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  #31  
Old 06-29-2007
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I don't think teaching oneself is entirely a great idea. Ocean level courses eg YM RYA or the american equivalent have a handling heavy weather component and down under a Survival Skills course is taught. The practical aspect of both tutors and getting in a life raft is useful.
The other point is doing a major trip with someone experienced is required here as their experience is reassuring.
One gradually builds up experience and comfort level. At first just being on a boat can be nervewracking, then 15 knots, 25, 35 knots etc. As one's competence builds so does confidence.
Proper storm equipment eg storm jib trisail drogue etc are important both having them and being able to use them in time. With these the ultimate is learning and accepting that the boat is up to it. The big waves may roll up but after a while of watching the boat rise up to them you learn to relax and accept that there isn't that much you can do but accept and rely on that.
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  #32  
Old 06-29-2007
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I think that decision making and attention to small details are the things I can't learn quickly. I have some experience as a professional river guide and hair brained kayaker; I am used to getting pounded and still having important things to do during the beating and I am pretty good at "sailboat driving" in a lot of different conditions. But driving to where? I wouldn't always know when to make a course correction or what correction to make. If I am at the helm and see a potential problem (open hatch, shaky looking passenger, etc) should I let the boat free for a minute to deal with it? In heavy weather, that could be a worse problem. What if there is another boat. Are they in trouble or just barely handling it like me? And son on...
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  #33  
Old 06-29-2007
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I'm almost happy when I get a squall and can teach my 101 sailors what to do when a screecher is closing in, how to shorten sail and preserve searoom, but I have to keep a careful look at my students/passengers to make sure they're all right. If they are, and can concentrate on the lesson, it's one of the most vaulable ones about how to anticipate and respond to a squall. So bring it on, if they all have steady stomachs.
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  #34  
Old 06-30-2007
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As a kid sailing prams, petrels, flying juniors, ok craft and y flyers on lake St louis near Montreal. We would get pissy when the sailing club commadore would send the crash boat out to herd us in...Just when it was getting fun!!!
Now I Have traded in the balls of my youth for "some" brains of adulthood and pay attention to things like small craft warnings. Imagine that !

There are so many folks that pay no attention to the marine weather that there are gonna be problems. We all see it every year. Yes I would agree about the Fred and Betty going off to live the dream.....But what happened to Wilma and Barney did they take off on a searay?
AL
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  #35  
Old 07-01-2007
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No smart sailor gains heavy weather experience willingly. As Camaraderie posted, a knowledge of weather forecasting and attention to the broadcasts so as to avoid heavy weather is the prime ingredient in safety at sea. if you don't know what an isobar is and what it means when those wavy lines become close together, you don't belong offshore.

By the time most are able to afford that bluewater boat their bodies are at the age where bones tend to break easier, fatigue comes more readily, and endurance is a memory. A lifetime of experience teaches the experienced seaman that there is no glory in proving his boat can handle the rough stuff. In the end, there are few of us who wish our last words to be, "boy, that was a dumb idea".

I have been scared at sea. Overall, I am not scared of the sea. But, I will go to any lengths to not be in a situation where I am to be scared again. Coincidently, that is called seamanship. All good seamen are fair weather sailors. And all good seamen are calculating in the extreme. If you think that there is nothing out there to be afraid of then you have not really seen heavy weather. Rather than discourage you though I would second the notion of becoming as capable a sailor as possible; that is the only 'safety equipment' you carry. All of the advertised "safety equipment" you carry or contemplate is mis-named. It is rescue equipment, to be used when safety is but a memory.

Experience is a tough, but effective, teacher. It is one thing to be out in high winds on San Francisco Bay, quite another to be west of the Farrallons in the same wind. Gain your experience safely and then attempt to voyage in a manner where it's full implementation does not prove necessary. Intensionally seeking out weather is akin to cutting your backstay, just to see what happens.

Bowditch says that the furious sea-state of the tropical cyclone cannot be described. And Bowditch describes EVERYTHING. I can tell you that Bowditch is correct and that the land-based imagination is inadequate to the task as well.

Would I venture offshore again? Sure. But I would not do it in a manner where the possibilities and efficacy of rescue were a factor. The old dictum, "there are old sailors, there are bold sailors, but there are no old bold sailors" is truthful. If you are one of those who has something to prove to yourself, I would advise you not to try it offshore. The only thing that is proven there is that man is still pretty small. Better to take up sky-diving without the expenditure on the parachute.
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  #36  
Old 07-01-2007
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What an interesting thread this has become. Of course you can teach yourself to sail and voyage offshore safely. I know I am somewhat dated but I donít think the simple basic small sailboats I used as a youth are unavailable today. As children my friends and I learned for the most part by sailing and making mistakes in small boats until we got the hang of it. Sailing by itself isnít complex but its todayís boats and systems that have become complex and that makes starting out tough if you buy too much boat in the beginning. Buy or build, my dad and I built my first two boats, a Bluejay, Lighting or similar boat that you can knock down without needing to be rescued and just get wet. Read some books, ask questions and try different tactics with ever increasing wind and you will become more and more comfortable with the boat until at some point you will make your first jump offshore.

Why are more people needing rescue today compared to 10 or 20 years ago? I think the simple answer is that there are more people venturing further offshore then in the past. But the key question is are more people getting into trouble as a percentage of the offshore population then in times past. I think thatís true and thatís what worries me for a few reasons.

Its not that long ago that most boats were wood and everybody had cotton sails. Navigation was more complex then today and you needed to know more to own a boat and maintain her then today. In fact I think if you look at peoples attitude about things in general 20 years ago you will find that people were more independent and self-reliant then today. At one time it was expected that you could do your own work on a boat and in fact if you wanted to travel you had to do your own work on the boat. Today navigation skill is nonexistent and you donít need to worry about springing a plank while bashing to windward and you have sails that donít rot and arenít as easy to damage from mishandling. In short because a boat is almost mistake proof in most conditions people donít need to know much to get offshore where they discover that the ocean and the weather havenít changed in the last 20 years and you do in fact need to be more prepared and skillful then most sailors are today. Just because the boat doesnít need maintenance and care the way a wood boat does doesnít suggest that the boat can think for you and stay out of trouble automatically.

The other reason that I worry about the new crop of offshore sailors is the increasing regulations that come from the government and its efforts to protect you from yourself. People today expect rescue to automatically cover their shortcomings and as the number of well publicized disasters increases the tax paying public will want something done. I started sailing very young and was sailing offshore solo in my teens. I donít want tomorrowís children to be hamstrung by ever increasing regulation afloat and ashore which will further diminish a sense of independence and self-reliance. It may be a cliche but the independent pioneer spirit is disappearing in the United States and I think that is behind a lot of the problems we see in this generation of children.
All the best,
Robert Gainer
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  #37  
Old 07-01-2007
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I think that part of the reason we're seeing far more rescues is that many people who are sailing out beyond sight of shore today are not the skilled sailors with a wide and deep background in all manner of sailing craft, navigation skills, seamanship, and the focus on self-reliance and knowing their ship down to the smallest detail that many previous sailors had.

Many of the people sailing today are bluewater wannabes, buy a bluewater capable boat, take a few lessons, but don't take the time to know their sailing vessel's strengths and weaknesses or how to build/repair/maintain her.

Another problem is that often they don't have the depth or breadth of experience or equipment to handle gear failures or unexpected situations—how many sailors do you know that go out with just electronic charts and a GPS, without the more traditional printed charts and tools like binoculars, dividers, hand-bearing compass, sextant, and such. If your GPS went out, what would you do?

Another reason self-reliance seems to be going by the wayside for bluewater sailors is the ease of long-distance communications. 406 MHz EPIRBs, SSB, VHF and satellite phones make communications over long distances far simpler and foolproof. IMHO, this leads to a lack of self-reliance—where calling for help, as Ken Barnes did, becomes commonplace. Look at the difference between how Ken Barnes and Maud Fontenoy responded when their boats were dismasted.
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  #38  
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As usual, well stated, Robert.
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