Join Date: Mar 2006
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You did not mention where you live; but in most coastal areas there are sailing clubs/schools that you should take some time to check out. Also since you mention that you are a commercial fisherman you might want to check into the local sail racing (Yacht Clubs, etc) and get on a crew so you can get acustomed to how a sailboat works and how they are controlled in different wind conditions. You should realize that many offshore distress calls are made by people who do not have the proper training/competence to sail in the wind/weather conditions they run into; and that a sailboat is in most cases not capable of outrunning the weather before it hits when sailing offshore. There may also be conditions where the weather prohibits you from coming into a protected bay or harbor which would then leave you out in the storm to deal with the gale force winds and 20'+ swells (at least here on the NW coast this happens regularly).
So start off slow; I'd suggest starting with a ~20' keelboat getting sailing books and some formal instruction. If you are a quick study you can gain competence quickly but realize that as the wind increases the skill required and ability to deal with dangerous situations also increases exponentially. Know your (and your crew's) sailing abilities/limits and try not to put youself in situations where they are exceeded.