Trucker converting to Sailor
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), butů
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.