Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Ontario, Canada
Thanked 27 Times in 20 Posts
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A different - perhaps unconventional - perspective.
I was in the same boat (figuratively) as you a couple of years ago: I had zero sailing experience, but I knew I wanted a sailboat and to learn how to sail.
I was a bit intimidated about the sailing thing as there seemed to be so much to learn.
My wife finally agreed that we could get a boat so the stage was set.
I did some research on on the type and sizes of boats available (I wanted something that I could single-hand easily as my wife wasn't too keen on the whole thing and I have lots of time off in the summer).
I ended up buying a boat that wasn't one of the ones I had considered. I got a 26' Nash.
I was looking for seaworthiness and speed and ended up 'settling' for cruising comfort in an effort to make my wife more comfortable.
I read 'Sailing For Dummies' and took possession of the boat.
My first time manning the helm of any sailboat was when I motored from the travel-lift to my slip.
I took the boat out the next day and started to sail. (once I realized that you can't raise the main when the halyard is still attached to the toe rail!)
I discovered that the concern that I had over learning to sail was a little unfounded. I discovered that if you do it close to right you go. If you don't: you don't go.
I found that the theories etc. that I read in the book really helped me to grasp the principles.
I have been sailing for two seasons in Georgian Bay, which, on top of being spectacularly beautiful is also very busy with sail and power boats and is notorious for its many rocks.
I think that I am now a competent sailor. I became one through talking to other sailors and heeding their advice; by lurking on this board and absorbing as much knowledge as I can from the experienced sailors here; by reading anything I can get my hands on; but most of all by sailing - tweaking my trim and experimenting with my boat; watching other boats and seeing how they are trimmed in particular conditions and so on.
I think you could probably fast-track a lot of what I have learned by taking a course, but, being a teacher, I am a particularly bad student.
I did take a couple of courses once I started sailing. I took the CPS (Canadian Power & Sail Squadron) Basic Boating Course which was excellent for learning the basics of navigation, rules of the road etc. I also completed the CPS Pilot course which went a lot further into coastal navigation etc. Both courses really enhanced my knowledge of navigation and things, but neither did much to help me to 'sail' better. (Although my piloting instructor was a former tall ship skipper, so we did have a lot of discussions about sailing technique etc.)
So, as I said, after 2 seasons I feel as though I am a 'competent' sailor, but each time I go out I realize I have much to learn before I can call myself an 'experienced' sailor.
I guess the bottom line is: just jump in a boat and go. You will get it faster than you think. It certainly worked for me.
Epilogue: after the first couple of sails my wife took to sailing in a big way and is now an excellent deck monkey (& I do call her that to her face). And the boat we got has turned out to be the ideal boat for the type of sailing we do: no she's not fast, but we have many incredible memories from the cruising we've done on her, and hope to create many new memories before we succumb to '2-footitis'.
1989 Hunter 30'
Southern Georgian Bay
The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. - Jacques Yves Cousteau