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Re: Intermediate sailing class or dinghy class?
I'm usually a big proponent of starting small, for all the reasons set forth above. And if that fits with your plans, then go for it! I'm also a big proponent of buying, rather than renting (though crewing for others can be a good option), because you learn a lot more when you actually own the boat.
All that being said, in your particular case, I think a keelboat class makes more sense than a dinghy class. You're not planning on sailing a dinghy any time soon, and your goal is to be a proficient big boat sailer. I whole heartedly agree that dinghy sailing teaches you a lot of skills that translate nicely when you move to bigger boats, but I also agree that they are different animals. It won't hurt you to focus on keel boats, and that will help you get out on the water sooner in the kind of boat you intend to own while still allowing you to learn to be a competent sailer.
Getting your wife in the dinghy class would probably be a mistake - most dinghies are tender, and she'll be heeling quite a bit, which may well turn her off to the whole notion. If you can get into a comfortable boat for the keelboat class, she may see the difference size and weight make, and be more comfortable aboard. The idea of splitting you up may make sense, depending on how receptive you think she'll be to taking the keelboat class alone.
My wife is a decent swimmer, but we have kids and that makes her very concerned about the boat's stability. She and I took lessons on a 14.5' American, and she was nervous about having our boys (at that time, ages 3 and 5) aboard. We "graduated" from there to a 25' Catalina, and have now moved up to a 31' Allmand. The difference in stability between each of those is significant. For example, when boarding the American you needed to get to the centerline as quickly as possible to avoid feeling like the boat was going to capsize. The Catalina handled people climbing aboard over the lifelines, but a roughly 200LB person would cause the boat to rock pretty well. The Allmand is significantly more stable; you almost don't notice someone climbing aboard. The boats are also comparably tender, in my opinion.
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Last edited by jimgo; 04-08-2013 at 02:41 PM.