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Old 28-08-2016, 20:56   #1

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Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

Hi everyone. Hoping to get some feedback. I've started sailing this summer by taking the US Sailing Basic Keelboat course. Sailing is really great for the most part and I definitely plan on sticking with it for a very long tiome, but my question is about how long before I start to feel comfortable with everything? Due to reasons out of my control, the lessons were spread out over a 6 week period and because of that, I don't feel like I retained as much as I should have, so everything just still seems so foreign to me. I'm getting frustrated (mainly with myself) because I feel like I'm focusing so much of wind direction, depths, traffic around me, and all the other things that require such constant attention, that the drill I'm actually trying to work on, such as: reefing, heaving-to, or man-overboard, just seems like a clumsy, futile mess. When will I find that balance? When does this all start to get to be second nature?

I'm stressed out about the check-out sail for my final test that I'll take in a couple of weeks. Should I be this frustrated? I get it, practice will make me a better sailor. But if I can't pass my test, I can't join the membership that will give me the opportunity to practice. Are the standards to pass the test just not that strict? How do people pass it with only a few lessons under their belt? I already took the written part and had no problems. But theory and practical application are very different things.

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Old 28-08-2016, 21:24   #2
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Re: Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

I am in the same "boat" experience wise. However I believe there is a vast age difference between us. Maybe not.

I have been a professional pilot for many years, and sometimes technical challenges can overwhelm us, Like drinking from a firehose.

As long as you continue to throw as much positive energy as you can muster toward your goals, along with perserverance and determination, you will succeed.

Take a deep breathe, relax, enjoy the challenge in front of you.

There is no substitute for time on the water, good luck!


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Old 29-08-2016, 06:01   #3
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Re: Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

Originally Posted by meatservo View Post
...There is no substitute for time on the water, good luck!
^^^ Great advice!^^^

Once you've mostly learned the basics, you just need to get out there and sail, sail, sail.

I was self-taught and learned to sail on a Hobie 16. Don't discount the value of sailing small boats--they give you instant feedback when you do something wrong, or right. There is no substitute for putting in the hours on the water in varying conditions. You'll develop an instinctive "feel" for what to do and when. Kind of like learning to ride a bicycle.

Once you're comfortable with your abilities on a small boat, try to find someone with a larger keel boat who can take you out, or charter with a friend who's qualified to take one out. The larger boats are much more forgiving than the small dinghies and cats, but with more mass, require you to anticipate and act before you would on the smaller boat. Docking and close-quarter maneuvering is the key beginners' skill here. It's a different feel and mind-set, but you'll get the hang of it with practice. Then work on sailing in heavier weather. Chartering and sailing on others' boats will help you decide what you want in the boat you'll eventually buy.

But the key is to just get out there and sail. You'll never advance your skills without practice.
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Old 29-08-2016, 06:22   #4
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Re: Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

Remember when you were learning to drive and could only handle keeping the car in the lane, and how your attention/envelope gradually moved outside the car? Same process. Soon things like sail set and traffic get subconsciously checked off and you can attend to the bigger picture, and for that matter, ENJOY the bigger picture. The small boat helps because there are fewer things to attend to and you're in the bigger picture sooner. At the other end, your conscious attention becomes course made good and coming weather. You'll get there. Be of good cheer.
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Old 29-08-2016, 06:43   #5
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Re: Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

Take the big problems and break them down into little solveable problems. Need to turn? Tack, problem solved, move on to the next little problem.
27 years and too many miles to count under the stern.
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Old 29-08-2016, 08:07   #6
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Re: Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

Relax. I've been sailing for 40 years and I still am amazed by how little I know, how much I learn each time I go out, and how "new" it always feels. I think sailing is an art that you are always learning, always perfecting, always challenged by.

If you feel a little uneasy or unsure of yourself, that's a good sign. It's the people that get overconfident that end up in trouble. The sea (or lake) can be an unforgiving master.
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Old 29-08-2016, 08:14   #7
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Re: Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

Like meatservo, I am a pilot also. There is an old saying for pilots when we finally get our ticket to fly.

"It is a license to learn". And we never stop learning. I learn every time I go up. I, along with every other pilot, have never had a perfect flight yet.

Same thing with sailing, NEVER stop learning.
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Old 29-08-2016, 08:28   #8
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Re: Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

Dear Sail away,
I totally understand where you're at. I'm about 2 years ahead of you. I took numerous ASA courses before I got started because I wanted to have the knowledge base but then it was time to get on the water. The knowledge base was great to have and has been incredibly valuable but there is NO Substitute for time on the water. I bought a 20 ft. ODay and started sailing. Sailing is the kind of thing that the more you learn the less you know. I learn something every time like the gentleman with 40 years under his belt.
Just remember why you started doing this because you wanted to sail. So go sail. Sail as often and as long as you possibly can. I was out for 4 hours yesterday.
I'd be interested to know what kind of boat you have or are aspiring to get.
I wouldn't worry yet about heave to, man overboard drills ( make sure everyone is wearing a life vest, etc. because until you learn how to control the boat under normal conditions these aren't going to make sense anyway. Learn to tack, learn to Jibe, learn how to dowse the sails to stop yourself or maintain control if the sails are overloaded. Start on calmer days and then work your way up. practice your docking skills in open water. Docking was the scariest thing for me and yes I made a few mistakes. Learn the rules of the road at least the basics and then the rest is mostly common sense (stay away from other boats and try to anticipate what they are going to do and adjust accordingly). Long story short, go sail and have fun. I am enjoying the hell out of it. I have now taken a few one day charters on the ocean and am learning that and am confident in my skills.
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Old 29-08-2016, 08:31   #9
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Re: Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

What's on the test that you have to pass? Cram for the test.

Regardless of what skill you are learning there is pattern. Some things will become automatic, you will rarely think about them that allows you to focus on other things. The more you sail the more things that will become automatic.

Ignoring the test requirements for the moment, the most important skill to learn is how the boat responds to tiller and sail trim. This can be learned best in a small centerboard boat that is responsive. After awhile responding to wind and sea conditions will become virtually automatic, you'll adjust the tiller and sails without a whole lot of thought. That allows you to focus on other things that are important.

Have a crew member aboard to help watch for traffic and help with sail trim and other stuff.

When you are learning, follow a routine when you get on the boat, do everything in the same order until it becomes second nature. Eventually you won't have to think about what to do to go sailing, you'll just do it.

As a new sailor you will have many blown tacks and unexpected gybes, spend time in irons, and become "affectionate with docks." Eventually you'll also use the keel as a depth sounder. We've all been there, done that.

Mostly get out on the water and sail. The more you sail, the more you'll learn.
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Old 29-08-2016, 08:38   #10
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Re: Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

I'm self taught and had no one within miles that owned a sailboat or knew how to sail. I purchased a 28 foot boat and learned by doing. Did all the rigging on that boat myself using common sense as it was delivered by truck with the mast down.

I spent my first few trips out the harbour under power and trying to get a feel for the boat and learning how she reacted to the various sea states. When I felt comfortable I finally raised the sails and learned to sail but only after given consideration to what I needed to do prior to. After 4 years we moved up to 40 feet and furling sails and I find this boat even easier to sail.

I understand your frustration but feel it comes from depending on someone else and their boat. I simply took the leap and purchased my own boat. It's an expensive gamble but one that has met with a very positive experience.

Is there some way that you can obtain a small boat to putter around in?
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Old 29-08-2016, 08:57   #11
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Re: Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

Sailing is actually a very simple process. If that stresses you, then do not take up golf. Perhaps gardening might be better. Sailing is basically floating with the wind and thinking two steps ahead of where the wind will take you.

Learn by doing. And as another poster said, probably best to learn on your own or with someone with lots of good cheer. My sailing was rudimentary at best until an old ex-navy SEAL came aboard for a day and gently suggested and demonstrated things to make sailing faster, easier, and more comfy. Best learning experience in my whole life.
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Old 29-08-2016, 09:00   #12
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Re: Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

All the small boat advice is spot on. I would add if at all possible RACE (as crew). Get on a competitive boat if possible in spinnaker class and enjoy chaos every 15-25 minutes :-) One season of that and most any situation while cruising will seem benign.

"Take it all in, it's as big as it seems, count all your blessings, remember your dreams" JB
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Old 29-08-2016, 09:42   #13
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Re: Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

Try to simplify the task loading a little so you can concentrate on a few skills and not go into overload.

Find a day or location where traffic is minimal and depths consistently deep and you can focus more on the sail trim or reefing or other skills. Of course that doesn't mean forget about depth and traffic but you can worry less about it.

Also study the charts of the area where you're practicing so are very familiar with the area in advance.

Like some others that replied, I was totally self taught. I also lived in Atlanta with very infrequent chances to sail so I read, read and read some more. I immersed myself in every book and magazine I could find that had anything at all to do with boats, boating, maintenance, navigation, etc. A lot of it didn't really sink in while I was reading it but when I got a chance to get on a boat again much of it clicked and I had plenty of ah ha moments. Then when I got home I reread a lot of it in the context of my new skills and absorbed more of the info.

It might also help to find someone more experienced that needs a crew. Sailing with someone else will let you focus on what you're trying to learn while they keep track of the other stuff.
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Old 29-08-2016, 09:52   #14
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Re: Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

Every sailor will tell you this , when ever you think you have it all together "**** happens " take one step at a time , up and down the channel , motoring , no sails , sail with just the jib , sail with just the main sail , reaf the main sail with only the main sail up [ no wind ] , baby steps , have other sailors on the dock watch you and ask for their constructive ideas , baby steps , and after you have been sailing for years you will be able to help a newbie. At the same time I will be pulling into a anchorage with total confidence and go to drop the anchor and guarantee something will happen , as in "**** happens " and I will be the days entertainment. Have fun , with each baby step you will gain that confidence so some day you will be able to look out at everyone watching and say " **** happens "
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Old 29-08-2016, 09:53   #15
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Re: Just Starting Out. Getting Frustrated.

Consider joining a flotilla sail which will put you on the water with more experienced sailors and a mentor. You will start to get a better feel as you sail and watch others sail. Look at ASA and OffShore Sailing for upcoming flotillas. I spent a week with Fatty Goodlander as part of an Offshore sail in the BVI. It was life changing . 31 days till I become a live aboard.
We all start as newbies.
Good luck, fair winds, following seas

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