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  #21  
Old 08-19-2011
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I have watched this thread hoping that someone would come in and provide the voice of reason. I guess its high noon and it’s my turn. Over the years I have seen a lot of posts like this where someone comes into sailing and with little or no experience, draws a bead on some particular make or model, and has the hubris to figure if they can write the check they can figure out how to sail the thing; sometimes they do, and sometimes they end up as a statistic.

In almost any other field of endeavor that requires a very broad range of skills, people are willing to take their time, do an apprenticeship and learn by doing a logical step at a time. And there a few human endeavors which require a broader range of skills than voyaging under sail.

In 50 years that I have been sailing, I have taught at least 100 people to sail. I have seen some who were naturals; the boat talked from to them from the first touch of the tiller and they learned at a rate that seemed impossible. And I have seen people who no matter how much time was spent with them, and how much time was spent on the water they would never be able to master the skills necessary to safely skipper a boat.

But most people fall somewhere in between and learn a rate that is reasonable and progressive, but which is anything but instantaneous. Many of these people never do become truly skillful sailors. They learn to leave and return to a dock moderately safely, and sail moderately well in non-challenging conditions. If nothing too drastic happens, they get by.

That level of skill may be all that they aspire to, and it may be perfectly adequate for how they use their boats. And with a modicum of common sense they buy boats which are of a size and type so that by design they may be forgiven for any sins they commit out there.

These people enjoy they boats as much as anyone else, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach and level of knowledge as long as no one gets hurt. Over time, hopefully, they learn from their mistakes and while there is a lot they may not know about seamanship and boat handling, they get by.

Historically when someone wanted to learn to sail quickly, they chose an apprenticeship which generally started in comparatively small boats for a whole range of good reasons. And it is not a coincidence that most if not all decent sailing schools teach young adults in dinghies or more mature or less agile novices on boats between 23 and 26 feet in length.

Having tried to teach people to sail boats of a wide range of sizes, I can say that it is almost impossible to quickly learn to sail well on a big boats. The bigger the boat, the steeper the learning curve. The mechanical advantage and associated friction of managing the huge forces a big boat under sail, masks the more subtle forces that help a novice understand the interaction between a given course change or adjustment and the behavior of the boat.

And there would be no foul if a person took longer to learn or never learned to sail well, except that when one talks about learning to sail on a big boat, the forces are huge and mistakes can be catastrophic. The forces exerted as boats get bigger rise exponentially. The control line force on a 50 footer approaches 8 times the force of those same lines on a 25 footer. And when it all works, modern hardware and materials make it possible for normal people to handle these enormous forces with some degree of safety. But doing so requires the understanding of the risks implied and precautions that these huge forces require.

And that somehow works just fine and dandy as long as nothing goes wrong, but as I follow the sailing press and various sailing discussions, I keep hearing stories of people getting badly injured and killed out there. With greater frequency the stories circulate of boats lost and people drowned, a young woman losing all of the fingers on one hand carelessly left next to an electric winch drum, a child crushed between a boat and a dock. And the forums pine for the victims and skewer the skippers and crews and don’t look to ourselves for being honest brokers of information.

So here it straight, it is not easier to sail a bigger boat than a smaller boat unless you are a skilled sailor to begin with. You may learn enough to get by, but if you are out there long enough, there will come that time when only boat handling and skills learned from a sequence of experiences will get you through. Automation may make the sailing physically easier, but it’s no substitute for knowing what you are doing. People get into this sport thinking they can buy some big boat and somehow just get by; some may have a good experience, but most that I have known leave the sport disappointed. You may chose to gamble with a big, complex mediocre constructed boat, and think that a few trips with a captain will teach you all you need to know, but frankly if that is how you look at it, at this point you really don’t understand the problem.

This is not meant as a put down. We all had to start somewhere. It is meant as a heads-up and a “what-are-you-thinking?”

Respectfully,
Jeff
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  #22  
Old 08-19-2011
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I have watched this thread hoping that someone would come in and provide the voice of reason. I guess its high noon and it’s my turn. Over the years I have seen a lot of posts like this where someone comes into sailing and with little or no experience, draws a bead on some particular make or model, and has the hubris to figure if they can write the check they can figure out how to sail the thing; sometimes they do, and sometimes they end up as a statistic.

In almost any other field of endeavor that requires a very broad range of skills, people are willing to take their time, do an apprenticeship and learn by doing a logical step at a time. And there are few human endeavors which require a broader range of skills than voyaging under sail.

In 50 years that I have been sailing, I have taught at least 100 people to sail. I have seen some who were naturals; the boat talked from to them from the first touch of the tiller and they learned at a rate that seemed impossible. And I have seen people who no matter how much time was spent with them, and how much time they spent on the water they would never be able to master the skills necessary to safely skipper a boat.

But most people fall somewhere in between and learn a rate that is reasonable and progressive, but which is anything but instantaneous. Many of these people never do become truly skillful sailors. They learn to leave and return to a dock moderately safely, and sail moderately well in non-challenging conditions. If nothing too drastic happens, they get by.

That level of skill may be all that they aspire to, and it may be perfectly adequate for how they use their boats. And with a modicum of common sense they buy boats which are of a size and type so that by design they may be forgiven for any sins they commit out there.

These people enjoy they boats as much as anyone else, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach and level of knowledge as long as no one gets hurt. Over time, hopefully, they learn from their mistakes and while there is a lot they may not know about seamanship and boat handling, they get by.

Historically when someone wanted to learn to sail quickly, they chose an apprenticeship which generally started in comparatively small boats for a whole range of good reasons. And it is not a coincidence that most if not all decent sailing schools teach young adults in dinghies or more mature or less agile novices on boats between 23 and 26 feet in length.

Having tried to teach people to sail boats of a wide range of sizes, I can say that it is almost impossible to quickly learn to sail well on a big boats. The bigger the boat, the steeper the learning curve. The mechanical advantage and associated friction of managing the huge forces a big boat under sail, masks the more subtle forces that help a novice understand the interaction between a given course change or adjustment and the behavior of the boat.

And there would be no foul if a person took longer to learn or never learned to sail well, except that when one talks about learning to sail on a big boat, the forces are huge and mistakes can be catastrophic. The forces exerted as boats get bigger rise exponentially. The control line force on a 50 footer approaches 8 times the force of those same lines on a 25 footer. And when it all works, modern hardware and materials make it possible for normal people to handle these enormous forces with some degree of safety. But doing so requires the understanding of the risks implied and precautions that these huge forces require.

And that somehow works just fine and dandy as long as nothing goes wrong, but as I follow the sailing press and various sailing discussions, I keep hearing stories of people getting badly injured and killed out there. With greater frequency the stories circulate of boats lost and people drowned, a young woman losing all of the fingers on one hand carelessly left next to an electric winch drum, a child crushed between a boat and a dock. And the forums pine for the victims and skewer the skippers and crews and don’t look to ourselves for being honest brokers of information.

So here it straight, it is not easier to sail a bigger boat than a smaller boat unless you are a skilled sailor to begin with. You may learn enough to get by, but if you are out there long enough, there will come that time when only boat handling and skills learned from a sequence of experiences will get you through. Automation may make the sailing physically easier, but it’s no substitute for knowing what you are doing. People get into this sport thinking they can buy some big boat and somehow just get by; some may have a good experience, but most that I have known leave the sport disappointed. You may chose to gamble with a big, complex mediocre constructed boat, and think that a few trips with a captain will teach you all you need to know, but frankly if that is how you look at it, at this point you really don’t understand the problem.

This is not meant as a put down. We all had to start somewhere. It is meant as a heads-up and a “what-are-you-thinking?”

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Last edited by Jeff_H; 08-20-2011 at 12:23 AM.
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  #23  
Old 08-19-2011
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While in the minority, those with both aptitude and quality instruction can far outpace the average. Military pilots typically have fewer hours than GA pilots and start in more advanced hardware. They are exceptional among pilots, but make the point that not all must start at the bottom. The only question is whether one truly has superior aptitude and will commit to the training.
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  #24  
Old 08-19-2011
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Well said Jeff. Why is it that the well heeled think that they are just gonna get on a boat and it's all going to just work? What ever happened to the practiced art of developing seamanship? Seems like the push button world has fooled a lot of sailors. We see it out here all the time. Retired guy buys the big boat, little experience, sets sail on the cruising dream only to end up in disaster a few months later. The sea soon sorts out these folks. Funny thing but the longer I'm out the less I really know....
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  #25  
Old 08-19-2011
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A persons natural ability has much to do with the learning curve as does their life experiences. I got my school bus drivers license at age 18 so BIGGER was normal for me. 66 passenger with air brakes... Woo woo! I'm sure some parents thought "Oh my god a kid's driving the bus!" Don't worry they all made it to school and back home safely. Now some 30-something years later if it's a machine I can figure out how to operate it in short order.

I'm sure many start their sailing career in a sunfish but for some the opportunity to begin sailing just doesn't come until much later in life. I've been a motor boater all my life but for me sailing only came about last year. First I got my ASA 101 and 103 in a Cal 22 and then did my ASA 104 in a O'Day 30 which we now joking call the "Better Boat". I've now logged over 3000 nm in the last 3 months in my H-49. Some off-shore between Florida and NY, some in the Intra-Coastal, but most of my time is spent off-shore practicing for the day I just keep sailing. BTW I've been flying since 1979 so the idea of using lift is not entirely new to me.

Every time I leave the dock I navigate a timed bascule bridge, a very narrow train bridge, and two vertical-lift bridges that are in a narrow canal... sometimes with the current at my bow but often with the current at my stern. Although the canal bridges are "on demand" I've been asked to "hold" with the current at my stern which really is not possible. Maturity makes a difference at these times knowing you need to tell the bridge tender you can't hold for long or you'll lose your steering as you lose current across your rudder.

Now I must say that I have relied heavily on my sailing instructor to shorten my learning curve and invite him to bring his classes aboard at every opportunity knowing that each time we go out together there are new things to learn... whether it's "man overboard" drills or "fish on - heave to!"

So I'm sticking with my advise and recommend that you get the boat you wish to sail and learn to sail it well.

Last edited by Il Pescatori; 08-19-2011 at 11:55 PM.
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  #26  
Old 08-20-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aeventyr60 View Post
.......We see it out here all the time. Retired guy buys the big boat, little experience, sets sail on the cruising dream only to end up in disaster a few months later.....
I would continue to insist that proper training is mandatory. I've been on the water for well over 30 years, but didn't get formal training until I was an adult. I some ways, I never knew what I didn't know.

However, for all the chest pounding of experienced sailors here, I'm not familiar with as many tales of true disaster as we would lead the newbies to believe. In fact, I think most fair just fine, because they are mature enough to know their limits. It is only the exceptions that get our attention.
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  #27  
Old 08-21-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
I'm not familiar with as many tales of true disaster as we would lead the newbies to believe. In fact, I think most fair just fine, because they are mature enough to know their limits. It is only the exceptions that get our attention.
Probably true, however, I would imagine that there have been a LOT of near misses, Coast Guard calls, cracked docks, damaged boats and terrified owners who did not necessarily jump onto a forum to talk about it. Just sayin'....

Mike
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  #28  
Old 08-22-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_H View Post

So here it straight, it is not easier to sail a bigger boat than a smaller boat unless you are a skilled sailor to begin with. You may learn enough to get by, but if you are out there long enough, there will come that time when only boat handling and skills learned from a sequence of experiences will get you through. Automation may make the sailing physically easier, but it’s no substitute for knowing what you are doing. People get into this sport thinking they can buy some big boat and somehow just get by; some may have a good experience, but most that I have known leave the sport disappointed. You may chose to gamble with a big, complex mediocre constructed boat, and think that a few trips with a captain will teach you all you need to know, but frankly if that is how you look at it, at this point you really don’t understand the problem.

This is not meant as a put down. We all had to start somewhere. It is meant as a heads-up and a “what-are-you-thinking?”

Respectfully,
Jeff
Very nicely said, Jeff - and based on some of what I've read in this thread, your post probably deserves to be posted a THIRD time, and everyone should be required to read each and every one...(grin, bigtime)

Little I can add to yours, I'll just address a couple of other posts…


Quote:
Originally Posted by emoney View Post
I think you'll find that a lot of Sense 50 owners are 1st timers. The key to any undertaking, as you know, is planning, patience and the ability to be taught. Doesn't matter to me what anyone says; always, I will say it again, ALWAYS buy the biggest boat you can afford and sail her well.
Sorry to disagree, but if there is ONE thing I have learned from my 35 years in the yacht delivery business, that’s a pretty reliable recipe for a boat being ultimately used far LESS than anticipated, and being put on the brokerage market sooner, rather than later…

Not to mention, in these times of extreme economic uncertainty, buying the “most you can afford” of anything – much less a toy you’ve never played with before – well, I don’t know…

Your mileage may vary, of course…

Quote:
Originally Posted by rockDAWG View Post

With today's boat, the manufacture will appropriately make their bigger boat andeasier to sail, it is their goal to make every successful couple to sail without going to hell of learning the hard way.

Sense 50, Jeaneau 409 and 473 are the good examples. With the furling jib and boom furling main, reversible electric wrench, bow thruster and rotational sail drive, we can learn it in half day and good at it than those take years to develop there skills.
Sorry, but I couldn’t disagree more, I’m afraid that’s an extremely naďve assessment…

Sure, furling headsails and in-boom mains have become quite the convenience, but are by no means bullet or foolproof… In fact, I believe a lot of the problems that arise with such systems today are the result of inexperience, a lack of basic understanding of the manner in which sails impart their loads upon such systems, and so on…

The ever-increasing reliance upon electric winches, windlasses, thrusters and so on by sailors with relatively modest experience is one of the scariest trends I see out there today… Many people have no idea or sense of the appropriateness of loads on this gear, and a lot of broken gear and exposure to potential injury is the result… when you’re grinding a winch yourself, it’s much easier to appreciate when something is possibly amiss… Pushing a button on an electric winch or Leisure-Furl, or your foot on the deck switch of a Lofrans Tigres windlass, well, not so much….

Frankly, I’m surprised this sort of grisly accident that occurred in Antigua last winter isn’t more commonplace today, as boats keep getting bigger, and their owners less experienced:

Quote:

A reportedly experienced Venezuelan cruiser visiting Antiqua in early March and a fellow sailor who came to her aid were seriously injured in a freak accident involving an electric winch. The woman was hoisting her husband up the mast using the electric winch instead of manually because of a recent shoulder surgery. When the electric winch wouldn’t shut off, she called for help. Somehow the woman became entangled in the halyard lines and got her left arm trapped in the winch. In an attempt to free her left hand, the woman’s right hand also became trapped. The first man to come to her aid could not help and called for further assistance. The second man on the scene, a Swiss sailor, got his fingers entangled in the winch in his efforts to aid the woman.

The winch eventually stopped on its own, and the woman’s husband was lowered to the deck without injury. The woman’s left hand was completely severed at the wrist, while her right hand was crushed, resulting in several broken bones. The good Samaritan who also became entangled severed eight of his fingers.

The two were rushed to Mount St. John’s Medical Center, where doctors attempted to reattach the severed hand and fingers. The woman was eventually transferred to a hospital in Miami, while the gentleman spent five days at the local hospital.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rockDAWG View Post


Obviously, some people need to spoon fed from 22, 30, 37, 43, 57 and 60 foot. If 60 meets your need, go with the 60. However, just be practical on what you really need and what areas you will sail her.
LMAO! Well, if there’s one thing a visit to Sailnet is almost guaranteed to produce, it’s a reminder of what a wimp I’ve become by today's standards…

Last fall, I had to pass on a delivery of a 62-footer from New England to the BVIs, that’s just WAY more boat than I want to be responsible for offshore…

I can’t even fathom owning a 50-footer, 42’ or thereabouts is as big as I’d ever want to go…

But that’s just wimpy ol’ me, obviously… (grin)
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Last edited by JonEisberg; 08-22-2011 at 12:26 AM.
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  #29  
Old 08-25-2011
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+100 Jon Eisenberg.
Learn to sail a Sunfish.
Learn to sail a Sunfish when it is blowing 20 knots.
Learn to sail a racing dinghy.
Learn to sail a racing dinghy in 20 knots.
Now try to sail either of these in 30+ knots of wind.
Next try learning to rig, sail and maintain a 30' or so keel boat with an inboard engine.
Learn how to maintain said engine.
Learn why we use winches with handles and how they too can be dangerous when loaded.
Learn how to reef your keel boat in < 30 knots of wind.
Learn how to deal with winds greater then 30 knots of wind in your much more stable keel boat.
Now repeat the above on the open ocean.
Or buy a motor boat instead.
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  #30  
Old 08-26-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonEisberg View Post
....Sorry to disagree, but if there is ONE thing I have learned from my 35 years in the yacht delivery business, that’s a pretty reliable recipe for a boat being ultimately used far LESS than anticipated, and being put on the brokerage market sooner, rather than later…
This is a good point. One does run the risk of overwhelming themselves and not enjoying it. However, quite the opposite can be true also.

Quote:
......Frankly, I’m surprised this sort of grisly accident that occurred in Antigua last winter isn’t more commonplace today, as boats keep getting bigger, and their owners less experienced:.....
This is the subtle point that I'm trying to make. I fully agree that experience is valuable. If I had to choose, I would advocate formal training over experience. I know many captains that have 20 years coming up through the ranks, but learned most things by trial and error and do them incorrectly.

Further, we don't hear of the accidents you posted, because, while they can and do happen, I think we have a tendency to exaggerate the odds.

Quote:
Last fall, I had to pass on a delivery of a 62-footer from New England to the BVIs, that’s just WAY more boat than I want to be responsible for offshore…

I can’t even fathom owning a 50-footer, 42’ or thereabouts is as big as I’d ever want to go…

But that’s just wimpy ol’ me, obviously… (grin)
Really? Do you mean short handed? I'm assuming you wouldn't have even been asked if you weren't an experienced offshore deliver skipper. As such, I've never met one that couldn't handle a 50 ft boat???? That just seem to be scaring the newbies to me.

I get the overall point. I just prefer to offer sound advice, rather than prohibition. Newbies can and will buy big boats even with scare tactics. I prefer to point them in the right direction when they do.
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