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Land_Bound 09-09-2012 01:23 AM

Rookie on a San Juan 21
Next week I'm heading out on my first real sailing adventure. I recently bought a San Juan 21 and have no idea how to sail it. The goal of the adventure is to learn, but I'm wondering what things I most definitely should not do. I'll be living on it for an extended period (2-3 weeks, will be hanging out climbing on land during) on Canyon Ferry reservoir in Montana, then once I get my **** together I'll head for bigger water or sell it depending on how it goes. Any advice would be appreciated, positive or negative. I have designed a mass raising system and raised the main once. Besides that, books and a small single sail boat on a lake in wisconsin is my only sailing experience.

Thanks for the help,


P.S. If I'm destined for failure and sinking the boat, advice on how to sell my boat would also be appreciated!

PaulinVictoria 09-09-2012 02:05 AM

Re: Rookie on a San Juan 21
Always sail in water deeper than your boat, point the tiller at the thing that's scaring you, if in doubt let it out (goes for sheets, laughter and wind).
Life's too short to drink crap beer.

Good luck :)

MarkCK 09-09-2012 08:48 AM

Re: Rookie on a San Juan 21
My first boat was a San Juan 21. Although I didn't have the small boat experience that you had in Wisconsin. The SJ 21 is a nice boat although it is pretty tender for a beginer. It's not unsafe it can just be a little unnerving for a beginer. I am not sure how much you will enjoy staying on it for 2-3 week stretches. It's interior is small for a 21 footer. It makes other boats that are in the 20-22 foot range seem almost cavernous. The headroom is low and the centerboard trunk has a way of always being in the way every time you move around.

On the plus side the boat is a great light air performer and has fine sailing characteristics. I didn't really enjoy the boat while I owned it but that was mostly because I really didn't know what I was doing. Looking back the positives of the boat far outweigh the negetives.

blt2ski 09-09-2012 10:02 AM

Re: Rookie on a San Juan 21
If I knew how many folks got lessons on SJ 21's out of Neptune Sailing, Kirkland Wa in the 70's where you could rent as a member, get lessons, buy a new one.........

It is a bit tender initially, but gets stiffer and stops heeling as it heels a bit. pretty fast for its size. Lots of fleets still racing 1D in places. Puget Sound here in Seattle is one. Usually a fleet with both FS and NFS at the NOOD's in May. With 20-30 some odd boats tween the two fleets.

Enjoy her!


Sublime 09-09-2012 10:32 AM

Re: Rookie on a San Juan 21
Start in lighter winds. If you're thinking about reefing, then reef. Don't take yourself too seriously because you're going to make mistakes.

Daydreamer22 09-09-2012 12:38 PM

Re: Rookie on a San Juan 21
If you have an opportunity to go out for a day or even an afternoon with someone experienced in sailing would be the best way to gain much needed knowledge.

That is what I did when I got my Oday 22. Even though I had sailed dinks as a kid, read books, and took a ride on a Mac21 a few years earlier, it was immensely helpful to have someone show me, this is what you do, now you do it.

My next trip was with the wife, after that, single handed.

Only trouble with the 22 is storage for supplies for more than 2 or 3 days.

Have Fun !!

Silvio 09-10-2012 09:40 AM

Re: Rookie on a San Juan 21
Advice? Have fun. Stay onshore when the weather looks questionable. Learn how to anchor before heading out and the first thing you should practice after figuring out how to raise the sail is not how to make the boat go forward, but rather how to make the boat sit still in the water with the sail up (called heaving to). Heaving to can save your a$$ if you need to work something out with the sail up, or if you are having trouble getting the sail down or reefed, or if you need to read the instructions for the next step but can't with the boat screaming through the water laid over at 30 degrees.

DO NOT PACK MUCH WEIGHT, and what you do pack keep stowed low and centered. The sailing part will be the easy part once you start to mess around and figure it out. Good boating safety and general boat handling will take you a long way to having a safe enjoyable trip.

Take a marine radio, pfd, emergency food and water, appropriate clothing for getting wet and cold, and signaling devices.

Welcome to sailnet and come back here often, it is a great resource.

Yankee 09-10-2012 11:03 AM

Re: Rookie on a San Juan 21
I've sailed and raced San Juan 21s for twenty-five years. (Just bought my fifth one this summer). A fellow in Helena bought two of my previous boats; an orange MkII and a robin egg blue MkI. He is one of several active racers in that area.
I would suggest that you look up some of the racers and ask for their advise and perhaps a sail one either your boat or theirs. On hand experience with someone who knows the boat is the best / fastest way to learn.
Good luck and have fun. YOu've got one of the best boats around. I'm not sure that I could spend two weeks on one, though...........

Land_Bound 09-12-2012 02:22 AM

Re: Rookie on a San Juan 21
Thank you everybody for the awesome advice! I cant wait to get on the water. Hopefully its just the beginning of a life of adventures on sailboats.

If anyones interested, attached is a link(cant do that yet) go to and type in Vertical Sailing Greenland. Its a cool video that got me inspired for this trip. Also 180 degrees south is a great documentary that is a definite must see.....

Cheers everybody and thanks again,


Note: If anyone sees this and sails on canyon ferry my email is kyle.mehrens@gmail, id be more than willing to buy some beers to ride along on a trip just to see how things are done.... let me know!

tsuidc 09-12-2012 03:27 PM

Re: Rookie on a San Juan 21
Thirty years ago, my wife and I sailed a San Juan 21 for a month, from Anacortes in Washington to the Canadian Gulf Island. Though these days we cruise off shore in boats as big as the Valiant 42, I still consider my trip in the San Juan 21 the most fun I've ever had. Cruising at its simplest...just sailed, anchored or tied up to a provincial dock, ate what we caught or could dig up, read by kerosene lamp and woke up to the Pacific Northwest mist. No worries, almost no maintenance because we had no systems to speak of. A little cheap weather radio was the only electronics we had, and navigation was by charts and bearing compass. We did carry a huge backup storm anchor and a lead line for sounding. Those were the good old care free days before big boats. Well, we were a lot younger and suppler then.

You are doing the right thing learning to sail in a small responsive boat. If possible, joint a SJ 21 fleet and do as much racing as you can. Don't be embarrassed for coming in last or making a fool of yourself, we have all been there. It is the best way to learn to sail. You never know, thirty years from now when you are cruising in you big complicated boat, you too may look back fondly.

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