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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 02-04-2022, 17:33   #1
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A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Planning to buy a Sunfish to learn the ropes. I'm in no rush. I have no sailing experience, but some theorical knowledge. My eventual goal is to eventually be able to sail something 30 - 40 ft. Is that a good plan? Am I missing something? A big mistake? Or whatever the community would like to say about it. I'm all ears. Thanks.

PS: I asked the similar question on the multihull page and changed the plans after some feedback.
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Old 02-04-2022, 17:54   #2
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

A sailing dinghy is certainly a good way to learn the basics of sailing. But itís not the only way and it may not be the best way for you. There is a strong physical element to sailing a dinghy; a yacht requires some physical strength but not the same level of agility as a dinghy. So if you find that the Sunfish is not for you donít be put off, get some seatime on a yacht. If you do like the dinghy, then youíll quickly learn how sails boats respond to wind and waves.
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Old 02-04-2022, 18:07   #3
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

I think it is a great idea, and the right way to go. That's how I learned when I was a kid. I wonder what the multihull crowd said? (I used to sail a Hobie Cat which is SUPER fun but not for a first boat IMO.) The Sunfish is a fun little boat, I remember sailing one a couple times when I was a kid. Lasers are also really fun. I think any small boat is a great way to develop the instincts for sailing because the feedback is immediate. I don't think they require any great level of athleticism. The skills you learn, and the basics of sail propulsion all scale up.
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Old 02-04-2022, 18:12   #4
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

First please tell us where you will be sailing? By knowing the area people near you might be able to really help you out.

It helps to really know more about the area you are sailing. Like do you have a beach close by? What kind of winds you have on average?

Have you looked for local sailing or yacht clubs? Even if you dont intend to join they can hook you up with local experts to help you get started.

A Sunfish is never a bad learning tool especially if it gets you out on the water a lot. A ton of resources on what to look for and how to set them up.
Here is the most active: https://sailingforums.com/sunfish/

Eventually you will really need to get into a boat with a jib and a main sail.

In the end, there are a lot of good ways to get started. Monitor Facebook marketplace and craigslist to learn the prices and types of sailboats in your area. I have been fortunate and found under priced sunfish minutes after they were posted. Some smoking deals on things like a Capri 14's and Oday Daysailers pop up here and there too.
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Old 02-04-2022, 18:18   #5
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

You've got the right idea.

Buy a small, used boat. Exactly which one doesn't matter much, but it's usually easier to sell a popular one (Sunfish, Hobie, Laser, etc.).

Whatever you buy will be a compromise and pretty much any of the mass market boats will serve you well. They sold bunches of them for good reasons. They're FUN, easy to sail, and don't usually require too many boat bucks.

It's probably only a big mistake if you want to die rich ;-)
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Old 02-04-2022, 18:41   #6
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A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Kite, that is how I started too. Mine was a Dolphin Sr, a very similar lateen rigged board boat with a foot well. I sailed on rivers, lakes, Chesapeake Bay and car topped it to Florida and the Keys. I also read everything I could about sailing and boating. With that boat I learned basics of tacking and jibing, center of effort and center of resistance, and a lot about hiking out. When I moved up to a boat with two sails and a cabin and spent more than a day on the water I learned other things about sail trim and sail shape, anchoring and navigation. Later on with a cruising boat I learned more about boat systems, inboard engines, radar and communications, maintenance and crew safety.

But the little lateen rigged Dolphin Sr was where it all started for me. That Sunfish can be a great place to start for you. And it is still a popular boat that you can easily sell when or if you want to move up.
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Old 02-04-2022, 20:23   #7
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Depends on what you weigh. At +200 lbs, I would need a lot pf wind to not sink a sunfish. Even Lasers are overwhelmed by a full grown person (again +200). Plus as others mentioned, past a certain age, they are damn uncomfortable.
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Old 02-04-2022, 21:02   #8
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

The two summers that I taught sailing I came to the conclusion that Sunfish were not very good primer boats. The reason is that with that big lateen sail a beginner could make it go without really attending to good control of the sail. A dinghy that would only go if you sailed it correctly was a better boat for a beginner.

You're too old/big for the all time best beginner boat, the Optimist Pram. I think that if I were choosing a boat for you, I would look among the sailing dinghies, or possibly a Hobie Cat.
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Old 02-04-2022, 21:36   #9
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kite View Post
Planning to buy a Sunfish to learn the ropes. I'm in no rush. I have no sailing experience, but some theorical knowledge. My eventual goal is to eventually be able to sail something 30 - 40 ft. Is that a good plan? Am I missing something? A big mistake? Or whatever the community would like to say about it. I'm all ears. Thanks.

PS: I asked the similar question on the multihull page and changed the plans after some feedback.

It works out well for some and less so for others. Boils down to two things:


1- Any smaller dingy can capsize and that is part of the learning process. Be sure you're ok with that and are comfortable enough in the water to deal with it.



2- While the principles are similar the physical control of a keelboat is different. On a dinghy you play the sheet. On a keelboat you steer. On a dinghy you can overcome most problems by muscling through them. On a keelboat you have to use finesse and mechanical advantage. etc.
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Old 02-04-2022, 22:23   #10
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

I'm still on the learning curve as well, but I did once go with the approach you are suggesting in terms of buying a dinghy with little experience and so I know a bit about what it's like and so I thought I would share my experience...

When I was very first learning to sail in 2006 at age 22 I bought a Lido 14 off of craigslist in Santa Barbara for $500.

Before buying the boat, I had been sailing three or four times on a 25' keelboat with an experienced sailor who recommended the Lido as a good way to continue learning.

Lidos have a 4-person cockpit and are fairly roomy/stable for what they are. I remember all of it being pretty exciting because it was my first experience with launching (or towing!) a boat with a trailer and I also realized once I got out on the water that I was not very confident with handling the sails which made for some exciting (i.e. scary!) situations, especially one time when we were drifting toward the pier.

With that said, the only true mishap we had was because of an equipment failure on my very first sail. We were out in the harbor on a breezy day and then suddenly the mast came down unexpectedly and we ended up paddling to shore and beaching the boat and cracking the centerboard in the process. I completely forgot to raise it in all of the excitement.

The reason the mast came down in the first place is that I had failed to notice that the shrouds were frayed when I bought the boat. Notwithstanding the mishaps, I also had some amazing times with friends and overall loved the boat/experience. It probably cost $200-$300 to repair the rigging, centerboard, and mast after the beaching incident, and then when I left Santa Barbara, I was able to sell the boat on Craigslist for what I paid for it, and so the entire experience cost about $300.

My second time around learning to sail, which is happening currently, my wife and I signed up for the ASA 101 and 103 classes through a municipal sailing club in Southern California. It cost about $750 each, which is actually a great deal for these courses because they're being offered through a municipal club as opposed to a private school, and that got us 30 hours of on-the-water instruction as well as year-round access to a Sunday sailing club that allows us to take the boats out on Sundays whenever we want.

When comparing the two experiences, I learned a huge amount through both, and each has drawbacks and advantages. The sailing club is probably a bit less stressful and I'm learning more in terms of the right way to do things. I also know that if I'd continued on with the Lido I would have figured it all out eventually and had many more great experiences.

Excited to find out how things go!
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Old 03-04-2022, 02:05   #11
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Just a few further thoughts. The physicality of dinghy sailing is a variable. There are those who have natural strength and agility and take to it instantly. Then there are those, like me, who find it a struggle. I persevered with dinghy sailing because it seemed a very good way of learning, but I was always focused on a bigger boat (one that was stable without the crew weight). I have seen people put off sailing by a bad dinghy experience who may have preferred a different introduction.
Thereís a comment above that implies that sail trimming is less important in yachts. Really? Try telling my crew that! And we donít race. Perhaps thatís what learning in a dinghy instils in you.
Sailing, in its many forms is an absorbing, exciting, fulfilling, relaxing way of life. Good luck with your sailing.
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Old 03-04-2022, 02:43   #12
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

A dinghy is certainly the best way to introduce yourself to sailing.
I would not start on a Hobiecat (or any other beach cat) as some suggested - a multihull is a different kind of fish...it may come as a second stage after your first dinghy.
Sunfish may or may not be good for you as a starter. Depends on your age and more on your weight, it is intended for a crew of up to 190 lbs. If you are under this limit, it will be fine. Otherwise you need something larger (e.g. 420).
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Old 03-04-2022, 03:28   #13
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

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Originally Posted by meirriba View Post
A dinghy is certainly the best way to introduce yourself to sailing.
I would not start on a Hobiecat (or any other beach cat) as some suggested - a multihull is a different kind of fish...it may come as a second stage after your first dinghy.
Sunfish may or may not be good for you as a starter. Depends on your age and more on your weight, it is intended for a crew of up to 190 lbs. If you are under this limit, it will be fine. Otherwise you need something larger (e.g. 420).
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.
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Old 03-04-2022, 04:15   #14
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

Most any small boat is a good teacher.

The good thing about a Sunfish is that you can right in yourself and may not need a trailer depending on vehicle.

Plus they are very inexpensive,

Check this guy when the winds get up a bit.....

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Old 03-04-2022, 04:47   #15
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Re: A Sunfish to teach myself the ropes???

A dinghy is the best way to learn to sail. It builds your instincts for boat balance, rudder, mainsheet, tacking and docking. All those things scale up to big boats easily if you have learned the instincts. Instincts are very important, when you get in trouble in the water you don't wanna be thinking "What did it say in chapter 8???" You want instincts. You want to instinctively react to the situation. A dinghy teaches instincts. A Lazer is perfect, a Sunfish a good choice. A boat with a jib like a Lido or Flying Junior is not a bad choice either, but i wouldn't go bigger than say 14'. A Thistle is too big. Later you can move up to a small keel boat, but don't start there.

There is a reason that they teach flying in a trainer and not a 747. Trainers are built to teach instincts flying, 747z are not. A dinghy is a sailing trainer.

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