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Geo56 04-21-2013 01:37 PM

Overwhelmed sailing novice seeks advice
Hi everyone! I just joined this forum and I would appreciate any advice members can give me on the best and most cost effective way to get some sailing experience.

For a little background...I live in Toronto and this Feb. I enrolled in a sailing school in Florida and enrolled in ASA courses 101, 103 & 104 an intense week. That is the extent of my sailing experience. While it has always fascinated me I never did anything about it until now. While I successfully completed the courses and my instructor said I am ready to sail I still feel overwhelmed by solo sailing - which is my goal.

None of my family or friends are into sailing and my dream is to own a boat in Florida, live on it for weeks at a time and be able to solo sail to the Caribbean! I'm 56 with grown kids and semi-retired so if I don't do it now I never will!

What is the best and most cost effective way for me to develop experience to the point where I can solo sail in the Gulf? Is there a form of sailing school that would assist me with this? I've heard of sailing clubs but because I don't live in Florida do they make sense? Would it be cheaper and better to get this experience somewhere other than Florida? Are there Captains/Skippers I can hire cheaply(!) to go out with me? If I rent a boat would the rental come with a skipper? Ultimately I'd like to buy a boat but until I get that experience and comfort level I don't even know which type of boat or features I am looking for....

Any advice, assistance or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks for your time!

eherlihy 04-21-2013 01:48 PM

Re: Overwhelmed sailing novice seeks advice
Join a sailing club where you live now. You can crew for others, on their vessel, either for free, or a portion of the operating expenses for the cruise. This is a great way to gain insight on the size features of many vessels that will work for you, and gain good practical experience.

Once you decide which vessel is your dream boat, you can then travel to Florida, and buy the boat that best fits your needs.

jackdale 04-21-2013 01:51 PM

Re: Overwhelmed sailing novice seeks advice
You could try the Humber College Sailing Club on your own doorstep.

Humber Sailing Club

If you want some Caribbean sailing experience you can charter and get a skipper / instructor.

Flybyknight 04-21-2013 02:18 PM

Re: Overwhelmed sailing novice seeks advice
If I were in that situation, and knowing then what I know now, I would get a dingy, say a used Lightning for no more than $3k and sail every possible chance until I would feel that I could handle that boat come what may.
Look, we ALL went through the same anxiety you feel now. Just get out there and make that boat rumble.
The advantage of a used Lightning is that you will get back almost all of your original investment.

Silvio 04-21-2013 02:26 PM

Re: Overwhelmed sailing novice seeks advice
Not a bad position to be in. If you are able to travel to Florida regularly then I don't see a problem with your plan. Buy a boat, find a marina in a bay somewhere (many to choose from in Florida) and if you are able to spend 2-3 weeks at a time, several times a year sailing it you are ahead of many boat owners that live within an hour of their boats and don't sail that often.

You may find that talking to your friends about sailing in Florida every month or so will inspire some to want to join you. I wouldn't worry too much about building experience. If you manage to sail as often as you predict your competence level will increase on a steep curve. You should have enough of the basics from your classes to get you off the dock and into protected waters. From there it is just a matter of taking it easy and pushing your own limits when the time is right, you'll know when that is.

I recommend getting a boat that you can manage alone when necessary. Keep the systems simple but don'e make yourself so uncomfortable living on board that you won't want to make the trip dreading "camping" when you arrive.

I would suggest that you look at the west coast of Florida, even the panhandle area as it is MUCH less expensive to keep a boat. The bays open to the Gulf and you will never lack sailing destinations and opportunities. It is a fun trip around Key West and over to the islands.

A lot of folks own vacation homes in Florida, think of your boat as your vacation home and it doesn't sound far fetched at all. We have started referring to ours as a floating condo since we are planning short trips and not much out of the bay this year.

Stick around the forum, you will hear everything from "sell it all and circumnavigate now" advice to " don't do it, can't be done, you will certainly sink your boat, lose your fortune and start wearing a funny haircut if you keep a boat anywhere but in your yard on it's trailer" all part of what makes Sailnet a community.

There is a wealth of knowledge and experience that you will gain from around here.

barefootnavigator 04-21-2013 02:27 PM

Re: Overwhelmed sailing novice seeks advice
Most of us just buy a boat and go sailing :) There is not much to single handing once you are away from the dock.

capta 04-21-2013 02:41 PM

Re: Overwhelmed sailing novice seeks advice
There are specific periods when sailing boats move and many of them are seeking crew;
October/November; US east coast to the Caribbean or Canaries to Caribbean
April/May; Caribbean to US east coast or Europe
When we do long passages we will usually take a couple of crew and we will always choose a totally inexperienced crew member with a good attitude over an experienced one with a bad attitude, as would many skippers. A lot of us actually prefer novices, because many experienced crew can be PITA's and have a lot of "bad habits". I say this to give you encouragement; this is one of the very few places where a good attitude outweighs experience, by far.
If you get lucky, your skipper might pay for your repatriation (we don't), but if not, you must have funds enough to cover a flight to your country of origin from where ever you leave the boat or you may not get aboard a boat at all.
Also, IMO sailing schools will not give you the skills nor the confidence that a 1500 mile ocean voyage will. Save your money for airfare!
Good luck.

Geo56 04-21-2013 02:56 PM

Re: Overwhelmed sailing novice seeks advice
The idea of joining a crew is a fascinating one that I would like to explore further. How can I find a boat that needs a crew member? I would be willing to sail to Europe or down south!

Geo56 04-21-2013 02:58 PM

Re: Overwhelmed sailing novice seeks advice
Thanks for great advice!

Brainologist 04-21-2013 03:12 PM

Re: Overwhelmed sailing novice seeks advice
Hey Geo56,

Given that you live in Toronto, I'd suggest that you consider joining Harbourfront Centre Sailing and Powerboating (HCSP) Club on Queen's Quay. The marina and club house are located at the intersection of Queen's Quay and Reese Street.

The club has a fleet of shared sailboats ranging from 20 to 35 ft which are available to members at no marginal cost. You can either skipper yourself or go out with someone more experienced as crew. There are a number of race nights and social sails every week.

It is by far the most cost-effective way to actively sail in Toronto.

HCSP is having an open house weekend on April 27 and 28th (look it up). You can check out the boats and get free rides :)

I've been a member for the past couple of years and have greatly enjoyed it :)

Hope this helps,

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