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post #11 of 42 Old 06-14-2012
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

I have mixed opinions on this. To actually just learn how to sail and improve your skills, something in the 20ft to 26ft would be easier to handle (at least single handed) and maintain. Now since you are saying you want to get into cruising and possibly live aboard, I would say go for the 40'. If you go with something less you will end up spending money on it and take a loss when you go to sell. If you go with the 40' now you won't outgrow it and you will be done. I give you an example, I was looking at a 22 and a 25, I went with the much nicer 22 instead of the bigger but some work required 25. A few told me I may want a bigger boat before I know it if I went with the 22 and they were right. Although I have gotten in more sailing time then you would imagine in the couple years I owned mine. So at this point I am a much better sailor since the 22 did not need any work, all sailing hardly any work. The other side of this is, had I went with the 25 I would have bigger and just as nice at this point but less sailing time. I think if I had to go back, I would have went 25. Back then as a new sailor, it just looked huge to me since I was used to 16 to 18ft power boats. Now I see a 25 as a small boat that I can easily handle. Earlier this year I was looking into 34's and 36's which is what I want to go into soon. Although I will most likely keep my 22 and put it on a trailer, love it.
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post #12 of 42 Old 06-14-2012
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

Let me tell you of a prairie man from Weyburn Sask Had a dream. Came out to the coast and bought a 40 ft ferro gaff schooner in the slip next to me. Asked a lot of questions, followed some of the answers and sailed away with wife and two daughters .Did Mexico with honors Hawaii and Fiji and back to BC around the High. Then died of cancer. Gotta be a moral type message here. Something about time and tide maybe.
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post #13 of 42 Old 06-15-2012
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

Learning to sail on a 40ft boat is OK things will happen slowly and other than being careful of the loads involved it will be as easy if not easier than on a smaller boat.

BUT learning to dock a 40ft boat could be expensive.
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post #14 of 42 Old 06-15-2012
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

The short answer is that you can learn to sail on a 40 footer, but its a terrible idea. The learning curve gets very long, and the chance of hurting someone is directly proportionate to the displacement of the boat. Even if you bought a small boat, sailed it for a year, and then gave it away, you would be well ahead of the game financially compared to the cost of buying the wrong boat, beating it up and reselling it because you don't know enough yet to know what the right boat will be for you once you have developed your own tastes as a sailor.

I apologize that this was written for someone else so it does not apply entirely but it is a pretty good explanation of where I am coming from on this....

The dream of voyaging under sail can be a powerful one. There was a period when several times a month I would receive an email from someone who is considering doing just what you are proposing. I have watched literally dozens of folks go through this. Some are successful in getting 'out there', some discover that they really enjoy sailing and find that they really have no need to 'go out there’; some have discovered that the sailing life is just not for them, and others have not even gotten past the dreaming stage.

From what I have seen, the most successful (especially when children are involved) have been the ones who have been somewhat systematic about going. There is a lot to learn before one can safely venture offshore. No one would assume that they could buy a jet airliner take a few lessons and be able to fly around the world. I think most rational people would expect to start with a small plane and work their way up. But for some reason people assume that they can just go out and buy a big boat, take a couple lessons, read a few books, and then go safely cruising.

While there are people who literally taken a few lessons, read a few books and went out cruising, those that were successful following that route are far more rare than those who have done some kind of apprenticeship. Learning to sail and learning to cruise involves a lot of knowledge and no matter how much you know, there will always be more to learn, but I suggest that you at least take the time to learn the basics, and that just about can’t happen if you buy ‘a big sailboat’ and move your family aboard.

I find myself saying this a lot lately but here I go again. We all come to sailing with our own specific needs, our own specific goals and our own specific capabilities. The neat thing about sailing is that we all don’t have to agree that there is only one right way to go sailing. There is no more truth in expecting that there is one universally right answer about many aspects of sailing than there is in trying to prove that vanilla ice cream is universally better than strawberry ice cream. One area of sailing for which there is no one universally right answer involves the amount of knowledge one requires to go sailing.

For some, all they need or want to know about sailing is just enough knowledge to safely leave the slip sail where they want and get back safely. There is nothing inherently wrong with that approach. Lack of knowledge will impact the level of risk, cost, comfort, and performance, but if you want to get out there with minimal knowledge it can be done. But for others, like myself, there is much more to sailing than simply developing a rudimentary knowledge of sailing basics. If you fall into that camp, it is next to impossible to learn to sail really well on a boat as large as the one in question.

While I am in no way suggesting that this makes sense for everyone, for those who really want to learn to sail well, I strongly suggest that they start out owning a used 23 to 27 foot, responsive, light-weight, tiller steered, fin keel/spade rudder (ideally fractionally rigged) sloop (or if they are athletically inclined then a dinghy.) Boats like these provide the kind of feedback that is so necessary to teach a newcomer how to really sail well. Boats like these have small enough loads on lines and the helm that you and your children can all participate and learn together. Being able to learn and participate, the children will be more engaged and less likely to be bored and feel kidnapped.

By sailing well, I mean understanding the nuances of boat handling and sail trim in a way that cannot be learned on a larger boat. Used small boats generally hold their values quite well so that after a year or even few years or so of learning, you should be able to get most of your money out of the small boat and move on to a bigger boat actually knowing something about which specific desirable characteristics of a boat appeal to you as an experienced sailor rather than the preferences of some stranger on some Internet discussion group.

From the advice that you have already gotten you can tell that there will not be a consensus of opinion on how to go distance cruising. It is nearly impossible to learn to sail well on a boat that is large enough for a serious cruising, and without highly developed sailing skills, a boat that large is pretty dangerous offshore.

In any event, if I were in your shoes, I would sit down and put together a list of all of the things that I would want to know before I set off voyaging such as:
Boat handling
Sail trim
Rules of the road
Boat husbandry, repair and maintenance
Diesel/ gas engine maintenance and repair
First aid
Heavy weather tactics
Legal restrictions on leaving and entering foreign countries
Navigation, (Piloting, Celestial, dead reckoning and electronic)
Radio operators license exam requirements
Safe and dangerous fish to eat
Sail trim
Survival skills

Once I had what I thought was a complete list, I would set up a schedule to try to develop those areas of skill that I was currently lacking. As much as possible I would try to involve all those involved in as many of those aspects as each is capable of understanding. This process could take as little as a year, but more often takes two to three years. The process itself can be very rewarding and can build the kind of family bonds that are required to be cast away on that oh so small island that a boat underway represents.

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post #15 of 42 Old 06-15-2012
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

Originally Posted by Slippydiq View Post
and every smaller boat gets the hell out of your way when they see you coming so you can worry only about your boat and the hell with COLREGs for now
hope your insurance broker doesn't get wind of your thoughs about COLREGS. And really, compliments on a tack on 16? I'm sure the CG appreciates you too.

But I agree that where there's a will, there's a way. Buy the 40 footer AND take some small boat sailing lessons.

Last edited by puddinlegs; 06-15-2012 at 06:30 PM.
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post #16 of 42 Old 06-15-2012 Thread Starter
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

Thanks everyone, I really enjoy the debate, very helpful. I think we'll end up following everyone's advice: there is a small lake (1.1 km²) really close to where we live, and there is a dinghy club. I didn't consider it before because when I asked, people said there are no transferable skills between dinghies and keel boats, but some of you seem to disagree. We could spend some time in the lake playing with a dinghy, while repairing and outfitting that P40. Of course we won't be expert sailors by then, but between putting cruising behind for a couple of years until we are 'ready' (and maybe changing our mind in between), and going for it now while making a few (or more than a few) mistakes along the way, I choose the latter. From what I understand by most of your responses, if we respect loads and do a docking clinic, we should be ok. In any case, I'm not suggesting to head offshore the first day, I'm sure there is plenty to see while coastal cruising the first 1 or 2 years.

We have no kids btw, it's just my partner and me and we are in our early thirties. No plans for kids, hopefully we won't regret when it's too late. But that's another discussion for the bar, hehe :-)

No one would assume that they could buy a jet airliner take a few lessons and be able to fly around the world.
Not sure if you happen to be a pilot (I am), funny enough, flying around the world is not much more difficult than flying domestically. Just very expensive.


Last edited by welljim; 06-15-2012 at 08:04 PM.
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post #17 of 42 Old 06-15-2012
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

I taught myself to sail on a 15 foot fract.sloop. When I later jumped to a 40' boat, the skipper asked what I was taking lessons for. Of course there is ALWAYS more to learn, and each boat will present lessons differently, but I can't imagine anyone saying that skills are not transferrable.

I think the biggest difference in big boats and little boats is the amount of damage you can quickly do. Docking is of course a tad more challenging, but the same basic rules apply. I don't think I would solo-teach myself in a boat much bigger than 20 feet or so, but that's just me. Having some experience along never hurts, and can speed the learning curve and safety margin. Have fun.
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post #18 of 42 Old 06-15-2012
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

You can do it!
Big boats react slower but sail the same. Likewise big boats have a slower reaction because they have much more mass and much more inertia. So while bringing a 24ft boat into a slip with a 4hp motor is easy, brining a 40ft boat that weight 30K lbs into a slip with a Yanmar 4 cyl engine is a learning experience. At 1kt of speed the 24ft boat will bounce off the dock with no damage, but the 40ft boat could do quite a bit of damage at the same speed.
Sail other people's boats as often as you can until you decide on the right boat for you.
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post #19 of 42 Old 06-15-2012
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

WellJim...before purchasing our 40 foot sailboat and having no sailing experience, we also heard all of the arguments; Pro and Con. The bottom line is you must decide if you are committed to learning how to sail by taking baby steps and seeking experienced counsel/help as needed.

Ten months after inking the purchase deal, my wife and I set sail for the Keys. We lived on the water for seven months, logging over 2000 miles and did a 36 hour ride up the Gulf stream from Ft. Pierce to Georgetown. Did we have some hair raising moments...yep! Do we now know everything...Of Course Not! But that doesn't stop us from cautiously moving forward. Six months in the Bahamas are planned for this fall. But note: My wife and I have an agreement that either of us can say "stop" and we return to land and if one says "that's enough", the boat is up for sale.

My suggestion: Read everything you can find, ask lots of questions, hire a qualified sailing instructor, pay a good mechanic to teach you basic engine maintenance, be prepared to spend lots of money!...and take baby steps, building on earlier accomplishments, and practice, practice, practice, and have fun.

Bill & Judy
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post #20 of 42 Old 06-15-2012
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

JeffH - dont forget close quarters boat handling. This is key when it comes to not providing entertainment for others at the marina...
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