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Old 06-14-2012
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Can I learn on a 40' boat?

Hi everyone,

Green sailor here, just got my CYA Basic and trying to decide what to do next. Eventually I would like to give the cruising lifestyle a try, but for now I know that the usual advice is sail some more, then sail, sail, sail some more, then perhaps consider buying a boat. The problem in my case is that I live 3h away from the ocean, so I don't have the option of joining a yacht club, going to Sunday races as crew, or anything like that. The commuting time and fuel costs to the closest club just don't make sense, I could be using that money to repair/outfit and old boat.

I've only been on a 3-day cruise during my course and both my partner and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but we obviously have very little experience. However I feel that I understand everything taught and have no gaps on the said material. I have further self-studied the curriculum up to CYA Advanced and understand it well. Would it be stupid (i.e., dangerous), to buy a cruising boat at this stage, live aboard full time (i.e., no more rent and commuting to the ocean), and expect to slowly hone my skills on it? I have a strong preference for a Passport 40 or 42 by the way. They are typically rigged for short/single handing with all lines coming in the cockpit, but I suspect many would argue that it's too much of a boat for a beginner? What if I only took it out on fair weather in the beginning, to slowly gain experience?

I know that the typical advice would be "buy a small boat to gain experience, then sell and buy a suitable cruising boat". Normally, that would be a no-brainer. However, the reality is that in this market it's really hard to sell a boat even if it's popular and well maintained, let alone some crappy old little boat. And there is no economic fundamental to support a recover of the global economy any time soon, so I feel that this decision could be the make or brake of my cruising pursuits: being stack with a small boat that I cannot sell for years to come would be the ultimate deal-breaker. If it did sell, it would probably be at a material loss.

So, how realistic is the idea of honing my skills on a Passport 40 or 42, perhaps after taking a docking clinic with an experienced skipper on it? If you think it's a terrible idea, please explain why exactly so that I can better understand what the challenges are. Just saying "oh, you'll die", or "you'll loose the boat" will not be very helpful, so I'd appreciate some depth there. More particularly, in what areas exactly would I need to become proficient to safely operate this boat, and what, if any, would prevent me from learning it on that boat?

Some more details about us:
- I'm a software engineer so can work remotely as long as I can establish an Internet connection
- My partner is an archivist and works locally, she can only quit her job if we move aboard (so we have no more expensive rent to cover)
- Areas of interest: we'd like to cover low latitude tropics, the med, AU & NZ, in no particular order or timeframe (obviously we may never make it, it's just a wish)

Many thanks for reading, any advice appreciated!
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Old 06-14-2012
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

If you're not afraid of banging up the gelcoat and making mistakes...sure, go for it.

I did the same thing...bought a brand new 35' boat not having the skills. The first day pulling away from the slip, I managed to crash into a piling, bending the toe rail a bit, marking the gelcoat, and busting a pelican clip and lifeline...not to mention my ego.

But, everything is repairable.

As for sail sail sail...my advice would be to "charter charter charter" to see if you like living aboard for a week or more. Thats more indicative of the cruising lifestyle than staying in a slip or marina.

Oh and living aboard a 40' boat will have rent in a marina. Probably equivalent to 1 bedroom apartment! Most places down here are $10 a foot per month (private dock)...so for a 40' boat, you're looking at $400 a month + water + electric. So its not like you can live for free.

Think of it this way. You're asking the equivalent of asking a fortran programmer to pick up Java and write a fully object oriented application with no training except some youtube videos. It can be done, but lots of mistakes will be made along the way.
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Last edited by night0wl; 06-14-2012 at 10:03 PM.
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by welljim View Post
... However I feel that I understand everything taught and have no gaps on the said material. I have further self-studied the curriculum up to CYA Advanced and understand it well.
You might understand what you've been taught, but chances are you haven't begun to scratch the surface of what you'll need to safely and enjoyably sail the way you described is your goal. One never stops learning with a sailboat. There is always another hill to climb and I hope to put an ocean between me and the person who says he or she knows everything there is to know about sailing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by welljim View Post
Would it be stupid (i.e., dangerous), to buy a cruising boat at this stage, live aboard full time (i.e., no more rent and commuting to the ocean), and expect to slowly hone my skills on it? ...
My opinion is that one learns how to operate a boat that big, not how to sail. You'll miss the nuances of how things like current and wind and the rest impact the boat. The smaller the boat, the more responsive it is to the elements and the more you learn about sailing, not just getting from Point A to Point B.

Quote:
Originally Posted by welljim View Post
Normally, that would be a no-brainer. However, the reality is that in this market it's really hard to sell a boat even if it's popular and well maintained, let alone some crappy old little boat. ...
I believe there is a buyer for almost any boat.

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Originally Posted by welljim View Post
... If it did sell, it would probably be at a material loss....
Anyone who buys a boat and expects to not take a loss, is hallucinating, no matter how well maintained the boat is. Selling the boat for more than you paid for it is rare, not that it isn't done. And what you save in rent and commuting costs will simply be transferred to maintenance, slip/mooring fees, insurance and repairs on the boat. And a 40 footer ain't cheap to maintain.

Good luck with whatever you decide!
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

We have friends who chartered several times over the years and bought (as their first boat) a Passport 40 upon retirement. They cruised locally for 2 or three years, all the while preparing the boat for offshore, and left for Mexico, harbour hopping the West Coast in appropriate weather windows with plenty of time to do so.

They enjoyed 3 seasons in Mexico before deciding that an ocean crossing was not in their playbook, whereupon they shipped the boat home where she sits now on their dock, once again enjoying the excellent local cruising.

So, yes, it can be done. These days it seems more people are diving in with bigger boats.. the 'standard' starter boat nowadays seems to be well into the 'over 30 foot' category. I guess the boomers just have more money to spend....

I think the bigger risk is the actual purchase of a boat that large and complex without enough background to know what's good, what's not, and what is a real problem - and what isn't, what's a good buy and what isn't... etc.
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

Just do it. Doesn't really matter what vessel your sailing its going to have a learning curve. When we went from a 25 Cal fin keel to a 35 S&S full keel it was like walking all over again. From tiller to wheel , from gas to diesel. There was always something new. If we were to do it all over again I would start with a Formosa 51 and work my way back. If we sailed and sailed and sailed only a Formosa 51 then we would be great sailors provided we only sailed that boat. Put us in a Sunfish 14 and we would probably die... The nice thing about larger vessels is you can actually live aboard in comfort as you learn 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
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

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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
Nice.
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

Yes. But before attempting other higher stanadrds get some helm time.

This may sound like heresy, but you do not need CYA Advanced. Get your coastal nav, your first aid, a VHF ROC and go sailing. Do the Intermediate course later.

It is skills you want, the knowledge to instrumental to the skills.

If you want an adventure, do the Advanced course.
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

The point was simply to point out that perfection is not expected from day one..most sailors can look at the sail trim of another boat and realize that this is a newbie coming your way. Unless you are totally self righteous you will cut the other boat some slack. Sailing is suppose to be a pleasure and teaching others is part of our sport. The first time we went out I was caught in the middle of a regatta and that was the best way "make friends and influence people". The Anal crowd was all over us but within the squadron was a group of "sailors" that offered advice and offers to sail with us until our skills improved. Even to this date we still get a Ch 16 hail about a great tack from the "sailors" and been invited to crew for various regattas over the years. Much like society today I guess your not suppose to do anything unless your an expert or have a papers from an accredited school. I guess I just have an issue with protocol over "doing it". Just keep sailing and deep inside you will recognize the day when "I get man I finally freaking got it". Then you own the boat.
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

Welljim, where are you?
If you are local, I would be happy to offer your the "Dock 6 live-aboard experience" - come spend a week with us as a try-before-you-buy program. Learn what living, loving and working on a boat is all about, including docking a high-windage pig in an exposed slip.
You can work your way up from docking small boats to bigger boats to stupid big boats, all under the watchful and critical eye of the "beer-before-noon- is- okay" dockside critics association.
if you and your spouse are still talking, or at least living in the same area code, at the end of the week, you are certified to buy any damn boat you want.
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Re: Can I learn on a 40' boat?

well this is an excellent forum, I'm very impressed with the speed that advice and views come in, many thanks everyone!

Just to keep the discussion on the right track: I do realize how little I know, which is why I posted this question in the first place. Frankly, I don't mind the formalities (i.e. CYA certs), I only mentioned it to explain that I've done the homework but that I have no experience. I don't mind making mistakes, and I don't mind other sailors around realizing that I'm a beginner (my pride is very cheap, hehe), as long as such mistakes won't cost the boat or crew safety. What I'm trying to establish is, can I reasonably assume that the above 2 conditions will be ok, provided I take a docking clinic, and that I go out when the weather permits until I feel more confident? Within that context, what should I keep in mind, and what do you think may go wrong?

Thanks again!

Quote:
Welljim, where are you?
I'm in BC, unfortunately you are much further than my "local" sailing club. I was considering taking another weekly cruise however, before committing to buy.

jackdale: it's a small world after all, I'm the guy who was bugging you to join the offshore Vancouver-Maui course Hope you guys do great, good luck with the race and we'll be waiting to hear some great stories!
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