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Old 19-06-2012, 22:21   #1
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Training plan for becoming a skilled sailor

First, I need to say that I have been shocked so far at how friendly and welcoming everybody on CF has been since I joined last week. So far, I've been finding this same warm welcome down at the marinas on Hayden Island here in Portland with sailors I meet in person, as well. Ya'll are some good people!

And like all newbies, I come bearing questions. I like to think I've done more research than the average nub, and on Sunday I attended my first sailing class (on board a 420, fun little dinghy!). My interest is definitely more blue water keelboat sailing in the long run, but it seems prudent to learn sail handling and whatnot on small boats first.

I was reading a little bit about a recent unassisted, non-stop circumnavigation by an Australian girl, and the controversy surrounding her record attempt. I was looking at her training record (it's listed on wikipedia), and marveled at her lack of open ocean experience for a solo circumnavigation attempt. The attempt struck me as overly brazen, given her experience.

But, it did lead me to a line of thinking. I'll be taking the ASA 101 through 105 sequence all within the next 60 days, and I plan to be out on the river sailing dang near every day, but well within my limits. I'll be joining a local sailing club, crewing on their weekly Santana 20 races, crewing on any weekend off-coast run to the Puget Sound that I can, and joining in on the weekly 420 races, as well.

I'd like to get on the open ocean as soon as I can. Perhaps crew on a trip to Hawai'i, Alaska, Costa Rica. I know there are "crew wanted" sites, but at what point do I say, "I think I'm ready to crew that far"? And then, at what point do I know I'm ready for the challenge of single-handing to Hawai'i, and beyond?

I realize there is no "Trans-Pacific License", but I'm the kind of person that psychologically requires a checklist for everything I embark on, and this is no exception. This is obviously a forever-learning endeavor, but I also need to have something tangible out there on the horizon that I can use as a landmark.

Thanks folks, you all rock!
-Jassen
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Old 19-06-2012, 22:50   #2
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Re: Training plan for becoming a skilled sailor

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Originally Posted by Jassen View Post

I'm the kind of person that psychologically requires a checklist for everything I embark on, and this is no exception. This is obviously a forever-learning endeavor, but I also need to have something tangible out there on the horizon that I can use as a landmark.

Thanks folks, you all rock!
-Jassen
This requirement to have a checklist is a great quality to have and your understanding that this is a forever-learning endeavor shows maturity few 'newbies' come to realize so soon. I think you are gonna do just fine

Take as many classes as you can, read read read. crew on as many boats as you can. Get offshore experience on quality boats, find sailors you want to emulate. Find your singlehanding boat and go.

Godspeed, hope I see ya out there. We will be on a little boat called Rain Dog.
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Old 19-06-2012, 23:25   #3
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Re: Training plan for becoming a skilled sailor

Read read, read and volounter (spelling>) for any sail you think the skipper isnt an idiot. You will find some scary skippers but you will find many that are willing to pass on information that will last you for a life time. If you want a really good crew, find out how tough they are and then marry them. That is the crew that will last. Read the books of Eric Hiscock, Don Street ,Hal Roth and a few of the other old conservative cruisers and you will have a good outlook on cruising without all of the wizbang stuff that permiates the modern networks. Not that all of the modern stuff is bad, just that it isnt an absolute requirment. Be ready for lots of opinions.______Grant.
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Old 19-06-2012, 23:54   #4
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Re: Training plan for becoming a skilled sailor

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Originally Posted by Jassen View Post
First, I need to say that I have been shocked so far at how friendly and welcoming everybody on CF has been since I joined last week. So far, I've been finding this same warm welcome down at the marinas on Hayden Island here in Portland with sailors I meet in person, as well. Ya'll are some good people!

And like all newbies, I come bearing questions. I like to think I've done more research than the average nub, and on Sunday I attended my first sailing class (on board a 420, fun little dinghy!). My interest is definitely more blue water keelboat sailing in the long run, but it seems prudent to learn sail handling and whatnot on small boats first.

I was reading a little bit about a recent unassisted, non-stop circumnavigation by an Australian girl, and the controversy surrounding her record attempt. I was looking at her training record (it's listed on wikipedia), and marveled at her lack of open ocean experience for a solo circumnavigation attempt. The attempt struck me as overly brazen, given her experience.

But, it did lead me to a line of thinking. I'll be taking the ASA 101 through 105 sequence all within the next 60 days, and I plan to be out on the river sailing dang near every day, but well within my limits. I'll be joining a local sailing club, crewing on their weekly Santana 20 races, crewing on any weekend off-coast run to the Puget Sound that I can, and joining in on the weekly 420 races, as well.

I'd like to get on the open ocean as soon as I can. Perhaps crew on a trip to Hawai'i, Alaska, Costa Rica. I know there are "crew wanted" sites, but at what point do I say, "I think I'm ready to crew that far"? And then, at what point do I know I'm ready for the challenge of single-handing to Hawai'i, and beyond?

I realize there is no "Trans-Pacific License", but I'm the kind of person that psychologically requires a checklist for everything I embark on, and this is no exception. This is obviously a forever-learning endeavor, but I also need to have something tangible out there on the horizon that I can use as a landmark.

Thanks folks, you all rock!
-Jassen
When my son showed an interest in serious sailing I told him to get on a boat that was being delivered from South Africa to the Bahamas. He learnt a lot really quickly! Moorings (the charter company) still have yachts delivered every month from Cape Town South Africa to destinations all over the world.

I think the experience one gains on such a crossing is brilliant if one can 'get the ride' and it certainly is the way to get serious about sailing by 'jumping in boots n all'... some (98%) dream the dream and some (2%) LIVE the dream ... some dream they will live the dream but in reality never will, so if you want to be serious about this ... DO a crossing as soon as the opportunity presents itsself. That way you will also be better informed in the future when taking advice from fellow sailors!
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Old 20-06-2012, 00:42   #5
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Re: Training plan for becoming a skilled sailor

Impi, I am sure your son had a great learning experiance, but i would be very carfeul before I would let a loved one sail with the average delivery skipper. When on my first cruise we met a couple of 18 year old boys that were crewing on a beautiful 40 foot sloop. We werent much older and had them over for dinner a few times. The boat owner had run out of money so their engine didnt work any more. We ran into them in Hawaii a couple of years latter and learned that on the passage to Hawaii the tootheless tatooed skipper had slept every night and the kids slept with a string tied to ther toe to wake each other up at the watch change. Capt Toothless couldnt do more than a noon sight so they guestimated their way to Hawaii. For anybody wanting to crew, INTERVIEW THE CAPTAIN AS MUCH AS HE INTERVIEWS YOU! My 2 cents worth.____Grant.
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Old 20-06-2012, 01:26   #6
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Re: Training plan for becoming a skilled sailor

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I was reading a little bit about a recent unassisted, non-stop circumnavigation by an Australian girl, and the controversy surrounding her record attempt. I was looking at her training record (it's listed on wikipedia), and marveled at her lack of open ocean experience for a solo circumnavigation attempt. The attempt struck me as overly brazen, given her experience.
Well that just goes to show that you can't believe everything on Wikipedia, cause that girl can sail and had plenty of offshore experience before she left on the RTW.
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Old 20-06-2012, 03:12   #7
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Re: Training plan for becoming a skilled sailor

Seems like you have set yourself up to get a lot of sail time in quickly. Blue water? Do check out the crew sites. Interview the skipper. Does he(she) have a lot of blue water experience? Do they have a RYA Yachtmaster Ocean or equivalent? Look a the boat. Is it well-maintained? looks like it is going to sink? Look at the skipper - really look. Does he look(and sound) like someone who can handle a boat in rough weather?

Read Beth Leonards "The Voyagers Handbook". It will tell you pretty much anything and everything you want to know about cruising. If it's not in her book - you probably don't need to know it
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Old 20-06-2012, 05:02   #8
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Re: Training plan for becoming a skilled sailor

If your aim is to go single handing offshore, then it would be wise to learn to do everything on the boat yourself......so think about that for a moment.

The courses you are doing will give you a basic understanding of a sailing boat... it just the beginning of a very long road.

You will need to develop boat handling skills - the best place to do this IMHO is on a race boat. Start at the mast, then bow, headsail trim, spin trim, main trim, helm, tactician are all areas where you would be wise to develop skills.

You should also develop a set of skills that will keep the boat in good repair while you are offshore. You will need to know about engines, about electrical systems, charging systems, plumbing systems, electronics, refrigeration etc.

You will also need to get to where you want to go safely and so you need to develop skills in navigation, pilotage, meteorology, communications and understand Colregs.

Sounds a lot to learn?....it is....It took me about 10 years and something like 50,000 miles before I was comfortable going offshore on my own...and I still take a deep breath every time I do.

You goal, and it is a worthy one, is no small undertaking, be aware of that, learn the skills thoroughly and most of all, enjoy the road that takes you there.
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Old 20-06-2012, 05:54   #9
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Learning to sail is not that tough. Learning to sail well tougher.

Passage making is about problem solving. On a short passage something breaks, not a huge deal. On a long passage something breaks and you likely going to have to effect a repair under way.

There is no real predicting what might break.

So in a year or less you can learn to sail well enough to sail anywhere. What will be in question is your ability to solve all manner of boat problem. This comes through study of maintenance, repairs and systems as well as experience. You get experience by breaking stuff, repairing stuff and building stuff.

Sailing on other boats is a great idea. However you need a plan to learn all the take care of the boat stuff.
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Old 20-06-2012, 06:37   #10
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Re: Training plan for becoming a skilled sailor

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Learning to sail is not that tough. Learning to sail well tougher.

Passage making is about problem solving. On a short passage something breaks, not a huge deal. On a long passage something breaks and you likely going to have to effect a repair under way.

There is no real predicting what might break.

So in a year or less you can learn to sail well enough to sail anywhere. What will be in question is your ability to solve all manner of boat problem. This comes through study of maintenance, repairs and systems as well as experience. You get experience by breaking stuff, repairing stuff and building stuff.

Sailing on other boats is a great idea. However you need a plan to learn all the take care of the boat stuff.
you might also want to go off hiking for a few weeks on your own,many people do not handle solitude well.

counversely also try living in one room for 3 weeks with 5 strangers,damp bedding,constant noise and bad food!

the psycological challenges of long distance sailing are easy to disregard untill faced with the reality
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Old 20-06-2012, 09:36   #11
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Re: Training plan for becoming a skilled sailor

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Well that just goes to show that you can't believe everything on Wikipedia, cause that girl can sail and had plenty of offshore experience before she left on the RTW.
That's actually good to hear, thanks for the information. She had a lot of supporters, obviously, but from what I was reading she was heavily criticized for embarking on that trip. After I posted this, I was reading about a Dutch girl that just completed a circumnavigation a few months ago, and the Dutch child protection services tried to prevent her from going, although she seemed to be a far more experienced sailor than Jessica Watson was. They both went home alive and without major incident, which is what always matters.

In aviation, we say that as long as your career takeoffs = career landings, you did good.
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Old 20-06-2012, 09:46   #12
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Re: Training plan for becoming a skilled sailor

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You will need to develop boat handling skills - the best place to do this IMHO is on a race boat. Start at the mast, then bow, headsail trim, spin trim, main trim, helm, tactician are all areas where you would be wise to develop skills.

You should also develop a set of skills that will keep the boat in good repair while you are offshore. You will need to know about engines, about electrical systems, charging systems, plumbing systems, electronics, refrigeration etc.

You will also need to get to where you want to go safely and so you need to develop skills in navigation, pilotage, meteorology, communications and understand Colregs.

Sounds a lot to learn?....it is....It took me about 10 years and something like 50,000 miles before I was comfortable going offshore on my own...and I still take a deep breath every time I do.

You goal, and it is a worthy one, is no small undertaking, be aware of that, learn the skills thoroughly and most of all, enjoy the road that takes you there.
Thank you for the advice. Good bits, all. I'll definitely start with racing, and I wouldn't mind doing a couple of Pacific crossing races before I start single handing on the open ocean.

I tend to be pretty good with mechanical and electrical systems, and intend to put some time in apprenticing at a local boatyard if I can, as I definitely need engine repair skills and hull repair skills. I was an electrician in the Navy for 6 years, and also used to be a recreational pilot, so I am hoping that a significant amount of those skill sets (navigation, pilotage, etc) will carry over to some degree.

And it's about the journey, not the destination, of course. Just antsy to get underway.

Thanks again for your insight!
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Old 20-06-2012, 09:50   #13
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Re: Training plan for becoming a skilled sailor

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you might also want to go off hiking for a few weeks on your own,many people do not handle solitude well.
Did this quite a bit in my 10 years in Colorado, actually. I also lived in a van (yes, down by the river!) for 11 months in off-and-on isolation. Of course, the van wasn't getting tossed around by waves....

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counversely also try living in one room for 3 weeks with 5 strangers,damp bedding,constant noise and bad food!
Sounds like some moments of Navy life, to me. But this is also why I want to become competent and be able to single-hand as quickly as reasonable.
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Old 20-06-2012, 11:29   #14
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Re: Training plan for becoming a skilled sailor

Your plan so far sounds perfectly reasonable and going in your favour is having avoided asking anything with the words "Which is the Best........" .

Lots of good advice so far - really is no substitute for experiance, especially of when things are less than perfect.

I would start with crewing on OPB's inshore first (even if "only" day trips or a few hours), not so much for the sail / boat training (albeit every little helps) but also to see how much variation there is in how folks operate boats and most importantly so you can build up experiance about Skippers and how some people "maintain" their boats....before jumping on a boat going long distance / bluewater and being faced with pot luck / no idea what you are looking at before leaving port. What you will learn is that their are some complete pillocks out there and on that sometimes only seeing is beleiving ......sea miles are good indicator that someone knows what they are doing, but no guarantee. With some boats / Skippers likely you will be very happy to only be a few hours from shore!

Personally I would say go for Bluewater (as Crew) when you feel comfortable that you would have a decent chance of getting the boat to shore alone (or if Skipper fell overboard), and whilst maybe not comfortable with the idea would nonetheless not have an attack of the vapours at the mere thought! Not so much in case you have to, but because by then you should have a good handle on what you are looking at in both Skipper and especially the boat......before leaving port!

Would also be useful in picking very carefully on boat and Skipper and voyage - even if that means chipping in for expenses (simply as it widens the pool of choice), personally I would go for large over small (say 40 / 45 foot plus) with plenty of crew onboard and not a boat where Skipper is scrimping by on the bare minimum of crew.

For going single handed, likely you will need your own boat . and the answer to when you are ready to go solo to Hawaii etc, is when you feel happy to try (trepidation is good).....that likely not 10 mins after first boat purchase , but sounds like you have the wit to understand that ......so I would put own boat as a major milestone in the plan even if first use is not transocean......getting some time onboard in less than ideal and / or changing circumstances is useful - especially when not far from home....and by that I am not talking about heading out into a F8!, but just the dull day to day squillion variations of stuff - esp. involving breakages or plan changes. and simply getting familiar with your boat.............call it "The Buck stops here 101 Training".
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Old 20-06-2012, 11:55   #15
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Re: Training plan for becoming a skilled sailor

You'll be ready when you can visualize MOST potential problems AND you KNOW how to go about effecting a repair..

Not knowing what to do in an emergency is what leads to panic...
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