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View Poll Results: Which of the two for singlehanded learning?
Laser 9 69.23%
Sunfish 4 30.77%
Voters: 13. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 03-04-2022, 05:12   #16
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

I have often suggested SunFish as a learn to sail boat. And the colder the water where you sail the faster you may learn.
I would also suggest you look locally for ASA schools. Many will begin with smaller boats. Also check locally for sailing clubs. You may find a great community you’re not aware of who sail weekly races.
Keep your options open.
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Old 03-04-2022, 05:22   #17
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

I started on a dingy, between 6-12, but got to big for it, then onto a hobbie 14, and then much later in my 30s a hobbie cat 18, late teens and 20s on displacement hulls crewing when and where the opportunity arose.
Long of the short, your age and weight as said by others, then to learn you need a main and a jib. This 2 sail configuration is what most sailboats are equipped with (90%). And you need a comfortable platform to learn.
There are schools almost everywhere there is water to sail on in populated regions, they usually have an array of small boats. I go on Holliday to places that have those smaller vessels for its patrons because sometimes the wife just wants to relax on something “not moving”, mostly until she sees the fun I am having. Places like Sandal’s will give you some instruction before just pushing you off, if you learn 3 dimensional things easily this could be an option.
As an adult if you want to learn you can go the “teach your self” route but I would suggest some form of instruction. Winging it will get you wet, if you are wet you will get cold, cold and wet causes problems for the learning curve.
Most people understand the mechanics of the sailing in a few days, it’s the experience that takes a life time to build, and owning something will definitely get you out more.
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Old 03-04-2022, 05:31   #18
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

I often say: we in the U.S. put airplane pilots in small planes 1st ! I also say: potential big ship captains should only take over the bridge if they've had small boat sailing experience; otherwise, what could they know ?

When I was in my twenties, I had funds to buy a 30 or 40' boat but bought a Laser. I had that money because my dear Mom had died and there was money for "education". Somehow, I had convinced the executor that buying a small sailboat qualified. I'd learn to sail a small boat and "if it took", I"d move on to a larger vessel.

Prior: when I was 14 or 15, my Mom had wanted me to take Jr. Sailing at the local yacht club and also go to "manners and dance" classes -- in the same summer. I challenged her by saying, "If you make me go, I'll embarrass you".

She knew I could be horrible as well as truthful and seemed to drop it except to say, "You must find a job in 5 days' time or we will find one for you". I looked -- only somewhat -- as I was without transportation other than a bicycle.

On the 5th day, she announced and to surprise, "We have found you a job and I hope you'll be ready for it". She and my Dad had found me a job on a construction site where I moved and burned trash all that HOT summer.

Sadly and not that many years later, my Mom died. It took that event to convince me to honor her.

The Laser was just introduced then, and it had such rave reviews. I thought, "Why not ?"

It was far far far from easy and perhaps that was another essential piece of it. I don't believe that I will ever know all there is to know about sailing but it is how I now define myself.

May you have great amounts of courage and few fears of being humiliated -- as it may take that because a small boat will teach. I don't know how a Sunfish will go but a Laser would seem to crash as easily to windward as to leeward.

You will be much more ready for the next step ! GO FOR IT.
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Old 03-04-2022, 05:52   #19
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

So many great suggestions here! Do you have a sailing club nearby that you can join? Our club is on a small lake in New Hampshire, US,and we have Lasers and a few Rhodes 19's . Also at the club are opportunities to take lessons and to sail with more experienced folks. Joining a sailing club is a great way to get started with a minimum of investment. Many times someone could use extra crew for the day.
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Old 03-04-2022, 06:34   #20
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Agree with all about starting with dinghy sailing. I started learning at 7 years old by being pushed solo into the Cape Cod Bay on a Sunfish!

However there’s an intermediate step I strongly recommend. That is sailing a small keelboat before jumping to a 30-40 ft yacht. Yngling, Idéal 18, Sonar, Colgate 26, etc. are all good.

The reason is that heavier keel boats behave very differently and more like yachts. The most critical thing to practice is docking to windward and leeward docks under sail and really understanding how the momentum gets you to the dock without hitting it and just when to lower the sails. This proved invaluable when I had engine problems on a larger boat and had to dock under sail.

Once you’ve mastered dinghies and small keelboats, sailing a cruiser will actually be easier. The remaining challenge is learning motoring, the numerous systems you need to use / maintain (plumbing, electrical, mechanical), and other cruising matters like navigation, radio comms, weather, etc.
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Old 03-04-2022, 06:46   #21
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Though I first sailed a Sunfish I only learned rudimentary skills: tacking, reaching and running.
When I bought a Laser I quickly came to understand sail shape, best close-hauled and downwind trim, centerboard effect, weight distribution, etc. And serious fun on the water.
I currently own a 35' center-cockpit sloop.
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Old 03-04-2022, 06:53   #22
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

If you're a little older and less flexible, you might consider a Flying Scot. Readily available, and the older ones are not too expensive. It has a proper seat and enough headroom under the boom. Easy to set up off a trailer.

Scots have both mainsails and jibs, which means they are a little more difficult to singlehand, but its very doable. But bringing a friend along is fun. This is a rig that is more similar to the one on a yacht, so that is an advantage.
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Old 03-04-2022, 07:00   #23
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

I would not consider a Sunfish to be dingy. As a youngling I had a Dolphin Sr. which is a slightly larger boat than a Sunfish but the same basic layout. They are a blast to sail but can only offer the most basic education in sailing.

I would recommend something like a Lazer or an RS Areo. The rigs can be changed from a basic sail layout to more complex as your abilities grow, all while using the same hull.
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Old 03-04-2022, 07:17   #24
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Great idea. Its amazing how much and fast you learn when your mistakes end up in a swimming lesson. Pretty much any small, forgiving, dinghy will work. Big fear is that you might end up having so much fun that you might not want to move up.

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Old 03-04-2022, 07:39   #25
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

I sailed a sunfish for years in my youth....they are a fun little craft....typically quite inexpensive, little more than a surfboard with a sail on it. You can carry it on your car's roof top, what's not to like.

But it will be your butt will only be inches above the water...

With only one sail to deal with, it is relatively simple, but will you will have to duck under the boom, so being fit and agile will help you here.

It's really a sailboat for rivers, lakes, etc, but once you get good at it, you can likely be abel to sail other boats with relative ease.

As a "learning to sail" tool it's great.
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Old 03-04-2022, 07:56   #26
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

I've owned many sailboats from 8 feet to 31 feet. My favorite smaller boat was a Cape Cod Mercury for several reasons:

1. It had a big cockpit for a 15' boat, with bench seating for up to five adults, so I could sail with friends and family;

2. It was very easy to trailer (it was the centerboard version).

3. It had a mainsail with reef points to reduce sail in unexpected rough weather, something you'll need to learn to sail larger boats.

4. It had a jib, which is useful to improve sailing ease and performance, and something you want to learn to use, as most bigger boats have one or more jibs.

5. It was very easy to sell when the time came.

I think you'll learn the basics of sailing better on a boat with a reefable main and a jib. And if the boat can accomodate a few other people, you'll learn the important skiils of keeping your crew comfortable, entertained and safe.

I believe Mercurys are still made and have been since 1940. They're very well built, so you could find one that is a few decades old at a reasonable price and still look forward to many years of service from the boat. It shouldn't be too hard to find one.

There are many designs that are similar to the Mercury, but few that have been around so long. There are good reasons for that, as they are very good, versatile boats. There's really no reason to buy a new one when you should be able to find one with trailer and, if you're lucky, a small outboard motor to get you home when (not if, when) the wind dies.

Learning to sail as a boy changed my life in many positive ways. I hope you come to enjoy the sport as much as I did and still do at 73.
Jenn & Terry
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Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia
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Old 03-04-2022, 08:17   #27
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

I agree with much said above, especially the comment on dingy sailing building sharp instincts. Disregard the video posted earlier—so much that guy missed even before heading out led to the situation he found himself in, a lesson in itself. Join a sailing club, crew on a bunch of dinghies, and eventually start racing. Nothing hones skill and instinct better than racing and learning from competition! I would definitely recommend a Laser over a Sunfish. The tighter rig allows you much greater control and the boat teaches you what you need faster. Way more fun, too imho. Just know the conditions that you’re prepared for! The suggestion of a Lido or 420 is also excellent. I’d include the Vanguard 15 as these also are found pretty cheap at clubs offloading their club boats. Weight control first with yourself then with crew is critical not only to safety but especially for fun—what keeps you coming back. As a big boat skipper, you’ll be happy you started in dinghies.

Only want to add that you may, like myself, need to keep Laser sailing for the experience you’ll never have in a big boat
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Old 03-04-2022, 08:23   #28
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Originally Posted by Franziska View Post
Note the 420 dinghy is a two crew boat.

If the person asking is to heavy for a Sunfish, get a Laser, plenty of choice regarding sail sizes to tame it down if the sail area is considered to big for a beginner.
M Rig, Radial, Standard sail sizes and more.
Advantage of the Laser is also you could start with the smaller rig and just replace it with a larger one when you feel more confident.
All while keeping the boat.

Used old Lasers are available in abundance and can be found very low prices. For a beginner to learn it does not need to be a new or race ready boat at all.
Totally agree about the Laser.
Excellent boat (I have sailed and raced it for several years).
The 420 has one advantage - you can take a friend to teach the basics.
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Old 03-04-2022, 08:36   #29
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

I'm going to go against the prevailing 'wisdom' and say "don't buy a sunfish... or any other boat".

Instead? Take lessons. Here's why:
  • You will learn the right way to do things.
  • You will learn the 'language' of sailing
  • You will get to use their boat, which (hopefully) will be properly maintained - meaning you wont be shelling out for parts etc that fail or are worn out.
  • If you decide you don't like it, you won't have to unload the boat (probably at a loss).

Sailing is great! But it's not for everybody. Better to learn to do it correctly, right from the start, rather than by trial and error. That way you're less likely to get frustrated and quit.
"you ain't never smelled diesel 'til you've snorkled a submarine in a tail-wind"
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Old 03-04-2022, 09:37   #30
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Many 747 pilots started in Cessna 150/152s. First, you learn the basics.
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