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post #8 of Old 04-10-2005
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Dreams of Sunsets, Rum & Island Life

Thanks for your post, Yeshua. You remind me a lot of myself. Here is your rating:

<b>Enthusiams/vision:</b> 10.0
<b>Adaptability and willingness to learn while doing:</b> 10.0
<b>Actual sailing knowledge/experience:</b> 0.5
<b>Probable menace to navigation/slip neighbors learning by yourself on 30'' keelboat:</b> 9.4<P>I think your idea is great. But you know that your first job is to become a competent sailor, so that with your new set of skills and judgment, you can decide where it is safe for you to go, and in which conditions, in the boat you are captaining. Here''s my best advice for someone on the fast track:
<ol><li>Get a book on the subject of basic sailing skills. There are several. I cut my teeth on Bob Bond''s <em>The Handbook of Sailing</em>. There are several other excellent primers to be found at Barnes & Noble.</li>
<li>When you get to Florida, take sailing lessons from one of the many competent schools. If you will arrive in Florida in the next 3-5 months, you can get this done before this summer is over.</li>
<li>Continue the reading program over the winter. That shelf at Barnes & Noble has a lot to keep you busy and absorb. Let your sailing class become the jumping-off place for sailing topics to learn about.</li>
<li>In the spring of ''06, buy a small (20-24'') weekender for $3-4k. Sail the hell out of it next summer. Practice basic skills such as the "rules of the road" & sailing ettiquite, reading the wind & sail trim, heaving-to, anchoring, and tacking & controlled gybing. After you feel competent on daysails, plan and provision for a weekend mini-cruise (sleeping bag, ice chest, camp stove). By this time you should have basic navigation tools like local charts, a ruler, compass/dividers, and a hand-bearing compass. Don''t know what to do? You didn''t read the right books. Practice your piloting skills by going somewhere within the boat''s range, stay on the hook somewhere protected for a couple of nights. Though your boat may be small, figure out a way to display an anchor light. Remember, you''re practicing for the bigger boat. Take a few trips like this over the course of next summer, increasing your range as your skills and confidence to handle changing weather and safely control your boat single-handed grow.<P>During this period, make as many dockside friends as you can. Sail with them. Decide who is truly knowledgeable, and talk to them about your plans. You''ll get more opinion to sort through than you can manage, but much of it will be good, and based on real experience.<P>Your reading during this period should focus on cruising skills (everything from provisioning & water conservation to heavy weather single-handing tactics, and tender (digny) options. Dogs, lacking opposable thumbs aren''t good for deck crew, so it''ll be all you out there.</li>
<li>Next fall (or earlier), focus your reading on selecting a cruising boat (again, there are several good books, but the subject is replete with differing opinion, so get a good range of thought, and determine which philosophy most closely matches yours.</li>
<li>Now you have the right to have an opinion. Begin shaping your idea of what kind of boat will suit your needs. Compare those emerging ideas to the local market of used sailboats. See what actual available boats in your area seem likely choices for your intended purpose.</li>
<li>Take your short list to knowledgeable friends. Take their comments into consideration. Do more research on the models on your list.</li>
<li>It''s time to learn about systerms: diesel engines; electricity generating/storage/use; anchoring ground tackle/deploying/retreiving; communication choices; sailraising/dousing for single-handers (know what <u>lazy jacks</u> are? Find out); mast-climbing options; harnesses and single-handed safety; watch-keeping. And the list goes on.<P>Continue to sail your boat during this time, or sell it and put the cash into the new boat fund.</li>
<li>In the spring of ''07, enter the used boat market with a focused idea of which boats are both suitable for you and are within your budget. 30-35'' is reasonable, depending on the layout and ability to be single-handed. Shorter if you''re spartan and leave the dog behind. Plan on spending 20-50% of your purchase price on repairs/maintenance (as revealed in the <b>survey</b> you were smart enough to insist on before you bought the boat) and upgrades to systems (blown-out sails? Big expense).<P>This summer, get to know your boat: how she handles under power and sail, what her performance is, what you need to change, e.g., leading lines back to the cockpit can increase your convenience and safety. Repeat the mini-coastal cruise experience with this boat. Get to be her captain.<P>Assuming your cash flow is healthy, implement your upgrades/adaptations over the off-season as you plan your real trip.</li>
<li>Find out about documentation and customs requirements for where you are going. Make sure you have all the paperwork in order to avoid problems once you get somewehre. Those places are soveriegn nations, and regulate travel into/out of their territorial waters & soil. Then cast off and have an adventure.</ol>
This is a very ambitious plan which will consume most of your evening and weekend hours. It is heavy on reading. If you don''t like to read, add two years to the plan and make sure your insurance coverage never lapses.

<u>Other thoughts:</u>
Those electric/electronic devices for entertainment will require power which you may need to reserve for essential functions such as lighting, communication, water pumping, an autopilot, and maybe powered anchor weighing. Add refrigeration, and you may have to make some hard choices about pleasures that require electricity.

Refrigeration itself is a hotly debated topic. Take a hard look at what you will actually require, and the power it will take to support your need for cold soda pop. Ice? Some consider it a necessity, some a luxury, others laugh at the idea.

Water desalinatorrs are very expensive and are sometimes less than reliable. Adequate freshwater tankage and good conservation practices may suit you better.

It''s been done, but I''d consider and re-consider taking a dog that size, after talking to a few people who have done it. If you do, make sure you know the customs regulations for bringing in animals in the countries you plan to visit.

GPS is great, but having one in your hand doesn''t make you a navigator or a pilot. And many (most?) charts were drawn to survey data that is quite old and error-ridden: things are not exactly where the charts say they are. Consider GPS a convenience, but don''t trust it blindly.

I''m sure others will have more to say and may disagree with me on several points, especially on the need to develop basic skills on a daysailor/camper. But if you want to be a sailor, not just a boat owner, this is the fastest way, IMHO, to truly develop the required skills to sail wherever you want to go safely and confidently.
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