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Old 17-10-2014, 03:01   #1
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Sailing school or school of hard knocks

Hi all, I have a question for no other reason but to start a discussion. So, feel free to offer your views. I'm particularly interested in hearing from the more experienced sailers.

In 2009 I travelled to the big smoke and did a four day sailing course for the purpose of both gaining some skills but also to 'test' if I liked sailing. I had quite a bit if motor boat experience and a Limited Coxswain certificate (4x10). But I'd never sailed. The course was for crewing as that's what they suggested to get me an introduction.

Alas, my experience of this very expensive course was a waste of time and money, a lot of money. All we basically did was sail a day from Sydney to a sheltered bay called Maquarie lakes and stay in that sheltered bay for two days and then on the fourth day sail back. Really didn't lesrn much, but got a little piece of paper on the last day that says I can crew in yacht races. But I also confirmed I wanted a sail boat.

At the end of that year I hired a yacht in the Whitsunday islands and my experience grew over two weeks. Made mistakes, yep.

Over the next year I searched for and found my boat in Adelaide. Nervous as hell, my grown son and I sailed it down the coast, through a storm to home. That was in 2011 and now I think I've done possibly just under 3000 miles since then. Never single handed just yet.

The question so pay attention.

What's the recommendation, school of sailing or just do it and learn the hard way? What do y's all reckon? (That's aussie for think).
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Old 17-10-2014, 03:52   #2
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

In my humble opinion the basic sailing courses are a waste of money.

The best way to learn how to sail is to get a small open boat and sail. Get a larger boat when you have mastered the small one. Of course you should know the rules and regulations.

Larger boats aren't harder to sail but depending on what people plan to to with them they introduce stuff like maneuvering on engine in harbors and locks, passage planning, (engine) maintenance, weather prediction, SSB & VHF communications, navigation and heavy weather tactics. Might be smart or even necessary to follow a few courses on those subjects.
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Old 17-10-2014, 04:07   #3
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

I think it depends on what you want to learn or if you are happy with your current skills and qualifications. Also if you want to use any certification for employment etc.
Personally I've done my coxswains which is a fairly intensive course. The Aussie follow on from there is master V. The coxswains is similar to yachtmaster, which is more recognised worldwide than the coxswains, but the study requirements are similar. The good thing about the yachtmaster is no formal training or certificates are required before doing the exam, so if you are competent and confident you can pay a few hundred dollars to take the exam and receive certification.
Personally I'm thinking of studying the yachtmaster syllabus and taking the exam when convenient, possibly doing the week long pre exam course to make sure all the bases are covered beforehand. I wouldn't be doing it to use the certificate for employment, but just to refresh my knowledge and maybe learn something new along the way.
Thee doesn't seem to be a lot of schools offering yachtmaster in Aus, but there should be one closeby you can have a chat to about it, take a look at the syllabus and requirements (you need to have about 3000M logged as well) and maybe pick up some books for home study...
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Old 17-10-2014, 04:09   #4
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

There must be quite a few seasoned sailors in your area that would be willing to teach you.

Other than theory, and rules of the road, I think you could spend your money better on other things unless you are looking for specific certifications, or if some countries require certifications? (I have no idea)

I had my boat out solo yesterday. I sort of stumbled my way through things and had a lot of fun. Tacking was a a bit clumsy, but I got it to work out. I figured that if I failed miserably, the outboard could bring me back in.

I am a outright "newbie" , but I already have quite a few local people offering to go out for little more than a dinner and a couple beers. Most of my sailing friends are deployed until around Christmas, so I might take up the offer with a few of these good folk. Great way to make new friends.
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Old 17-10-2014, 04:23   #5
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

Personally I think a good sailing school is an excellent way to learn basic sailing skills. These schools will not teach you to sail in 4 days. I only know the Canadian system so can't help you make a good choice in Aussi but I am sure there are some excellent schools there.
The problem with teaching yourself is that you don't know anything and you may learn the wrong way to do most things. Even learning from other sailors may not always pay off as there are lots of folks out there that are not all that competent.
Get a good school to teach you the basics and then go and crew on a race boat for a season, you'll learn how to sail. You won't learn how to cruise and that's as much knowledge as sailing so once you can actually sail OK then hang out with cruisers and ask lots of questions and go out and practice, won't be too long and you'll start to figure it out, good luck and have a great time!
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Old 17-10-2014, 04:30   #6
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

For those who have 'misunderstood', I am not looking for a sailing school.

I've merely started the thread to see what people think. For discussion.

Personally I feel small sail clubs are good but formal sailing schools for adults are a waste of money. Buy a boat and do it, I believe is the best way. Though, slowly does it with the types of weather.
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Old 17-10-2014, 04:34   #7
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

Hard knocks all the way... it really knocks some sense into you!
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Old 17-10-2014, 04:59   #8
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

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Originally Posted by Rustic Charm View Post
For those who have 'misunderstood', I am not looking for a sailing school.

I've merely started the thread to see what people think. For discussion.

Personally I feel small sail clubs are good but formal sailing schools for adults are a waste of money. Buy a boat and do it, I believe is the best way. Though, slowly does it with the types of weather.
Hmmm... a very hard question....

I'm pretty much self taught.... rowing dinghy as a pup, then a Heron, then a Vertue, then my present boat ... over 57 years with a few pretty big gaps along the way - from the boat my dad built from plans in Popular Mechanics in 1957 until today.

OK so I was 42 years in the day job on biggish ships but that is neither here nor there when it comes to 'sailing'.

Back when I used to buy the pommie sailing mags they would be advertisng those crash courses... zero to fully qualified yacht master in 14 days... utter bullshit...

Pretty scary are those people who retire and think..'bowling club or buy a yacht...bowling club or buy a yacht'.

Mind you all those RTW rallies would be stuffed without them....
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Old 17-10-2014, 05:02   #9
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

Does Tassie have an equivalent of the Qld Boatsafe course? That is well worth doing at the start.

After that - just do it. Apart from your own boat or a charter, join a club and get out and crew on OPBs (other people's boats) at every opportunity.
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Old 17-10-2014, 05:13   #10
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

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Hard knocks all the way... it really knocks some sense into you!
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Old 17-10-2014, 05:31   #11
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

There are in reality two issues here

1- Theoretical knowledge such a terrestial navigation, Colregs, Day and night signals etc. These you really should learn in a structured environment (otherwise you'll miss something) Having said that - you can learn all these things via self study (I did), but you should take a self study course then.

I have to say, a hell of a lot of sailors simply don't know either day/night signals or the colregs - just look at all the threads on CF where posters make outlandish claims regarding colregs. Even the very knowledgeable posters are sometimes in disagreement regarding which reg i applicable.

The same is true for radio use. Sorry, operating a radio, VHF or SSB is not just buying it and talking into the microphone. Just turn on your VHF and listen to all the persons who have no idea how to use one correctly.

2- Sailing skills - These can be learned the hard way., although some basic skills are more easily learned if you attend a good course. Here I mean, docking and undocking, reefing (and when) basic sail trim, boat handling etc.

Years ago I took a basic course and it was excellent. 1 week and a very serious and dedicated instructor who took us through it all. Theory (see above) in the morning, the afternoons on the water.

Obviously, the usefulness of any courses you take have to be measured on the seriousness of the instructors and what is being taught.
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Old 17-10-2014, 06:01   #12
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

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.
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Old 17-10-2014, 06:22   #13
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

I'm like you, came from a decent power boat background so I understand a little about how much mass there is and what inertia can do docking.
I never sailed on any boat before I bought my Island Packet 38, and have never taken a sailing course, nor had any instruction but somehow I manage. Now my Son has read a book or two, but so far I haven't, he has taught the old man how to trim sails, and until he moved out trimming sails was his job.
You know what happens when two or more sailboats are heading in the same general direction don't you? Well oddly enough my IP is usually the faster boat, and they are not known for speed, so we must not be mucking up sail trim too much?

I think these intro level type of classes are usually more entertainment than any actual teaching, have a tough class, and you don't stay in business, most take these kinds of classes as a vacation, you were supposed to have fun, not actually learn much.

But then I dove for years before I got certified, 99% of that is common sense and almost all of the open water rec diving courses are more entertainment than anything else, and that makes a little bit of sense. If they were tough classes that most had to repeat, how many would sign up? Now before I dove mixed gasses or cave, I did get trained, those classes were a bitch and I learned a lot from them, my cave instructor has about a 40% pass rate for instance, these are not vacations, but they are for serious divers, not someone that will dive once a year in shallow water on vacation.

I can only assume that there are "graduate" level sailing classes, and those are taken seriously, hit the books after class to prepare for the next day kind of class as opposed to hitting the bar after class or going for a swim, my plan is to get a little above the dummy stage, and maybe find one or two of those "graduate" level classes to take, at some point you'll learn more and faster being instructed than self taught.
But the intro to anything type of class is always easy, you really don't learn anything as they are designed to "hook" you, to show you how much fun the activity is, and most don't enjoy study and hard work.

Who taught the Wright bothers how to fly?
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Old 17-10-2014, 06:28   #14
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

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Originally Posted by Rustic Charm View Post
What's the recommendation, school of sailing or just do it and learn the hard way? What do y's all reckon? (That's aussie for think).
I did the school route and it was my first time sailing. All you learn are the basics and you still have to do the "hard way" later.
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Old 17-10-2014, 06:38   #15
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Re: Sailing school or school of hard knocks

Dingy Sailing!! Instant feedback!

Then get a boat , sail a little close to home.
Then a course , when you can relate what you learn to your own experience.

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