Risk? No. Becoming the captain for the first time in blue water is not about the willingness to take risk, although it is a minor factor. If you are going to risk your life, it better be for a damn good reason. I've risked my life for my country but I will not knowingly risk my life or the lives of others for sailing. Sailing is a hobby and is NOT a good reason. As an aside, I must balance my statement by saying also that there is risk in everything we do, and either we accept the risk or we don't do it. Regardless of activity, if we are wise we ensure we understand the risks we take and minimize them or at least reduce them to acceptable levels. Naturally, that wisdom statement means something different to each of us.
To my mind the answer to your question, as with most things, is: It depends. Others have already stated the important factor is not how many times have you been out but how much sea time you have, and I agree that is important. But there are other conditionals that also affect the answer. So characterize your experience on the water/at sea in these ways:
-- doing what?
-- going where?
-- in what kind of weather?
-- how long in blue water ?
-- how long in coastal (< 10 miles from shore) waters?
-- how long in semi-protected waters such as bays?
-- how long in trips short enough that you can guarantee a good weather window?
-- long long in extended passages where the weather cannot be predicted for the entire trip?
-- how long in heavy weather?
-- during what time of year?
-- in what kind of boat and what size?
There are even more factors of importance:
-- What is your age?
-- What is your physical condition?
-- What is your knowledge level from theory?
-- What is your knowledge level from practical experience?
-- How many people are manning the boat?
-- What is the crew's experience level?
You have taken the courses, which is a good start. Were I you, I would want to sail extensively as crew on a bluewater sailboat in extended passages before I went out on a long passage as the captain -- courses are good but they are no substitute for experience. Only by experience can you understand the risks. Only by experience can you be sure you are prepared to handle all situations you may encounter. Only by experience can you reduce those risks to acceptable levels.
So have fund, good luck, and good sailing. I hope you achieve your dream, whatever it might be.
T. P. Donnelly
S/V Tranquility Base
1984 Islander 30 Bahama
Last edited by dacap06; 10-05-2010 at 09:18 PM.