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post #1 of 45 Old 09-23-2015 Thread Starter
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Your Progression of Boats, Learning Curve Questions (Start Big / Start Small)

I've been mulling this over, thought about asking in the Learn to Sail forum section, but I thought I'd ask here as more folks would likely have more personal experience to share.

I learned to sail on 16' Bullseyes when I was young, windsurfed a bit, and am getting myself back into it sailing Rainbows at a local school/club membership program. I was talking to a good friend who is eager to sail when he retires, and has decided on buying a 40'-ish multihull (in the $500k range, so he thinks) to take off on and sail the world, after doing some ASA courses.

So, you can guess where I fall on this, but I'm curious whether I'm totally off-base, and he's more sane than I think... I always figured it's best to start small, work your way up, beginning with boats where you can overcome mistakes a bit more easily, in smaller water with smaller forces involved, and work your way up to the big sailing. That all being said, here's what I'm wondering...

How did you all get from starting out from scratch to where you are now? What progression of boats did you sail/own/experience, as owner/skipper, as crew, and what do you think makes sense as a set of steps to take?

I'm enjoying the Rainbows now, and am remembering all manner of things I forgot, and working on singlehanding in relatively controlled, mellow conditions before looking to buy something next year. I was thinking something in the 25-foot range, to take the next step up, with the option to overnight with my small troupe (dog/wife/daughter), before moving up again a few years later to something around 30' for doing cruising down the coast here in the Northeast. Clearly, I like the concept of going small to big, but I know there are folks who've gone in at the deep end with a big boat, headed offshore and survived... I'd like to get into bluewater sailing eventually, shorthanded or singlehanded in all likelihood, but I'm figuring on taking my time to get there.

I know that on a smaller boat, I feel like when a mistake happens, you can more readily muscle your way through it... you can't body-english a 37' heavy displacement boat, but you can still hope to on a 2500 pound rainbow, it seems.

Any input is useful food for thought... what did you do, what would you recommend, what would you do differently, what do you think is ideal, what are you amazed you survived ()?
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post #2 of 45 Old 09-23-2015
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Re: Your Progression of Boats, Learning Curve Questions (Start Big / Start Small)

As a teenager crewed on very large boats for a summer. Was a gofer and other than learning what the sea had to offer experiencing different types of weather learned little. After schooling worked my way up
Harpoon
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Have had crew having done ALL the ASA courses. Have had crew with captain tickets. From experience firmly believe these credentials are useless in judging competency. I would take experienced crew over credentialed crew every day of the week.
Firmly believe you learn by doing. Firmly believe the safest way to learn is to incrementally increase the size of vessel and length of passage. Firmly believe being captain or navigator or crew require three different skill sets.

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post #3 of 45 Old 09-23-2015
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Re: Your Progression of Boats, Learning Curve Questions (Start Big / Start Small)

I started out in Beetle catboats in summer camp in MA. When I moved to SF, wer rented Rhodes 22s and then bought a Catalina 22. Five years later a Catalina 25, 13 years with that boat and now 17 with our Catalina 34. We "skipped" the Catalina 30 stage.

I agree learning on small baots teaches you to sail, but bigger boats teach you how to deal with boat SYSTEMS.

Like these:

"101" Series - Quick Links to "Popular" Topics includes "Electrical 101"

Your buddy can spend some time to learn to sail while he's figuring out where to spend his half a million.

If he doesn't, how will he learn what the right thing he wants to spend it on will be?

Stu Jackson, Catalina 34, 1986, M25 engine, Rocna 10 (22#)
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Re: Your Progression of Boats, Learning Curve Questions (Start Big / Start Small)

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Originally Posted by Stu Jackson View Post
I started out in Beetle catboats in summer camp in MA. When I moved to SF, wer rented Rhodes 22s and then bought a Catalina 22. Five years later a Catalina 25, 13 years with that boat and now 17 with our Catalina 34. We "skipped" the Catalina 30 stage.

I agree learning on small baots teaches you to sail, but bigger boats teach you how to deal with boat SYSTEMS.
Would you say that you found being on a series of ever larger boats gave you a more gradual learning curve on those systems?

The next jump I make is going to hopefully be to owning something along the lines of an older catalina or o'day 25, as long as I can afford it and it's in reasonable shape, it'll be fun to have on the Hudson by us. I'm hoping that from the Rainbows that it's not too big a leap, I think it'll be manageable, though, with a year of waking up my skills a bit at a time.

A sailor I worked with told me his strongest recommendation was to just do whatever you can to be on the water in whatever you can afford, and move up as you are able, selling and buying used along the way. I can scrape together the kind of money to buy one of those boats and keep it running, but if I'm waiting even for $20k to show up in the next 12 months, I'm going to be a very disappointed guy

I've had sketchy experiences even mooring a 20' motorboat with a less than cooperative gearbox on the outboard motor at a tight slip in a closely packed marina. I can't imagine having to do it for the first time with a 40'x24' patch of my life savings, surrounded by boats I couldn't afford to fix if I ran into them... that turns into a bad day pretty quickly, even if there's not much wind and wave action

I'm just looking now to get my wife into the habit (her first sail was with me last weekend, pretty much perfect day, and it went well), and teach my daughter the ropes as she grows into the ability (she's five now), so smaller -> bigger boats and trips seems like a good fit for budget and all other things as well.
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post #5 of 45 Old 09-23-2015
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Re: Your Progression of Boats, Learning Curve Questions (Start Big / Start Small)

I'm at step one. Took an intro to sailing course last month and just bought my first sailboat this week. Will learn how to sail it for the next year on our inland lake. My intention is to move on up to something in the 22-25 ft range after that.

Did some sailing in college (loved it) and 40+ years later, took a bareboat to cruising course last year in the BVI (44ft Cat). Fun, but way too complex (systems, rigging, handling, navigating etc.) for me to feel comfortable with. So, I'm restarting from scratch.
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Re: Your Progression of Boats, Learning Curve Questions (Start Big / Start Small)

During all this, we took lessons when we got our first, the C22. We took four lessons, three on three other different boats a tad larger and then the last one on our own boat. Learn how to steer and run the boat, it'll all come to you. Don't oversweat/overthink the size thing. You're not going from a puddle jumper to the Queen Mary. A 25 foot boat seemed huge to us after the 22, since it doubled the volume. But that extra volume was sweet!

Sometimes it's harder to teach your wife or kid to drive. Consider having them take lessons - without you around.

Good luck.

Stu Jackson, Catalina 34, 1986, M25 engine, Rocna 10 (22#)
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Re: Your Progression of Boats, Learning Curve Questions (Start Big / Start Small)

Lakepapa, what'd you end up getting?

Stu Jackson, I'm not overly concerned about the transition upcoming, figured it would be manageable... also, since it'll be from the boats I'm in now, where there is no motor, and I'm tying off to a mooring under sail singlehanded, our own boat when it comes will be on a mooring or a slip with at least an outboard to work with. The running back and forth while shooting a mooring ball is a bit more excitement than I'd like in future on a regular basis

My kid is doing great with it. My wife will probably have an easier time learning from someone other than me, so if she decides she wants to do more than keep an eye on things, I'm going to see if she wants to just do the ASA 101 course. I'm skipping it for now, as it feels like a repetition of lessons I've done before, and the cert itself doesn't seem to matter all that much, from what I'm gathering from folks.

I was thinking about the bareboat and cruising courses just to get a bit of practice with heads, nav gear, handling larger sails etc., but I'm taking it a step at a time.

Last edited by superslomo; 09-23-2015 at 04:06 PM.
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Re: Your Progression of Boats, Learning Curve Questions (Start Big / Start Small)

Oops, sorry about that. I bought a sunfish.
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Re: Your Progression of Boats, Learning Curve Questions (Start Big / Start Small)

The OP is going to get all kinds of opinions. Mostly, people think their way is the best way because it worked for them. I suggest that anyone in this position do what feels right to them, their situation, their budget.

Just because the OP's friend's plan is to buy a half mill dollar boat he doesn't know how to sail doesn't mean that's the right path for the OP.
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Re: Your Progression of Boats, Learning Curve Questions (Start Big / Start Small)

I was just surprised when he mentioned it... I guess it seemed like aside from the sheer question of the money, it'd be a pretty steep curve to learn on something that size, even if you've done a few courses, handling a boat by yourself or with one or two inexperienced friends on board would seem a pretty crazy way to do it.

A sort of "really, you don't want to own something smaller in the meantime and get the hang of it?" "Nah, how hard can it be? I'll figure it out then." Not my dime, I guess...

It just got me wondering what people had experienced, what they thought worked, or didn't, and how they would recommend going about the later phases of owning and learning etc.

I don't doubt there are people who've bought a bigger boat and worked their way up to knowing how to manage one, but I'm more conservative (and definitely more broke) than that would befit, so I'm going to figure on getting something local that's in reasonable shape in about a year and getting the most out of it I can. Obviously, a gigantic, brand-new boat sounds pretty sweet, but I'm pretty sure I'd rather have something cheap I don't have to worry about much, and I don't need to go around the world, just from about Poughkeepsie to NYC at the absolute MOST for the next few years, and mostly just in the stretch of water around Beacon, where we can get a mooring (hopefully.) Present sailing is on Haverstraw Bay and around Croton.
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