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  #1  
Old 05-02-2008
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How long to build skills??

Hi, I was just cereous how long you guys think it would take to gain the necessary skills to go cruising. For either a year in the Caribbean, a pacific loop, or a circumnavigation (trades, but I doubt I can afford this option). To take someone from no or almost no sailing exp. To someone who could complete these trips in relative safety. If someone was willing to spend the money to take classes and buy a Capri or something similar for practice a couple days a weak on SF bay. And crew when possible on the west coast. Call it the fast track. Just how long do you think it would take to become a competent enough sailor to do these trips either solo or double handed.

Right now Iím just a dreamer. But it doesnít look that hard to take a year or 2 off to go cruising. 15-20k for a boat (Think Vega, Contessa , or similar) and 1k a month expenses. So about 30k for a year of cruising and then sell the boat. I have the money, but not too tough for anyone to accomplish really. Iím just a bartender that lives frugally. Itís the sailing part that I am not sure about. Who knows I may not even like it when I get off shore. But the classes and some crewing should answer that question for me before I have too much invested in this.

Iím not too worried about the mechanical skills or the living conditions. I actually attended mechanic school after college just for fun. Built a few jeeps and a hotrod with friends. Even rebuilt my own automatic trans when it went out. As for the living conditions I am not too worried about that either. I spent 6 summers working for a rafting company on over night camping trips living in the dirt. Traveling is basically what I live for though. I try to go backpacking twice a year in Central America, SEA or Europe.

So how long do you guys think it would take to turn this dream into a reality?
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Old 05-02-2008
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From the day you buy a boat till the day they bury you at sea, you will build your skills.

The sooner you get arrogant, the sooner they bury ya
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Old 05-02-2008
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It will take until you feel competent to do what you want to do. There is no set answer to your question, nor magic formula for accomplishing what you want. You just do what ever you can until you feel you are capable of setting out. And you'll continue learning, until you stop.
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Old 05-02-2008
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Take classes and sail, sail, sail. Sounds like you are in the Bay Area, my old stomping grounds. If so, spend enough time around Angel Island, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate and you'll soon discover whether you like it and what you'll need to do in terms of boat management. As complex as your question is, it is also simple and universal: You can do it safely if you are smart and determined, and will fail miserably if you are not.

As comparison, years ago my wife and I went from never having sailed to being comfortable doing trips in moderate weather out to the Channel Islands in SoCal and up the Inside Passage in BC in about 1 year of intensive study.

One of my favorite things about sailing and sailboats is it keeps me humble. Truly the more I know the more I realize I don't know a damn thing. Even when you know enough to safely head offshore, you realize your puny brain can't control or anticipate all the variables.

By the way, your estimate of what an offshore worthy boat will cost you seems absurdly low to me. Even on the cheap, and I'm cheap, a small boat with the necessary gear and such is going to cost you more in the range of 20-40K, and that is on the dirt cheap side. I mean, unless you are truly cavalier about your boat and equipment and repairs.

Best wishes.
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Old 05-02-2008
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I might be off on the boat coast. I just kind of came up with that figure by reading this forum and looking at boats for sale and adding 25% or so for upgrades and repairs. 20-40k is doable though 40 would be tough. I also figure I will be saving more while building skills. I am really not that worried about the money part. I know how much money I have and how much I am able to save. So I either have the money or I donít. Easy enough. But I would still be saving when practicing so it would be nice to have a rough estimate of time for budgeting purposes.

I just donít have a clew as to how long it would take to become a competent sailor. I mean should this be a 1 year plan or a 5 year plan. I know there is no right answer and it will be different for everyone. I just donít have a clue. Is a 1-2 year plan a realistic option? Like I said this is still just a dream at this point (but I have been dreaming of this for 10 or more years)Iím just trying to get an idea of a time frame.

Thanks for all the replies
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Old 05-02-2008
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If you have to ask the question: 'How long to ..." than you had better get started learning now. Sign up for the basic keel boat course soon. It would be great if you could crew with someone who races as well. You would learn a lot about sail shape and finesse points that may not be taught so well in a class. Of course some of the things racers do (really pushing the boat) are not necessarily the things you would want to do on blue water.
Beg, lie, cheat and steal your way onto other peoples boats. Once your local boat clubs racing seasons start, show up before their 'relaxed' race night starts and try to get on a boat as crew (except here you should probably be honest and state your skill level). Someone always needs a hand to pull on a jib sheet. This type of race is usually referred to as a 'beer can' race and there is usually beer around (which you are familiar with) which is not a bad thing.

My favorite response to your query so far was: The sooner you get arrogant, the sooner they bury ya. You will learn something every time you go out unless you weren't paying attention.
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Old 05-02-2008
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I think the sailing part is dead easy and most people can pick it up very quickly. The hard part is weather, communications and navigation. They take a little more effort and finding someone who can teach it is always a challenge. It is easier with GPS and Satphones but when sh*t happens, it is nice to have some fundamental knowledge.
I would try to crew on a couple long distance races or cruises to get the basics (all of them) down.
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Win,

I've been actively boating (power and sail) for the past 21 years. Before that I owned small boats and crewed for friends. I'm STILL on a learning curve!

I suggest that you immediately sign up for a Power Squadron or U.S.C.G Auxiliary course to help teach you the rules of the road. Then, crew with as many folks who will have you. If you can find a sailing club in your area that offers lessons, sign up and start small.

Once you feel comfortable and have decided that boating is right for you, start shopping for a boat to cut your teeth on, say up to 30ft. When you've passed through your "docking disaster" stage you'll be ready to leave the confines of SF Bay and challenge yourself a bit. Eventually, you'll get to the point where you'll feel comfortable enough with your skills and your boat to make a more lengthy cruise.

In the meantime, buy a Chapman's and start reading. It is chock full of important information, as are many other books written about cruising and sailing.



Have fun, but be careful! Pay attention to the weather forecasts!
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Old 05-02-2008
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Great answers above, from which you'll see there's no set answer in terms of time.

But you want a wild estimate? Sail as much as you can, in as many varying boats, weather, and geographies as you can. Read up, and think about it when you're not doing any of the above.

Okay, here goes....two years minimum. More is better.

Those who disagree, have at it. I'll probably agree with you anyway, unless you say less than two years.
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Old 05-02-2008
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This may make some people mad but I am going to say that if you dedicate youself to sailing as much as possible (couple days a week minimum, maybe a couple of deliveries as a crew member) and study your butt off you could head out in about a year +/-. I don't mean head out on a circumnavigation, but you could do some coastal cruising and gain more experience along the way. As you do more of it you will be able to answer your own question about when you are ready. It's pretty much up to you, depends on how determined you are to go.

Good luck, and keep us informed of your progress, John
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