We started with the sailing courses offered by the Naval Sailing Club in San Diego
. We had never been aboard a sailboat before. We did it as a family
with our then 9 year old daughter. It was aa very comprehensive course that went over a number of weeks, I can't remember now how many as it was years ago, maybe 6 or 8. The first week or two was strictly classroom learning
theory, rules of the road, chart reading, safety
We did our practice on 14' Lidos and Capris. We had to get them ready, rig them, and launch them ourselves. They had no motors so we had to dock
them under sail. We did man overboard
drills. We all developed our skills together as a family
and I think learning
from other people was a plus.
After we got our certificate of completion we were allowed to "check out" the Lidos and Capris to use and we did so every single
weekend. I can't stress enough how valuable I think that experience was. The boats were very responsive (and reactive) and we really learned so much about sail trim and handling on those boats.
A year later when we bought our first sailboat, a 19' Cape Dory
Typhoon, we still had so much to learn, and we continue learning to this day, but I feel that that foundation that was built through those classes
and sailing the small boats gave us an understanding that it would have taken many more years to acquire on our own just sailing larger, more forgiving vessels.
Just my 2 cents.