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Old 13-06-2013, 17:54   #1
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Prepping for the Real Deal

Howdy Folks,

I've posted in a few other posts about my wife and I's desire to do some cruising in the 5-7 year time frame. Since neither of us really knows how to sail we've started crewing when we can locally to start building some knowledge and getting a little experience with different boats. Our plan is to continue this, but since we also have a lake house on a fairly large lake (for central Texas) we'd also like to buy a decent cheap boat to practice on.

Which brings me to the real question. I'm curious what folks with actual sailing experience would recommend for a fit couple to learn in. I'm not actually looking for a brand/model since we're not really picky on that end (yet) but do you think it's more valuable to start with something like a Snark or is there more value in something like a 22-27ft swing keel (due to shallow water at the boat house).

We both want to learn how to sail well which makes me think something like a snark would be a good place to start. To focus on the fundamentals. But also want to be as comfortable as possible with the complexities of handling a larger boat, which has me thinking something like an older catalina 22-25 (as an example). Another benefit of a larger boat is we can pick up a small outboard to help get in/out of our protected little cove.

I'm not sure there's really a wrong answer here, but I'm interested to hear what others would recommend, with the benefit of hindsight.

Thanks in advance,

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Old 13-06-2013, 18:14   #2
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By a 27ftish boat do you can practice your sailing, seamanship, boat handling, working on boats, an be able to spend long weekends aboard... Get a trailer sailor so you can take her to the gulf coast for week's bacau here and there

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Old 13-06-2013, 18:23   #3
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Re: prepping for the real deal

A Cape Dory Typhoon will mimic full keel handling traits of larger boats while giving ease of sailing as a beginner and yet shoal keel for lakes at only 2 ft 7 inches. It also will allow you to test skills in heavier wind conditions than most daysailor types in it's size category or even slightly above. And can be put on trailer as well.
If it floats it's a boat, or perhaps it's f#cal matter!
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Old 13-06-2013, 18:34   #4
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pirate Re: prepping for the real deal

A Cat 22 is a nice boat to learn in for a couple. And you can take it to the coast when the time comes. And you can find a buyer when that time comes. Have fun!
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Old 14-06-2013, 06:05   #5
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Re: prepping for the real deal

Originally Posted by ErBrown View Post
But also want to be as comfortable as possible with the complexities of handling a larger boat...
The complexities of a larger boat mostly have to do with all of the systems that have nothing to do with sailing--the head, the galley, the diesel, etc. Sails are sails, and if you can sail a little 15' sloop with no ballast and a daggerboard, then you can sail a 40' ketch. The transition from the former to the latter is really not that big of a deal. For me, the adjustment from a Sunfish with a lateen rig to a daysailer with a sloop rig (and having to figure out how the two sails interact), was much greater than the adjustment from the daysailer to a ballasted keel-boat with an inboard.

The big adjustment for me with larger boats was handling it under power, docking, anchoring, and such. That, and learning how a marine head works (which, honestly, is something that I wish I had never had to learn!).

Having said that, one thing to consider with a smaller boat with no ballast is that they can tip over. That's really not a big deal, as they are pretty easy to tip back up and get sailing again. But you and your wife have to understand and accept that.

I learned to sail on little boats that tipped over all the time. Heck, half the fun of sailing a Hobie cat is seeing how far you can get one hull up in the air before it goes over. So that was just a normal part of sailing to me. The first time my wife and I went out on our little sailing dinghy and the boat tipped over, though, my wife was scared and then ANGRY! I forgot to explain to her that that was a possibility. OOPS!
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Old 14-06-2013, 06:28   #6
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I started in an ensenada 20. Moving to an Ericson 28 I found a "complexity" that I didn't learn from the smaller boat was complete sail trim. The 20 was a sails up or sails down kinda boat. Not much to do with reefing, leads.....etc. The 20 was also tiller steered and the 28 has a wheel....which is `different` but minimal. With this said.....if you can stay 25` or better loa..... it appears you would have a smoother transition.
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Old 14-06-2013, 06:46   #7
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Re: prepping for the real deal


I think it makes sense to go with a boat of a design similar to the one you see in your future as the 'target dream'.

I say this because I have sailed boats from 7' to 70' of all possible designs - some were ultralight, some were very heavy. I think there is vast difference in how they sail and they call for slightly different combination of skills and habits.

There are what I assume to be great start-up boats of all sorts - you can have a light, lifting keel boat like say a small First or a J. Or else you can have a boat like one of those long keel Herreshoffs. Or anything in-between.

Other than this I can recommend sailing all and any little beach-boats that you can lay your hands on - I think dinghy sailing is where one can quickest build strong sailing skills that later get employed on any type of sailing boat.

Have fun. Get a boat you love - one that will inspire you to sail often!

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Old 14-06-2013, 08:57   #8
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Re: prepping for the real deal

Get a boat that is easy to rig and sail. Then you will do it more and have more experience. Experience on any kind of boat is better than less experience.
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Old 14-06-2013, 10:58   #9
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Re: prepping for the real deal

Thanks folks,

Seems like the consensus is along the lines of what we've been thinking. We'll be looking for a low-mid 20 footer with a swing keel and water ballast. While I'd love to be able to go with something a bit closer to what we'll eventually purchase for cruising, our cove and boat house will not accommodate a deeper fixed keel.

Our primary concern is getting something that will be beneficial to learn on while being as accessible as possible, so we have no excuse not to take it out as often as possible.

Thanks a bunch for the feedback.
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Old 14-06-2013, 13:09   #10
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Re: Prepping for the Real Deal

I had to google up a Snark! No doubt a small dinghy is a great deal of fun and I am sure folks do learn a lot useful things, but for me they are one step up from a windsurfer! Which is all very good if going into the oggin is all part of the fun for you.......but as you also mention a mid 20's yacht my gut says that you (and the wife?) perhaps not wedded to the idea of getting regularly immersed as part of your learning curve!

The good news is that plenty of boats around that are more staid (and stable), including those that are open dayboats (and weekender with a boom tent if camping afloat (or ashore) your thing). The price will be less ultimate performance - but that only if boat right way up! Me would go for something more forgiving than a sailing dinghy if the goal is to have fun as well as learn (and put off the wife forever?!). Of course you can rent / join a club for a dinghy experience or training. Indeed, that might be a sensible step before buying anything.

Also just to say that your current idea of getting time on other people's boats is an excellent one - 1st hand experience of variation of boat (style / capabilities / condition / problems!) will be invaluable when it comes to buying "the boat", and that includes in cash terms. Also invaluable is experience of differing styles (and capabilities) of Skippers and how crew works (or not!) - useful to see first hand what works / is good - and not!, very useful to understand that their is no single "right" approach to being a Skipper even if a lot of commonality in being a good Skipper. You get to puzzle out what works for you onboard own boat.

Back to the 1st boat thing, one thing you will discover about yachts is that a lot (most?!) of the reason that a boat is suitable for "You" has little to do with sailing!, it's about the other 95% of the time the boat is used and where it is based. In this case sounds like shallow draft is essential (which rules out a whole swathe of boats - even before you get into sailing performance!) and likely being able to easily trailer her would also be useful, maybe for the odd vacation elsewhere or simply to take her home for the winter to store (and work on?) in own backyard.....and that again rules out a chunk of boats!.......and then we come onto dull stuff like accommodation. Firstly whether you want (or need) any! and then if so, WTF do you want? For some sitting headroom and no room to swing a cat is fine, for others a living nightmare.....note we still have not got onto the stuff involving the sails! (and BTW all this applies as much to big boats as to small). On the accommodation front, could be that you won't be sleeping on her and maybe not even bothered about cooking lunch under shelter. But that alone might not mean an open boat is ok, possibly because the wife not so keen on having a crap in a bucket in view of everybody (real and imagined!) as you (or at least me!) might be!.......on such small things boats and marriages founder.........
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Old 14-06-2013, 16:39   #11
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Re: Prepping for the Real Deal

Oddly enough cruising has little to do with sailing. Its mainly fixing the boat in exotic locations. Alas many less exotic locations too. Sailing is the easy part.
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Old 16-06-2013, 12:52   #12
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Re: Prepping for the Real Deal

Erbrown, we owned a Santana 21 and did a lot of sailing on Grapevine lake near Dallas, It was a fun, speedy little boat and we had tons of fun with it. From that, we moved to an Island Packet 32. For us, that has been a big change. The sailing has been the easy part. The motoring has been harder. But, practice makes perfect....well...I'm not sure about the "perfect" part.

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