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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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  #1  
Old 11-26-2004
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TruckDriver is on a distinguished road
Trucker converting to Sailor

hi all...
i''m a trucker dreaming of sailing off to nowhere. this has been a dream of mine for 18years now. i blame all this on Joshua Slocum!! lol. my plan is buy a boat (28-32ft)and drive during summer months and sail in the winter. my problem is i''ve never been on sailboat. good one huh?
this is my plan..
(1) charter a boat (in my size range) with a captain just to see if this will be for me.
(2) buy a boat and take lessons. either through a school(i hate schools of any kind)or hire someone to teach me on a 1 on 1 basis.
(3) drive and sail as i can.
(4) eventually disappear in the wild blue nowhere.

basically the same routine i''ve seen in other posts on differant sites. i''ve been told a trucker has an advantage of most beginners because we share the same lifestyle except im on land.

any advice(good,bad or otherwise)will be greatly appreciated.

thanks for you time.
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  #2  
Old 11-26-2004
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TD, we''ve known several couples who were long-term cruising sailors and also truck drivers, running large rigs all around the U.S. to fatten the cruising kitty. The small amenities, computer-linked ''navigation'', and multi-day ''watch standing'' are not without their counterparts in sailing.

Now...having said that, you''ve got a fantasy in your head and, if you''re like most folks, you''ll need more than one captain''d charter to turn you into an informed boat buyer and safe sailor. And please understand there is a huge gap - in learning, experience and perspective - between boarding a sailboat and sailing it vs. long-distance long-term cruising. There''s nothing wrong with setting ambitious goals so long as you have reasonable plans for reaching them and expend the effort it takes. So...here are a few suggestions:
1. Call around in your area to see if you can find a sailing school and/or club. Look for one-person non-ballasted daysailors, get on the water and begin learning to sail before you get to ''real'' boats (which are less responsive and will teach you other lessons but not as much about basic sailing). Consider whether your normal trucking route(s) put you near similar facilities elsewhere, allowing you to sail in different venues and with different boats.
2. Build up a small, well-targeted reading list and start studying what you''ll need to know to at least implement the first part of your plan. Consider posting requests on BB''s like this one, soliciting suggestions for your reading list. Subjects you will want to know more about might be long-distance cruising (my favorite, tho'' dated'', is Ross Norgrove''s The Cruising Life), boat design & construction (to help you when you reach the buying stage; take a look at Nigel Calder''s Cruising Handbook and/or Dave Gerr''s The Nature of Boats), and don''t overlook personal, current accounts of cruising that touch on all the dirty little frustrations and logistical hassles involved (I highly recommend you get the SSCA CD that contains their last 8 years of member letters from all around the world - www.ssca.org, Store, Pubs, order the CD for only $25, I believe - and consider joining the SSCA).
3. For ''fun'' and while initially giving up on the idea of buying a bigger boat, prowl boatyards, talk with owners, look at hull forms, rudder attachments, overall profiles, and generally get your hands on the grubby realities of boat ownership & boat design. You''ll meet some very interesting people and learn a lot without ever talking to a broker.

My basic point is that the dream can become a reality but sooner and with more satisfaction if you grab it by the throat and work at it thoughtfully. And this is especially true if you start out with a plan like yours, where your first boat is supposed to end up being your cruising boat - meaning you have to get it right the first time.

Jack
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  #3  
Old 11-26-2004
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Driver, you''ve just heard it from someone who''s out there doing it. Jack is one of the most respected posters on this board. Last I heard, he was somewhere cruising around Europe..

Chartering boats really does nothing to help anyone actually <em>learn how to sail</em>, which is where you will want to start. You can put your money to much better use, and learn much more about whether cruising is for you, by avoiding the charter and geting on the hands-on learning curve.

I was in the same spot you are in, and I''m only a couple of squares ahead of you on the boardgame of cuising. I am at the end of the outline below, and feel quite prepared for my first "real" cruising sailboat. This progression worked well for me, and I recommend it to anyone.
<ol>
<li>Think daysailing first. You have to cut your teeth. Read books on basic sailing. I used Bob Bond''s <em>The Handbook of Sailing</em>, but any Barnes & Noble will have several like it to choose from. Pay special attention to sections describing reading the wind direction, the points of sail and basic sail trimming, and tacking & gybing techniques.</li>
<li>Read some other books.</li>
<li>Take that basic knowledge to the class Jack recommended. There, you will be able to apply all that theory. Your confidence will rise quickly. I''ll defer to Jack, but I think his reference to a one-person unballasted boat is just a <em>bit</em> narrow: a two-person daysailer would be just as acceptable as a trainer. But the idea is the same: keep it small and controllable so that you can learn. There is probably a sailing school or even a city recreation department in your area that will meet this need. Sailing schools sometimes will rent boats out by the hour to graduates of their classes; and if you sign up repeatedly at a rec. dept. class, they often will just "let you go" on the bay to get experience on your own once you prove yourself competent. This can be much cheaper than renting sailboats to get "stick time," and will likely put a few different boats at your disposal, but of course the trade-off is that you will have to conform you sailing to the class'' schedule.</li>
<li>Read more.

<li>If you have cruising ambitions, consider a "weekender" as your first boat. 19-23'', a cabin, and basic camping-like ameneties: a couple of bunks, small stove, ice chest, porta-potty. You can practice many cruising skills (anchoring, coastal navigation, reading charts, taking bearings, etc.) on overnight trips in a small boat that take you just a few miles from your home port, as your reading turns from general sailing to cruising advice and stories.</li>
</ol>
By that time, you will know if the call to cruise is a real tug at your soul, or was a romantic daydream better read about but left to others.
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  #4  
Old 11-26-2004
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IMO Jeff''s suggestions are all very sensible and I especially like his suggestion to consider a ''transition'' boat where you can develop your preferences and prejudices (we all have them...) before making a somewhat irrevocable decision on a cruising boat. One reason this interim step makes sense is that you make only a small investment in money for a large investment in learning BEFORE you decide your fantasy is realistic enough to act on and plunk down lots of cash.

I also completely concur on learning on anything that''s small, unballasted and fun, whether the design is 1-person or 2-person. Just so you can handle it by yourself and aren''t a prisioner of finding crew when you have the time.

It''s quite interesting to see the large crowd of aspiring ''world cruisers'' are slowly whittled down by the basic stages thru which one must pass: a diverse, important range of skills to be developed, a workable/liveable boat to buy & outfit and come to know, a first overnight offshore passage to get under one''s belt, and then a multi-day offshore run that you make based on a route that''s efficient rather than one that offers the most anchorages along the way. At each stage, fallout occurs as cruising is clearly a more attractive lifestyle to imagine than to live with at times. But the stages (either my list or anyone else''s) are pretty inevitable and you see the fallout all along that path. E.g. one sees many boats congregate in G''town, Great Exuma or in Cabo or Z-Town on Mexico''s west coast, but which don''t go much further.

Jeff, where are you sailing your ''interim'' boat these days, and what is she? Thanks for the kind words...

Jack
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  #5  
Old 11-27-2004
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Thank You!! Thank You! Thank You!
This is the kind of response I''m looking for.

First off i''m considering a charter just to get me out on the water,not just to learn but to get the feel of what its like out there.If I learn something so much the better.
As far as reading and research I''m doing as much as humanly possible. I''ve read all of Hiscock. What I can find by Moitessior,Sir Robin Knox Johnson,Peter Nichols and (although they dont apply to my situation)I''ve memorized all of Patrick O''Brian. And I cant leave out Joshua Slocum the man who I blame on starting all of this. lol.My favorites on my computer are full of every kind of website you can imagine.I subscibe to Sail, and regular vistor to this site for the articles(of which I''ve read about 750).I''ve checked out books from the libary on subjects such as boatbuilding,navigation,and even knot tying.
As far as boats I''d like to purchase for my first they are, Contessa26,Triton28 or my favorite SouthernCross28. Probaly a little big for most people''s first boat but thats me.
There are a few lakes around where I live where I can rent a small boat but as for actual schools there is none.I know enough to start small and work up, but I know me,I have to be somewhat committed to stay focused.Thats why I''m going to buy one the boats lised above,If nothing else to give me something else do in my downtimne.I''m taking small baby steps but its getting to the point where i need more. I''ll be 40 in june,I''ve been trucking for 20 years,I dont want to spend the next 20 on land.If I fail I can always go back to trucking,I own my truck and I doon''t plan on selling it till its time,so i''ll always something to fall back on.
Again Thank You for responding,I really didnt think anyone would take notice. THANKS
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  #6  
Old 11-28-2004
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Jack,

Your acknowledgment of advice from my limited experience is true praise from Ceasar.

You''ll be sorry you asked by the time you slog through this (and Driver, here''s to you), but…

I learned to sail on a wooden 14'' Enterpirse dinghy in the protected Alamitios Bay in Long Beach, CA. Made it out the channel on the ebb tide to read the stern of the Queen Mary (homeport, Liverpool, btw) a couple of days when there was wind, but no swell. This Enterprise has no positive bouancy, and a slotted transom for the tiller to pass through, and if pooped or tipped, cannot be climbed into, bailed, and sailed again. I guess I was lucky.

I graduated quickly to the venerable and ubiquitous Catalina 22 (with blown out sails and no reef points, and no vang or functioning traveler), and pushed that boat as well: a two-week cruise along the California coast, which included my first real anchoring, provisioning, chart reading and piloting, taking bearings with a handheld compass: everything a cruiser does, only in miniature. I even sewed my jib back together when it ripped out trying to get around Pt. Dume during a Small Craft Advisory (I didn''t know this b/c my inadequately secured battery had torn loose from the excessive heeling (refer to above lack of sail controls), leaving me with no VHF). My mini-cruise included an open-water leg from Anacapa Island in the Channel Island chain to Catalina, an eleven-hour, 55-mile, out-of-landsight crossing, made only with chart, dividers, ruler and compass (satelites were being calibrated that day, so no GPS backup: lucky me).

The most important thing I learned was that I loved every minute, even clipping my harness in to climb onto the foredeck to douse the jib and secure it to the pulpit while being deluged with green water as my 200 lbs. of body ballast put the bow down into the troughs to shudder into each new 10'' sea (almost 50% of boatlength, for you snickerers!). I ran for shelter under main. The next day I rigged a downhaul for the repaired headsail.

Although I know my advventures up to now have been on a small scale, they are real, and my sense of accomplishment is undiminished. I prepared by reading voraciously, collectIing proper and improvised equipment (that SoSpenders harness and a lifeline made from my locking D rockclimbing carabiner kept me on deck more than once) and weighing advice from my sailing friends. Then I got out on the water to put that wisdom to use. Joshua Slocum, Eric Hiscock and Robin Graham pointed the way. I just followed.

I''ve since sold the boat (someone showed interest, and it was thrashed), so I"m "on the beach" for a while. But I almost have enough saved for a real small cruiser in the 30'' range. (An inboard engine? Standing headroom? Tankage? Wow). Right now I''m reading everything I can on boat design, from hull shapes and rigging (hat-tip to J. Halpern) to interior layout and systems. I''m just now leaving a romantic vision of full keels, protected rudders and gaff and cutter rigs behind. Nine months ago, a Cornish Crabber 30 was my dream boat (I blame Hiscock for that idea), followed by a [blush] Island Packet. By the time I"m ready to buy, Westsails will no longer look good, and I''ll be ready to consider a more modern design, full of the necessary compromises. In my local market, that is likely to be a Catalina 30, a Beneteau, or a well-preserved Pearson or some other "modern classic." Maybe I''ll still have a tiller to hold onto...

I plan on a first summer of daysails and long weekending, becoming familiar with the boat and planning changes over the winter. I figure a well-found 30-footer, with proper modifications/upgrades made over a couple of years, will be enough boat to take me north as far as Vancouver, and south into the Sea of Cortez.

Of course I''ve dreamed of the Cocoanut Milk Run, but that will be a different boat and a different point in my sailing career.

So I''m only a budding coastal cruiser, but the salt water has gotten into my veins, and I know my best cruising adventures still lie to windward. I''ll be sailing until, as Hiscock said, "I''m too old and fat" to do it anymore.
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  #7  
Old 11-29-2004
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Hello,

I have a few different comments.

1. I don''t think sailing a dingy will do much for you. Sailing a dingy and sailing a 30'' cruiser are as alike as driving a formula 1 racecar and driving a truck. Yes, they both have sails and rudders, but that''s about it.

2. I think that chartering a boat with a captain will help you a lot. It will depend on you (and the captain). You can tell the captain before hand about your goals, and you and he can make it more of a ''learn to sail'' cruise than just a tour of the water. I wanted to move up from a Catalina 22 to a 28-32 boat but I was afraid the bigger boat would be too difficult to handle. I chartered a Catalina 28 for 1/2 a day with a captain, and I made my goals clear to the captain. He appreciated it because *I* wanted to do the work of timming the sails and manning the helm. He gave me a lot of great advice and we both had fun.

3. I think the idea of a ''starter'' boat in the 22-25 range is a very good idea. The benefits are you get on the water sooner, yhe boats are cheap, you''ll learn very quickly if you like sailing or not. You will get back all (or most) of your money when you move up. You can sail whenever you want. You will also learn about maintenance, but on a much smaller scale. You can buy very nice boats in that size for less than $5K.

4. Taking lessons isn''t a bad idea but I don''t know how useful it would be either. If you are motivated (and it sounds like you are) you can learn more by reading, watching, trying, etc. than by having someone tell you.

5. Much like driving a truck, to really learn you need to get out there and do it. Reading can only take you so far. The sooner you get your own boat and get out there, and the more time you spend ''out there'' the quicker you will know if this is for you or not.

Good luck,
Barry
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Old 11-29-2004
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Truck Driven Man, I regret to inform you that driving a fork lift is more like a sailboat than a truck as it is the back wheels (stern of the boat) that must move laterally to execute a turn. You may not be suited to operate a sailboat, have you considered living in a motorhome, or in a "van down by the river"

Capt. Denr
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Old 11-29-2004
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Denr

I hope you are kidding...The dream of sailing doesn''t have to be for the sports car drining rich. I think the sail bug can bite anyone no matter what they used to do.
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Old 12-03-2004
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HEY BUDDY,

YOU WANNA LEARN TO SAIL?
COME VISIT NORTHERN MICHIGAN IN THE SUMMER AND WE''LL TAKE YOU OUT ON OUR 27'' C&C - "BOOMA."
989-348-8321 HOME
989-344-3304 OFFICE
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