Originally Posted by sparrowe
From a beginner:
But if I were to pick one of these spots, it would be the San Juans. The land masses of the Islands buffer the winds and wave heights of the Pacific, so it is rare to have to manage anything over 15 knots (though I do remember being out on the deck reefing the main in 24+ knots). The scenery is spectacular. You can alternate between harbors one night (with showers) and anchorages/moorings the next. As a beginner, you'll learn currents and tides in ways you won't on Lake Michigan; every day is a different docking or mooring/anchoring experience, and that's good experience.
The tidal current in the SJ's is serious business. I am not sure that would be the best for a beginners training ground. You need to be spot on with the charts also as there are numerous areas with rock outcroppings. No such thing as a "soft grounding" in the SJ's, very hard around the edges
. The winds are also very inconsistent in the summer. Even though I am from Puget Sound area I might cast my vote for west coast Florida as good training ground if the OP is serious about re-locating for learning. Otherwise, I would stay in OP's local cruising area for sailing and do it often.
But man o' man it is beautiful up in the San Juans, can't wait 'till summer gets here and head up. When I was over in the NE, I was amazed how similar Penobscot Bay was to the San Juan's. Albeit, Penobscot was much more crowded.