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Old 17-10-2014, 06:56   #16
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

My experience is very mixed: I have been thru a) proper maritime school, b) some sailing courses, c) some racing, d) some offshore sailing.

I feel I learned most sailing from racing dinghies. But I know that without proper maritime education, sailing courses, offshore sailing and plenty of reading&thinking, I would be a different kind of sailor.

So my attitude is that we learn sailing by doing sailing, but we learn more and better when we take in as much as you can along the way.

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b.
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Old 17-10-2014, 06:57   #17
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

I had been sailing dinghies and beach cats for years before I took a keelboat cruising course with Swain out of BVI. A friend whose boat I crew on often taught himself. Not much different in sailing skills between the two of us, but the little things really stand out, things that you only 'get' after doing them a few times under constant instruction and it's hard to get by practice unless you're very self-reflective. For example: letting the engine idle down between shifts rather than slamming the transmission, keeping clean lines and checking for no lines in the water before spinning the prop, anchoring procedure, transits, etc. Not taking the class has cost him $400 for a diver to clear his prop, $120 for a broken anchor, and many nights of not cruising because he wasn't comfortable. You don't know what you don't know, and you don't know you don't know it until it's too late and you really needed to know it a minute before. Just be sure you find a good program/teacher.


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Old 17-10-2014, 07:20   #18
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

Most of the practical stuff is fine to learn yourself, make some mistakes, not to serious consequences, but for navigation, colregs, safety, firefighting, liferaft and emergency procedures and first aid, you will definitely benefit from courses unless you are really unlucky and have had experience with fires on board, abandoning ship to a liferaft or helicopter etc..
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Old 17-10-2014, 08:49   #19
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

I think the combination of all venues to learning is the best way to learn. The very basics of course are learned in some decent sail club school setting. I did that after the sailing bug bit me in my mid 30s just after 1 or 2 day sails with a former co-worker. Then I took a Masters 40 course in that club and started doing coastal weekend and week long sails. After a few seasons of those and frustrated at not having the boat which was personalized to my tastes and needs I bought one, smaller than what I was used to chartering (27' vs 39') but her being my own and the time spent on her and sailing her was a very steep learning curve which in a year or two put me way ahead of any club member with many more years of just sailing experience. Also as a direct result of boat ownership, when looking for a fiberglass repairman, I stumbled upon a liveaboard family with whom I became close friends and who took me on half dozen offshore passages up to 2 weeks in duration. And just one such passage, considering that the guy is a marine pro with 40+ years of experience in probably everything and anything marine related, incl. racing, engines, f/b work, rigging, etc, etc., just one such passage would be an equivalent of many school courses combined.

Also, those offshore trips kind of set me straight on the cruising worldwide/circumnav desire I had previously. I now look at long passages not as a goal in themselves but just as means of getting there from here. My goal today is a quiet semi-retired liveaboard somewhere down South, preferably not too far (but not too close) from civilization, medical care and an airport, with occasional fishing trips, visits from friends and just being able to get up and go and not being too tide down to a particular place.
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Old 17-10-2014, 08:50   #20
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

I started sailing late in life with zero prior experience so organized classes were the only thing that made sense to me. They still joke at the school about how I was the hardest sell they ever had because I just couldn't believe someone could teach me how to sail safely and effectively for only $700...I knew there had to be a catch.

The ocean is a dangerous place and sailboats have so many moving parts and so much "stuff" that can go wrong I couldn't imagine getting out there without formal training anymore than I could imagine trying to fly an airplane.

Did the courses teach me everything I needed to know? Of course not but they gave me the knowledge and experience I needed to get out on the water and enjoy myself.

Classes and certification(s) were the right choice for me.
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Old 17-10-2014, 08:52   #21
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
Who taught the Wright bothers how to fly?
Octave Chanute.
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Old 17-10-2014, 09:19   #22
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

If you want to learn and improve your sailing skills I'd opt for getting a crew spot on a race boat with an experienced helmsman.
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Old 17-10-2014, 09:26   #23
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

Get a small boat and learn enough to make the boat move and be able to tack then go racing. (When I say racing I mean you as the skipper on your own small boat not some crewman being told every single thing even when you can pee)

You will learn the rest of the sailing details rather fast. Or you will get into quite a few arguments/fights with your competitors. (when you learn enough to stay close to the pack)

I came from a power boat background also (from ages 16-22) so I used that info for the other stuff.

I learned on catamarans speaking of things happening fast when you pull a "string."



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Old 17-10-2014, 09:29   #24
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

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Octave Chanute.
Inspired, yes, mentored, certainly, but taught?
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Old 17-10-2014, 09:30   #25
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

Full disclosure - I own a sailing school in the Grenadines (LTD Sailing), so definitely a bit biased.

I would definitely recommend starting with a class. We teach a lot of week long "Cruise and Learn" courses where we spend the week out sailing in the islands and learning to sail along the way. The learning curve during this week out on the water is almost vertical. I always advise my students that the most important thing they can do is to spend more time out on the water. It is important for new sailors to practice the things they learned and gain experience that only time on the water can give them.

So - while I would say that starting with a class is the best way, time sailing on your own to gain experience is the key to really learning how to sail.
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Old 17-10-2014, 09:42   #26
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

The answer is both.

There are programs, like RYA Yachtmaster, which teach you knowledge and skills which can be vitally important in particular circumstances. You may not know how important a given piece of learning is until you find yourself in a situation where its value is painfully evident.

Conversely, sailing safely offshore is about making good decisions, and your ability to do that is very often a function of prior experience and the ability to problem solve when faced with unexpected challenges. Being able to do that calmly and intelligently is helped by having a body of knowledge at your disposal, but there is no substitute for experience.

I recently made a longish 800 mile ocean passage with a life-long sailor who had grown up on Long Island sailing the coast from Maine to Maryland. Over the course of the trip there were a number of instances where his unfamiliarity with sailing in the open ocean in "spirited" conditions put us in jeopardy. Firstly, most of his experience was with tiller boats, and in a gale he had serious tendency to oversteer, in a form of panic, to control the boat. I had to tutor him on how to use a wheel. Secondly, he had virtually no experience helming a fast boat in a large following sea. That's not something you can learn from a book. You have to do it, a fair amount, to get proficient at it. He did get better at it, and even more importantly his overall comfort level with ocean sailing rose to the point where that glimmer of fear in his eyes started to fade.

And those are just two basic skills, without something going wrong. But they could have led to things going wrong in a big hurry.

Just as a contrast to your experience, last time I was in the Canaries there was an RYA training program underway at the same marina. That instructor was tough on his students, taking them out in fairly challenging conditions and drilling them pretty relentlessly on required skills, tactics, and knowledge. He was a fairly uncompromising and demanding drill sergeant. They definitely got their money's worth. The RYA Yachtmaster program is the most rigorous one out there, but as with all programs, how good it is ultimately comes down to the quality of the particular instructor you get.
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Old 17-10-2014, 10:27   #27
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

I'm flabbergasted!

Sailing gentlemen, is more than just learning how to steer a boat and trim the sails.

Colregs anyone? Or do they not matter? Or do you learn them by bumping into other boats? (don't worry that'll buff right out)

Buoys? Yeah they're in the way but I try not to hit them?

Day and night signals on ships? (well I just get out of the way) Try that in a crowded lane


Navigation? Who needs to be able to read a chart - I just put my little thingy on the chartplotter on where I want to go and follow the line?

Are you all serious?
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Old 17-10-2014, 10:28   #28
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

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As usual, the correct answer is... It depends.

Some people learn better in a school environment. Some learn better on their own. And, of course, the value of any class depends (there's that word again) more on the particular teacher than on practically anything else. So even classes taken at the same school could be radically different in their value if the teachers are different.

I started out teaching myself to sail. It was slow and wet. I then decided to take a class, had an excellent teacher, and learned a whole lot very quickly. Later took another class that was mostly a waste, because the teacher was mostly a waste.

So, again, it depends.
Yup, and it depends on HOW YOU like to learn also. Some folks are better at being shown, others can read and do.

We also took a few lessons even after having boating experience, and then one on our OWN boat.
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Old 17-10-2014, 10:33   #29
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

i enjoyed learning from a true old salt.
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Old 17-10-2014, 10:58   #30
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

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I'm flabbergasted!

Sailing gentlemen, is more than just learning how to steer a boat and trim the sails.

Colregs anyone? Or do they not matter? Or do you learn them by bumping into other boats? (don't worry that'll buff right out)

Buoys? Yeah they're in the way but I try not to hit them?

Day and night signals on ships? (well I just get out of the way) Try that in a crowded lane


Navigation? Who needs to be able to read a chart - I just put my little thingy on the chartplotter on where I want to go and follow the line?

Are you all serious?
I think everyone takes the things you mention as a given. If you don't know that stuff then you shouldn't even leave the dock.
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