Re: Very n00b questions from a prospective sailor.
To the original poster...
I think we're probably pretty similar; I've always learned by doing. With me, however, that's always been hampered/tempered by an almost unhealthy obsession for researching things prior to doing; I'm hesitant to do ANYTHING until I completely understand it and know ALL of the options available. Honestly, that sucks. Recently, however, I've finally figured out that I get the most done, and get it done most successfully, when I'm up against the wall and simply don't have the time to obsess any more. Jump into the task, DO it, and 80% of the time stuff just almost figures ITSELF out. I've been wrestling with this for decades, and now in my early 50s I'm finally learning to tell myself to GET GOING once I have enough background knowledge, instead of waiting until I'm an expert to do something.
Anyway.. back to learning to sail.. which I am STILL very much doing....(learning, that is)..
Here was my path.
1. Always dug water. As a kid, only experience was in a 12' fiberglass Sears Gamefisher w/ a 9.9hp Merc.
2. Always wanted to sail. Bought a cheap inflatable catamaran used when I was about 30. Don't ask. It sailed a lot like a bean bag chair. It went downwind... period.
3. Bought a cheap beat up Sunfish with a waterlogged hull when i was 43. Sailed it maybe 10 times before the hull started behaving more like a submarine. Did get to the point where I felt comfortable knowing I could always get back to the dock after a few pleasant hours on the lake.
4. My wife and I got serious about taking the plunge last year. Went to the local marina just to browse around the boats, met a few nice folks from the club, and got invited to go racing on "Open" night. Had a GREAT time on a 30' S2, with a great skipper. Still didn't really learn much about sailing, i.e., when we left the boat, I didn't feel that much more ready to take one out myself. Not to be expected, of course.
5. One month later, knowing pretty much nothing, bought a 1972 Pearson 26 for $2500, which seemed to be a steal compared to other boats out there. Unfortunately, my research obsession didn't kick in until AFTER we had bought the boat. I probably overpaid by about $1500.
6. About 100 -150 self-labor hours, $1000-$1500 in materials (bottom paint, white oak, running rigging, plumbing, electrical, lights, bulbs, epoxy, Don Casey books, parts to rebuild the complete bottom end of the 8hp Sailmaster, blah blah blah....), $2000 in new sails (the old ones were... well... useable, but not in public.. ) and 8 months later, we had a pretty decent, solid boat that still isn't beautiful outside but we love her. She's ours, she's paid for, she sails nice, and she's a great, comfortable starter boat for the two of us to spend a night, a weekend, or a week or two on.
7. Went sailing ONCE on my boat with a very experienced friend of mine who was kind enough to take me and my boat out for about three hours on its first post-neglect-period voyage. He answered all of my questions and showed me what to do. I still knew so little that, while I understood the actions he was telling me to execute, I really didn't understand his explanations of the reasons for those actions, or for the results of those actions. He'd point out the draft in the sails, twist, wrinkles in the luff, and a host of other things that I couldn't see although they were obvious to him. I thought I was an idiot... I'm really logical, but felt like a total dummy.
8. My wife and I have been out maybe 10 times since that one sail, always on our own. Now, just by being out there, DOING it (and still doing my obsessive reading here at sailnet, magazines, and some great books), all the stuff that my friend showed me is becoming increasingly obvious to my eye. Don't get me wrong; compared to 99% of the folks here, I'm still a dummy. However, what I have learned is LEARNED. I've done it, I know what it feels like. I've made mistakes, but for me, mistakes are the BEST teacher... as long as you recognize them and don't get hurt.
The hardest part and scariest is backing out of the nightmare of a slip we have. There's a big pad of lilies about 10 feet behind us that I HAVE to to back through, and they foul my motor every time. Sooo... we have to push off, carefully pole our way past another boat, then drop the motor FAST, start it on one pull, spin the boat 90 deg, back up into another area, then turn another 90 deg sharply forward, then finally we can relax and head out. Sucks. Surrounded by boats, and not much clearance. We've never had a close call, but it's by far the scariest part of learning to sail (and it's not even sailing) we've experienced. The first time we went out, my wife freaked and just sat down at the bow, buried her head in her hands, and shook. Worse than childbirth. She's getting better..
1. Not keeping enough speed on while motoring into the wind. My wife was at the helm while I was at the mast about to hoist the mainsail. The boat spun, and she couldn't hold the tiller. My fault entirely. The wind was strong enough that the boat was pretty much standing still, so the tiller was useless unless the engine was at least at 1/2 throttle. On our first two calm-day sails, I had the engine just above idle when headed in to the wind for raising the sails. Believe me, I'll never do that again on a breezy day.
2. Not respecting the motion of the boat in 2-3 foot swells. In the cockpit, it didn't feel like much. This was a different day than #1 above; we had gained a bit more experience by now, and felt that we could handle 15 knot winds and a few feet of swell. We were wrong. W/ my wife at the helm, I went forward to the mast to hoist the mainsail. That went OK, but I had one sobering moment when the boat pitched up pretty good and I didn't have a hand on the mast. I hugged it and smashed my face against it (accidentally) and didn't fall over board, but it happened FAST and it was a sobering experience. Going forward to release the jib (we had it tied down so it wouldn't blow overboard on the way out; we have hanked-on headsails).. well... it made the movement felt at the mast seem gentle and calming. I wasn't tied in (we don't have a tether system or anything other than basic legal lifejackets), and I chickened out. We headed back to the dock, then to the nearest beer.
We've since been out in winds slightly over 15 knots and had a great time. Dropping the sails in chop and windy conditions is still not my favorite thing to do... so we don't push it. We're very careful, and don't take anyone else out on anything other than very benign, perfect days. We have a VHF radio, and use it. We sail where there's always SOME people and other boats within eyesight, and usually within "shouting distance." I've asked my friend to go out with me on a "challenging" day soon so I can get some more confidence, but right now, well... we're just loving the adventure, learning a ton, and are grateful for all the help and encouragement friends, both locally and here on SailNet, have given us.
There isn't a "right way" to learn. Just don't be real stupid, safety-wise. As everyone else has said, go sailing... a lot... somehow.
All my best,
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"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza." - Dave Barry
Last edited by bblument; 10-04-2013 at 04:52 PM.