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Old 13-08-2015, 07:18   #1
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What makes a great cruiser?

For those unfamiliar with the concept of the 10,000 hours philosophy, it's a concept popularized by Malcolm Gladwell that if you do something for 10,000 hours, you become proficiently expert at it that your actions are based on intuition. I've been at the cruising thing for about six months now, living full time on board the boat (a little over 4,000 hours of my lifetime), single handing the boat from Tampa through the keys to the Bahamas up to Charleston, and now working north through the Pamlico, and I'm wondering what it is I'm supposed to be expert in?
Sail handling: I can get her moving alright, and do take joy in trimming her just right, but during the day the sails are blocked by the bimini, and most of my afternoons are spent trying to find the wee bit of shade left on the boat, not sail trimming. There's also a sort of lassitude that sets in, and I spend most of my passage days reading! Lots of previous small boat handling means that I exclusively sail on and off my anchor, and at 28' my current boat is hardly larger than a dinghy! But those skills were already there.
Helming: point up in the gusts, right? But it's hard to do when you've surrendered the task to the autopilot.
Anchoring: I only do this once or twice a day, so haven't built up any real hours at it, but I usually sit right on the hook save for two instances.
Navigation: I don't think it takes 10,000 hours to competently read a GPS position (drift, set, blah blah).
Fixing things: definitely picked up some new skills here, but can't say I'm competent at it ...
Heavy weather: Sadly, lots of experience now reacting quickly to storms in order to calmly forereach through them!
Decision-making: this may be the most important skill: choosing weather windows, planning out an approach to a new harbor, etc. I've found this fun.
Motoring: this is honestly something I have to work on, as I got pinned against the piles trying to leave Beaufort, nc with the current running, but it was my first time leaving a slip with my outboard, so I had zero minutes of experience on this one but a lot of misplaced confidence!
The only real example of intuition on my boat though, is that I can now descend from the cockpit into the cabin, without trampling the water pump lever and breaking my whale gusher.

Am I thinking about this wrong? I know I'm too competitive a personality to begin with, but if I'm doing this I may as well be good at it, right?! What would you say makes a good cruiser and is it through practice that you gain them or through books?


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Old 13-08-2015, 10:58   #2
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Re: What makes a great cruiser?

I think you're looking at this a bit wrong. You're focusing on skills. Sailing skills are pretty easy to pick up. If you cruise long enough you'll find all sorts of new maintenance skills as well. It looks like you're well on your way to being pretty competent in the basic skills you need.

What takes a lot of time is... Wisdom? Seamanship? I'm not sure the right word. It's that instinct where you feel the air temperature drop a few degrees and you immediately start to reef, or you recognize the slight difference in the shape of the waves and you wonder whether it gets shallow over there or if there's a current running.

It takes a lot of time to really get instinctively in tune with your boat and the environment.
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Old 13-08-2015, 11:04   #3
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Re: What makes a great cruiser?

A great cruiser could be at the end of the day you haven't sunk your boat and you still would rather be on your boat than any where else.

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Old 13-08-2015, 11:24   #4
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Re: What makes a great cruiser?

There was a concept we talked about at work a lot. It was how you could take two people where we worked who both had 15 year on, and depending on where they had been assigned and what they did, one would truly have 15 years experience, while the other had 1 year's experience repeated 15 times.
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Old 13-08-2015, 11:28   #5
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Re: What makes a great cruiser?

I feel like I am becoming an expert in reading, baking, and snorkeling.
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Old 13-08-2015, 13:09   #6
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Re: What makes a great cruiser?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwyckham View Post
I think you're looking at this a bit wrong. You're focusing on skills. Sailing skills are pretty easy to pick up. If you cruise long enough you'll find all sorts of new maintenance skills as well. It looks like you're well on your way to being pretty competent in the basic skills you need.

What takes a lot of time is... Wisdom? Seamanship? I'm not sure the right word. It's that instinct where you feel the air temperature drop a few degrees and you immediately start to reef, or you recognize the slight difference in the shape of the waves and you wonder whether it gets shallow over there or if there's a current running.

It takes a lot of time to really get instinctively in tune with your boat and the environment.
Some great points here. I'll add the ability to trust your own instincts and stay away from the crews suggestions to take short-cuts. Please don't ask me how I learned that one...
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Old 13-08-2015, 13:29   #7
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Re: What makes a great cruiser?

You didn't mention reading tell-tales or a windex for sail trim, or basic seamanship like knowing the useful knots off the top of your head, or anchoring. But those are also quite easy to learn.

Real expertise shows up in close-quarters boat handling in my opinion. Ability to get into and out of any docking situation, have the boat properly tied off with spring-lines appropriate for the situation, and ability to use spring-lines, read the current, and come off of a dock or mooring exactly the way you intended to is where expertise matters. Squeezing the last 1/2 not of performance out of a cruising boat is not so important.

Spending 4,000 hours on a boat isn't the same thing as 4,000 hours of sailing practice either--I'd say it's making you an expert reader :-)

In any case, sailing (not including racing) isn't so difficult that I think it takes 10,000 hours to make an expert.

Did Mr. Gladwell say anything about 10,000 posts making one an expert?
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Old 13-08-2015, 13:41   #8
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Re: What makes a great cruiser?

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Originally Posted by brownoarsman View Post

Am I thinking about this wrong? I know I'm too competitive a personality to begin with, but if I'm doing this I may as well be good at it, right?! What would you say makes a good cruiser and is it through practice that you gain them or through books?
Everything in books may or may not make a great cruiser of YOU! But only though time on a boat can answer what items would make YOU a better cruiser!

I can say that I've greatly been helped in the past when things went wrong because I had read of the problem before hand. My wish is that I never experience lots of the things I've read about.
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Old 13-08-2015, 13:42   #9
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Re: What makes a great cruiser?

Cheez whiz, a great cruiser? I guess I just think of who I'd most like to go cruising with. Sure I'd want to be out with someone who is calm in the face of scary stuff, and able to tie the right knot at the right time, in the dark, underwater... but I'd also consider greatness to be someone you can travel with for weeks at a time, out of sight of land, and still really enjoy their company!
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Old 14-08-2015, 08:49   #10
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Re: What makes a great cruiser?

I think it is very simple:

Just get out there and keep doing it. The rest is skills and details that come along the way.

The Pardeys, Tania Aebi and many others have proved that...
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Old 14-08-2015, 08:57   #11
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Re: What makes a great cruiser?

Thanks for the thoughts everyone! I guess as I cruise skills gaps will show up and then it's up to me to fill them in.
Reading a bunch before hand (and as a couple people have mentioned, I'm an even better reader now! ) has definitely helped, particularly Beth's and Evans' little one-pagers which have informed how I deal with storms underway, and I'm sure made the lessons learned less painful
So, search out new experiences and keep experimenting!


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Old 14-08-2015, 10:19   #12
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Re: What makes a great cruiser?

I remember asking a surgeon how he learned to do so many DIFFERENT operations. He said he didn't, he learned SurgicalPrinciples! That is what the 10,000 hours gets you, Experience and the how to do stuff, in your case on a boat and on a boat that is not racing or day sailing but cruising!
You know the adage, You get a big bag of luck and a small one of Experience and HOPE the bag pf experience grows before the bag of luck runs out!
Good on Ya, Mate! russ
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Old 14-08-2015, 12:53   #13
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Re: What makes a great cruiser?

I'd rather enjoy cruising than meet some predescribed critera for being a great cruiser.

What happens when you achieve the title? Do they give you a medal? Do others have to bow and grovel when you walk into a yatch club?
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Old 14-08-2015, 14:52   #14
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Re: What makes a great cruiser?

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Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
I'd rather enjoy cruising than meet some predescribed critera for being a great cruiser.

What happens when you achieve the title? Do they give you a medal? Do others have to bow and grovel when you walk into a yatch club?
I'm sure that a small curtsy will do when a Great Cruiser enters the room. No need to grovel!
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Old 14-08-2015, 15:29   #15
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Re: What makes a great cruiser?

What makes a great cruiser? ..... patience. Taking the time to make a plan; sharing the plan with those involved; listening to alternate ideas and allowing the time for the plan to work.
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