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Old 01-08-2016, 22:31   #1
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How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

Hi everyone!

I'd be curious to hear your guys' opinions on the best way to get sailing experience while not spending an arm & a leg to do it?

Our situation is that we're a couple who've had the long running daydream of "getting a boat and traveling the world." We've already traveled a fair bit. Right now we're at 35 countries. But did it as digital nomads while living out of our backpacks in hostels or AirBnb rooms. The idea of cruising on a sailboat is perfect for us because we can travel and take our home with us.

For a long time that was just a "one day when we're rich" sorta dream. But then on a whim we started digging in and doing research and we found that money wise, sailing around the world is actually doable so long as we get our acts together, make a plan and execute it.

So we've been saving for some months now but thought it would be prudent to actually get out on a boat and make sure that we like the reality of sailing as much as the daydream of it. Right now we live in Austin TX. We wanted to get coastal sailing experience so we took ASA lessons down in Kemah TX with South Coast Sailing Adventures. So far we've done 101, 103, 104 and 114 (We're looking to buy a cat.)

The sailing school was amazing, and if anything has made us more anxious to get out there. The main downside was the cost. $$$ Sailing school ain't cheap. And pretty much took away whole month's worth out of "the boat fund."

We anticipate needing about another 7-9 months before we have enough saved up for a downpayment and a stash of "fix it up" money.

We know we need more practice. We want to go sailing at least once a month. Ideally more (like that needs to be said). But if we do half day charters once or twice a month its going to eat into our ability to save for the boat.

So my question is this, how can we get experience, having mostly just weekends to go out, without breaking the bank? Can we volunteer to be crew or something? Can we just find nice people who will take us out weekend sailing with them?

Lake Travis is near Austin and people charter sailboats there. We're also "only" a 3ish hour drive to the Texas gulf coast cities. And that's about it for our options. So what're your tips and tricks? We'll take either mono or cat sailing opportunities. Beggars can't be choosers. Thoughts? Comments?

PS: We're doing the Youtube thing. As time allows I'm putting up videos of our sailing school adventures. If any of you are curious here's the link to our channel. Subscriptions & likes are always welcome!
https://www.youtube.com/user/jandradventures
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Old 02-08-2016, 04:30   #2
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Re: How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, jandradventures.

Yes, volunteering to crew, usually race night, at yacht clubs is an excellent way to gain experience (& make friends).
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Old 02-08-2016, 06:18   #3
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Re: How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

go to your nearest body of water and explore the area for folks sailing and wanting more crew. ask if they teach., other alternatives are alreadyknowing folks who sail and asking htem.
yacht clubs, as long as not on asphalt should be a good source also-- use imagination. find water and boats together and go from there.
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Old 02-08-2016, 06:41   #4
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Re: How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

Just subscribed to your YouTube channel. Great to meet you.
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Old 02-08-2016, 07:26   #5
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Re: How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

Buy a boat, now! Get a real cheap fixer-upper in the 25 to 30 foot range. Should be able to find an old beater for a couple thousand dollars. Find a cheap place to keep it not too far from home with some decent sailing nearby. Then spend the next couple years sailing the keel off the thing while also fixing it up, maintaining it etc. Take it on day sails, then weekends, then week long voyages. Get yourself in trouble, have things break "out there" at the worse times, get comfortable with foul weather sailing, etc. etc. etc. After a couple years of this, you'll be good sailors, you'll know how to maintain all the systems, rigging and hull, you'll have experienced most aspects of cruising, and you'll be ready to sell that old beater and start shopping for the real boat ... or you'll decide this is all WAY too much hassle and change your life plan. Either way, just go for it now!
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Old 02-08-2016, 07:48   #6
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Re: How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

Subbed.

Hello neighbor. We're in Dallas on the same path and asking similar questions of ourselves.

I can get comfortable spending a few thousand on a boat to get the experience outlined by wristwister above. But i struggle with using the cash now, to get an interim boat, versus stuffing that cash into the cruising kitty and getting the majority of our experience on our "real" boat during the first year (c. 2019).

In the interim boat scenario it's the storage and refit costs that keep me from pulling the trigger on one of the many cheap boats in texas...but if I don't go overboard with the refit I may get some of that money back when I sell.

No good answer I guess; probably just have to make a choice and live with it as a cost of this business.
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Old 02-08-2016, 07:49   #7
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Re: How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by wristwister View Post
Buy a boat, now! Get a real cheap fixer-upper in the 25 to 30 foot range. Should be able to find an old beater for a couple thousand dollars. Find a cheap place to keep it not too far from home with some decent sailing nearby. Then spend the next couple years sailing the keel off the thing while also fixing it up, maintaining it etc. Take it on day sails, then weekends, then week long voyages. Get yourself in trouble, have things break "out there" at the worse times, get comfortable with foul weather sailing, etc. etc. etc. After a couple years of this, you'll be good sailors, you'll know how to maintain all the systems, rigging and hull, you'll have experienced most aspects of cruising, and you'll be ready to sell that old beater and start shopping for the real boat ... or you'll decide this is all WAY too much hassle and change your life plan. Either way, just go for it now!
What he said.
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Old 02-08-2016, 08:09   #8
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Re: How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

There is another way, save up your money and just buy a boat, not a junker.
But I wouldn't spend 7 to 9 months saving up a down payment, tough to cruise with a boat payment.
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Old 02-08-2016, 08:11   #9
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Re: How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

The point is that you can get sailing experience by crewing. But you aren't likely to be aware of the many other issues, maintenance, system issues that are very important for spending time on a sailboat. Many people are surprised that they will run into issues with the plumbing systems, or electrical systems, carpentry and more. Those of us with an older boat spends many hours on all of these. The skills you develop will be critical if your forever boat develops a problem. You'll have dealt with how to trace an electrical circuit, or replace a plumbing part.

Most people don't have one forever boat anyway. It's often a good thought that doesn't really happen in reality.
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Old 02-08-2016, 08:39   #10
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Re: How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

I agree with wristwister's post, but not fully. I concur with Paul-Arr's concerns regarding storage and refit costs. So, my recommendation is that you find a marina that has trailered boat storage, then buy a trailer sailer that is ready to sail without having to do any work.
  • The storage fees for trailered boats is usually low.
  • Store mast-up on the trailer for convenient sailing and the bonus of little or no hull maintenance required.
  • Maintenance and refit costs of small boats is easier and more affordable compared to larger boats.
  • Boat ownership is surprisingly money- and labor-intensive; I'm glad I started small.
  • With low investment in dollars and labor, I don't feel obligated to go sailing every weekend.
Trailer sailers will be in the 17 to 23-foot range. IMO, sailboats in the 25-30 foot range have have no appeal, they have disadvantages of larger boats and few of the advantages, especially for lake sailing.

If you own a sailboat, and you store it at a marina, and you go sailing a lot: you will learn a ton, AND you will meet other sailors and get invited on their boats. My experience is that I don't learn much about sailing or boat ownership when I'm on somebody else's boat, but I do get to witness different features that I may want or want to avoid in my next boat purchase.

When you are ready to move on, trailer sailers are easier to sell than 30'. Even if you lose your entire investment, you won't have lost much.
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Old 03-08-2016, 12:25   #11
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Re: How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

Check out Meetup.com for sailing meetups in your area. It's free, usually, unless you are the organizer. I'm having great luck with acquiring crew for my boat this way. The folks enjoy learning to sail and I get a break from the normal duties of sailing.
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Old 03-08-2016, 12:35   #12
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Re: How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

Cheapest:
Volunteer to crew for the weekly boat races. If you can't find them closer Fridays on Lake Belton Show up about 5:00 pm.

Next, buy a cheap trailer sailer.
Under $2000 you can have a decent boat to sail on the lake with trailer.
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Old 03-08-2016, 13:14   #13
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Re: How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

Yes, a trailer sailer as that first interim boat may be more convenient and cheaper than a bigger keel boat, but I still think that bigger keel boat is the way to go for several reasons:


You can only learn so much doing little day sails from the boat ramp. Extended cruises for days and even weeks at a time, where you're navigating, encountering unpredictable weather, anchoring, fixing broken stuff "out there", provisioning and staying aboard etc. will teach you a LOT. I'm thinking a 23' trailer sailor might not be suited for this.


A bigger keel boat will have all the systems you would encounter on your eventual dream boat; through-hulls, inboard engine, plumbing, electrical systems, real head and galley, instrumentation and electronics etc. Learning how to fix and maintain these systems is important, and I don't think you'd get that on most trailer sailers.


... but either option is a step in the right direction. Bottom line, get a cheap boat and start sailing NOW.
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Old 03-08-2016, 14:41   #14
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Re: How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

You lucky devil! Here is a link to some sailing groups in the Austin area:Find your people - Meetup
More than what I have near me.
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Old 03-08-2016, 18:20   #15
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Re: How to get sailing experience while saving up for a boat?

Location...

He can daysail almost every day in the lakes surrounding Austin.
He can crew a bigger boat in the weekly "races" (which are more like 2 to 3 hr sails around the lake for the Lake Belton group)

Under an hr to get to the ramp or marina.

Getting to blue water being closer to 4 hr each way (not 3 without worrying about the flashing blue lights) eats up half of a weekend getting to the boat and then back home.
Volunteer crewing is generally low cost (often free to play "rail meat") aside from the cost of gas to get to the boat.

I'm about 40 mi N of Austin. I know where he'll be in order to get at lakes in a reasonable time.

Plenty of near $2k trailer sailers in 14 to 20 ft, swing keel, shoal draft or even daggerboard boats on Craigslist in the area.
Buy and use one for a year and probably can sell it for right at what you paid next year...

Buying 25 ft+ may add the other systems to deal with, but generally means the mast is annoying to raise for each trip to the lake. That means slip fees and that eats into the budget for the boat that is his goal...
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