I'm planning to learn to sail, but am in an area with no instruction available. I am an avid reader and am looking forward to the challenge. I would like to know what books to read and what size and type of boat I should start with. I will be building the boat myself. That's half the fun.
Dan Dickison responds:
Congratulations on your decision to learn to sail. Like most any sporting pursuit, you'll find that empirical lessons are more valuable than those derived from books, but it's still a good idea to have a couple of printed resources around to steer you straight and confirm what you're seeing on the water. I recommend that you take a look at two books in particular, one is "Let's Go Sailing" by Peter Isler, which is directed at the beginning sailors, and the other is "Start Sailing Right," which is published by US SAILING, the national governing body for the sport. These aren't the only books available, but they're both good for the first timer. There are also many useful articles published here on SailNet, and once you get your feet wet, you'll find they can really help you along the way.
Regarding the kind of boat you should have to learn aboard, you may want to do some further research on this, but we recommend a stable yet sensitive platform that will give you the performance feedback necessary for you to figure how to sail the boat properly. You'll find that smaller boats deliver this feedback more immediately than larger boats. Boats like the 14.2 from Catalina fit this description, as does the 14 from Hunter, or a number of the boats offered by Escape Sailboats (These last ones are great because they're basically bullet-proof and you'll appreciate that as a beginner). Have a look at these boats (you can find them advertised in sailing magazines or on the respective companies' websites), and then decide how much boat you're willing to build. Ultimately you want something that is safe (self-righting) and responsive. Best of luck.