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Old 05-05-2011
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Post How to Start Sailing Today

This post I hope will serve all of the new comers and dreamers who visit these boards trying to figure out how to realize there dream of sailing. This post is addressed to those of us confined to a budget who do not have a large savings to go purchase an Island Packet or Benetaue. I will try to be as thorough as possible with my reasoning and explanations as well as lay the details out in an easy to follow manner.

First off, the idea.
You think, I want a sailboat because I want to go sailing in far off exotic places and do god knows what. Then you start looking at boats and you soon realize that new and recent boats are way out of your price range. You become a little discouraged because you feel that you will never be able to have those shiny new boats with all the gadgets and pretty woman dressed to serve you at every whim. Drat.

Reality. You find out that used boats can be gotten for sometimes nothing, though usually they cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to... Lets cap it at $30,000. Now you start pouring over literature and visiting websites like this one to try and find out what boat you should be looking for and what you will need and what the best type of keel is for shallow waters... Stop. Your already jumping ahead of yourself. It is good to be enthusiastic and prudent to be diligent in your research. However, sailing cannot be learned from paper alone and sailing is not simply owning a boat. That is a key part though!
Now this might throw some of you for a loop but were going to diverge here. I want two groups. One group are the ones who have actually been sailing and KNOW that they enjoy it. The other group have never actually been sailing but hear its great and since they love power boats sail boats should be just as awesome. First group, skip past this paragraph. Second group, heed this advice and be forewarned:

Sailing is not for everyone. Sailing can be both the ultimate rendition of human vigor and endurance, or the most relaxing do nothing adventure imaginable. Still, it is not for everyone. Before you take a big life decision and leap out and into a new or used boat take a little bit of that money you got wadded up and go take an hour sailing class. Heck spend a weekend if you can afford it and it suits you. Get on the water and go sailing. Actually DO IT. You DO NOT need a big sailboat to sail, a simple SunFish or LAser is more the efficient and will show you what sailing is all about. If you learn how to sail a small boat, you will be able to sail a large one too... Surprisingly I have seen many cases where the opposite has not rang true. All kidding aside however, get your feet wet and make sure this is for you.

First group, welcome back. Rejoin second group for the second half of our discussion.
So you know you like/love sailing and all you need is a boat and some water and you can make it happen. Awesome. So now what?
Well, lets be honest. In to days age of technology we do not like hearing that we have to go do such and such. So, I am not going to spend a whole lot of time suggesting that you all go visit your local yacht and rudder clubs and become involved in organizations or anything like that. Do I recommend these things? Strongly. However, we are Americans and we like doing things our own way to I will tell you how to do it Mr. Stubborn. First thing you do is check your local ebay, craigslist, sailboatlistings.com and all those types of websites that advertise boats for sale in your area. Then, you find the boats that are in your price range, whether it be $1,000 or $15,000 dollars.

Now for the sake of some of our readers I must diverge once more. New groups. Group one has the financial ability to immediately purchase a very decent boat. Group two has a limited budget and must save money over time to get a very decent boat.
Well, group one, congratulations! You have the money to go out and find a boat you like and can get it surveyed and refitted with what you want and your life is golden. Thanks for reading.
Group two. You are broke, close to it, or just saving a little bit hear and thee for your future crusing kitty. Well group two, what are you waiting for? Group two, go out and find boats that have four things vital to happiness: Stout hull, Working engine, Standing head room, and a mast. This is all you need to focus on for your first boat. Stop looking at nice boats, your not group one. You want to live the dream well you got to start some where. If you buy a boat for less than $5,000 dollars (BTW, thats pricey for what you need the boat for IMO) you will IN MOST CASES be able to get back what you paid for the boat even as much as 3-4 years after you acquired ownership. Now, while your boat will most likely have lots of TLC needed, so long as it has the four vitals listed above it will work. Do not focus on if it has the right lines or if the colors match your eyes. You need a boat that floats and has a mast to run a sail and an engine to get you out of the newbie problems you are sure to run into. Also, while group one is running aground there pretty semi-new boats and short circuiting their new hi-tech radar you will be doing the same! However, your boat is already a bit on the run-down side so what does it matter? Also, your radar is old and crappy and most likely you don't even have one on the boat! Heres a comparison. How many driving schools out side of Orange County do you see have 15 yr olds learning to drive around in Lexus or MErcedes? NONE! Why would you let 15 yr olds with little to no experience driving behind the wheel of a luxury car? YOU WOULDNT! So why let some joe blow who is too stubborn to take sailing classes, join a yacht club or get any kind of real experience BEFOREHAND buy and take out some pretty $30,000 dollar boat? Mr. Blo is going to have all the same problems and mishaps as the guy on the old crapper, but I can promise you each one of his mistakes is going to cost quite the extra penny. SAVE THOSE PENNIES! Buy cheap. It will probably have some rot, some interesting odors and a lot of crap that looks like its been unused for decades. Do not let atheistic keep you from being the savvy sailor. Get the cheap run down boat. Next, take it out sailing.

Now, after you sail your new tub o crap run through your head and decide what you really dont like or what really needs replacing. Now go to west marine or HD and buy the stuff and get to work! Some stuff, such as engine, electrical or anything to do with your standing rigging should only be worked on by someone with experience or know how. This is no problem for you though. Most sailors in the local marinas will not belong to those snobby group one sailors and will be more than happy to give you a helping hand so long as you re compensate with some cold ones after the jobs done... Or sometimes during!

So you got your project list and your fixing a little here and adding a little there. Now dont go crazy. Remember, this is only your starter boat. If you paid $3,000 for it, dont go putting $3,000 more into it and expect to recoup your investment. Be cheap with your first boat. You dont need mahogany doors and teak soles on a 1970' Catalina. Those things are very nice, and they WILL come. Second, do not go crazy with the gadgets. Get only the basics and only what you NEED. Again, you are only using this boat for experience.

Example: Your new $1,500 dollar 1970 sailboat has old portholes that have the wood rotted on the inside and probably leak through the handrails. Well, most likely you dont NEED to do anything to this problem. Your not living on the boat right? If you are, then it is an easily fixed problem that just takes a lot of sweat, not too many dollars though. To the point, you dont live on the boat and its a small leak. Well so what? Old boats tend to leak. Your not going to heel a sailboat that size over far enough for water to pour in through anything and you dont care if your boat is a bit of an eye sore, or you shouldn't, not yet.

So you spend a year with your crappy old banger. You have ripped out old vinyl and got right up on the hull and built in new fixtures. You and sanding are life long pals. Your boat has had more blisters than your hands and youve epoxied 2/3 of the boats hull. More importantly, youve been out on the water in your boat numerous times. You have learned first hand how to reef, tack, gybe, chart a course and read your compass... correctly. You ran around, ran into the dock, or even ran int some other boats. Your old boat is still old, and still largely crappy but with some added improvements and a few nice new additions perhaps.

Now the prudent and developing salt puts his first love on the market. Now that developing sailor who spent a year saving up and learning sales his crapper boat for a few hundred less than what he paid for it, or he just sells the parts of it for scrap and still comes out about even, or even a little on the black.
Now that smart salt goes and looks at those group one boats. The boats that start at $10,000 and go up. The boats that come equipped with everything you need to just lift anchor and go. Look, it even has that cherry red wood you like so much in the cabin, and a real head! Not just a bucket youve been using the past year.
Now you buy that shiny pretty new-used boat. Now you can actually sail. Now you can actually do decent or good work on your nice boat without breaking the bank to get that other guy to come do it. Now you know how to dock under sail and understand which side of the marker you should stay on to avoid that dreaded sssshhhhhhhcrunch sound of grounding. Now you can have that nice boat and actually keep it nice and sail it nicely. Look at that saltly dog go!

If you wait around for things to be just right you will never leave the dock and half of you will never even reach that. Another third of you will jump into a boat enthusiasm first and six months later have taken it out zero times because this isnt perfect or because you came to realize sailing just wasnt for you. The smart guy was the one who bought the crapper THEN figured out he didnt like sailing. Hell, he just scrapped the old boat, got his money back and was none the worse. Yet 90% of the boats you see tied up day after day in the same spot are the boats owned by those who never leave the dock. Always this or that. Hell I know a few guys who are wizards on a boat, but ask them to take one out and they give you a million reasons why not. Truth is they are not sailors, they are boat mechanics who think they are sailors.
You want to sail, sail. Buy a $250 dollar sunfish and get in the water. Buy a $1,500 dollar 25' Catalina and hoist the main. I am not advising ignorance, always be responsible and prudent when operating a sailboat.

Congratulations group two! You now have saved the money for a nice boat and so have it. Also, you have been sailing as long as group one and have more experience most likely with working on a boat since most of group ones boats were pretty much good to go while group two's boats were what we like to refer to as "Projects."

This is how you get into the water, this is how you get into your own boat.

Last edited by Harborless; 05-05-2011 at 12:56 AM.
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Old 05-05-2011
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Nicely done, Harborless! You've pretty much described how Dan & I got to where we are now (which is, fulltime living aboard & traveling when we want to) although we did have the luxury of starting with a bit more cash. First boat was a 27-foot Erickson of the mid-70s vintage and I can't believe how naive we were when we got her. Boat's name was "Bassackwards" and we said we weren't going to rename her until the old name no longer accurately described how we sailed ...
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Old 05-05-2011
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Very nicely put. I started with a Sunflower (Which my brother and I called the floating bathtub), moved to a Hunter 146 and then went off to college.

After graduation and a year into the job I decided it was time to get back into sailing. With help from a good friend (Captain of my Grandma's old E29), we found a 1974 vintage 23' Paceship. Boat, motor, trailer and sails for under $3,000.

The hull is a little faded and the teak is weathered, but she gets used the most out of all the boats in the marina and I am having a blast!
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Old 05-05-2011
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Nice write up. If I may point out-sailing isn't limited to cabin cruisers. My first boat was (still have her ) the little sister to the Sunfish, a whole 12 feet of pure tiny terror called a Minifish. With 20 kts of wind, she will flat tear that water up.

Lots of good $100 boats that will get you sailing. Sailing though, not cruising.
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