which they perform well, or poorly.

Most every production boat will outperform its captain, especially when they aren't a twenty year veteran. So the fear shouldn't be focused on the boat's potential inability to withstand the environment. Rather, you should concentrate on the parts of the boat under your control, and get used to exerting your control over the boat. Going hard into the wind for too long can be a truly exhausting task, especially when you're by yourself. Take in a bit of sail if it's uncomfortable, or maybe just try coming about and running with it for a bit? It's amazing to feel the difference between the two angles on the wind, but more importantly you can think of it as your choice to make it a smoother ride. Sometimes the right move is to make the ride as comfortable as possible until the tougher conditions pass, and that's a reality that everyone who sails open oceans understands and respects. You can't fight Mother Ocean. The bitch don't quit
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Old 14-10-2010, 04:37   #7
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I would ask the rookie how he has overcome other fears in his life....fear is typically irrational reaction to risk....fears at sea are no different....overcoming fear is a skill and takes courage and bravery....if you have overcome other fears in will adapt and be fine at sea.....but i will tell you with confidence....the fear is breeds respect....which lengthens life expectancy....ask any old salt...
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Old 14-10-2010, 05:48   #8
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Being a rookie in this company Iīd say youīll get over it as you start to get to know the boat.
I hadnīt set foot on one of those strange looking "thingies with a stick and a blanket attached to the roof" I had absolutely no idea of which "rope" would do what, to what "blanket" if you get my meaning, when I bought my own 26ft boat.
First time it heeled over I got terrified, but got around to slacking (what I learned in the book on the way home was called) sheets and as she came back I thought.. "wow, this is better than a rollercoaster"
After a few of those surprises I found myself waiting for more wind.. to see what would happen, how much she could heel etc. Knowing that it will take a lot to flip her over I was confident enough never to be really scared, except for that first very unexpected heel-over. Now I absolutely LOVE it. The more wind the better.. Having that said, the large lake I sail is known for itīs short but very rough and hard waves and demanding conditions, but itīcould never be compared to open sea. Iīm sure Iīll love open sea too.

I swim fairly well, but unless itīs very warm in the water it wont do me much good if I fall off a long distance from shore and no-oneīs there to help me. Even a life jacket/PFD wonīt really do much more than prevent you from drowning, giving you a short extra time to die from hyperthermia instead. I almost always use a life jacket AND a short lifeline attached to the boat. In my waters, even after a long period of hot summer weather, Iīd be dead beffore rescued. Not from drowning though. Only exceptions I make from that is when I have someone aboard, thatīs capable of handling the boat, should I go overboard. So.. well, itīs always nice to be able to swim, but it sure isnīt a life saver by itself, and neither are PFDīs IMHO. Swimming capabilities is also very over-rated if you go overboard unexpectedly. Shock, a blow to the head etc might even render Mark Spitz incapable of swimming that tiny distance to shore
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Old 14-10-2010, 12:14   #9
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Aloha and thanks for the question.
Catalina 27s don't capsize like dinghies. They blow over until the wind spills from their sails then they right themselves again if you have the hatches closed.
I learned to sail on a calm inland lake in Germany many years ago. I never became comfortable with lots of wind and waves until I started sailing in Hawaii between islands. Sometimes I still get the jitters when entering some of our notorious channels but that's only when I know the winds are going to be 25k plus and the seas 8 to 10 feet plus and we are hard on the wind. I'm not in fear for my life but know it will be uncomfortable and wet so I don't like it.
Good to have you sailing and you'll feel much more comfortable with more experience.
kind regards,
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Old 19-10-2010, 21:03   #10
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rookie sailing

I too just restarted learning to sail this past summer due to the kindness of a sailor I meet on this cruisers forum. I was visiting Canada from the states and wanted to know where I could go to sail and possibly learn again, and he invited on his boat and has been a great teacher as well as a friend. Sailing is thrilling and is very addictive. I would think the more you do the easier it would become , but then, I too am a rookie and only have been out with an experienced sailor. I love the feeling of the waves and am not yet great at keeping her on course, but I will be out there as often as I can -it is truly awesome. Years ago when I was sailing on Lake Erie with some friends ,we were caught in a sudden storm on the 4th of July and the boat was in the water a bit too much( I know this is not the correct term) Keeling over -maybe? I was told to pull in the jib and I loved every minute of it! Maybe I was too stupid to be afraid but the excitement was great. Unfortunately, my friends sold their interest in the boat after that and until last year I never got to try my hand at it again, except as a passenger. I would hope the more I go the more I would learn the boat, as you would too, and how to react.
Keep sailing,
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Old 19-10-2010, 21:22   #11
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Originally Posted by Deep6 View Post
So my question for those still with me, is were these rookie jitters? are they something that you can overcome with time, a ton of experience and obviously getting a more rounded experience with regard to seaman skills...(i.e. work on my swimming)

Otherwise are my dreams of sailing offshore without a care in the world still achieavable . . .

I know this is a bit of a subjective question so I appreciate all the old salts sharing their knowledge of their "first time". I can also appreciate the people that may say that this was too big a leap to jump and that my skills weren't in line with the conditions...which I am to be candid completey unaware of whether these were actually "journeyman" conditions or what have you.
Yep, rookie jitters.

Won't need a ton of experience, 10-15lb should do until you hit bigger wind then the cycle will start again. At some point you will get to something where it is no longer rookie jitters, but educated fear, but based on your description of the conditions you had a long way to go.

On the other hand your dream of 'sailing offshore without a care in the world' is NOT achieavable. Anybody offshore without a care is dead or too stupid to know better and you don't strike me that way. Sailing is just like the rest of life, just different things to worry about.

I would perhaps agree that 'journeyman' conditions are what you described if you were getting wet and going 5.8kt. Not terribly challanging but by no means novice weather.

You should do fine.

A house is but a boat so poorly built and so firmly run aground no one would think to try and refloat it.
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Old 19-10-2010, 21:43   #12
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Off topic, but I love to see the occasional boat here in Vancouver proudly claiming to be from landlocked Edmonton!
Check out this link.....this boat lives at a marina near me and proves that Edmonton is really a port city, or at least not totally landlocked!
Idlewild Expedition
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Old 19-10-2010, 22:29   #13
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Thanks everyone for their great words of advice!. Aaron unfortunately it was my friends boat, they've only recently purchased it. Upon hearing they'd bought it and didn't have much in the way of sailing knowledge I offered my assistance (it could also perhaps be construed as badgering them until they agreed that we could go out on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend) Thus, that's what we did. I was essentially the experienced one, with my whopping 3 weekends of sailing under my belt. However, credit to the Northern Alberta Sailing Club because in terms of handling the boat I think I did quite well.
So while the boat itself wasn't from Edmonton, the experience was :P

However that link you posted looks unbelievable....yet another blog to add to the list.
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Old 19-10-2010, 22:31   #14
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Don't be discouraged it takes time study and trial. The more you learn the the less fear you have. One day you are in 15nt winds with 3' waves healing 10 to 12 degrees close haled in a bit of fear , you spill some air and straighten up a bit and you settle down the fear gets to be excitement, a rush! The next time you go out your in 10nt winds with 1' to 2' waves close hauled having a blast because your paradigm has shifted! You “survived” the last “bad” day now this isn't as bad as that so you relax and put to use all that you have read about since the last time you sailed. And so it goes the more you learn the better you get the better you get the better it gets.

One thing that has to be realized is that swimming is not a viable option in the first place. Another is you do not have to hold to a tradition of sailing . You should do it for you or not do it for you. It's your life live it for you, do what makes you fulfilled. Good luck in your adventures. Duane

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