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Old 02-17-2014
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Learning to sail by full immersion.

Hello,

Long story short, I have spent the last 10 years in the U.S. Army and I am getting out September 27th, 2014. Ever since I watched Captain Ron, I have dreamed of sailing in the Caribbean. My plan is to spend from October to April in the Caribbean learning to sail, drinking rum, and generally not doing anything the least bit Army related. I am currently stationed in South Korea and I have a little bit of vacation I am going to use to take some basic sailing lessons in May. In October, I would like to find a good school somewhere, as relatively cheap is possible, in the Caribbean. I would like to take as much training as I am able to, then spend the remaining months practicing.

First, which school would you recommend?

Second, would you suggest I buy a boat, or try to rent one for an extended period?

Third, are there any internship like programs you would suggest? I would not need to be paid so long as I am learning as much possible.

Lastly, what are your general recommendations? What am I not asking, that I should be?

Edit: My experience is limited to about 5 hours of playing around on a lake with a very small sailboat, and a one week chartered sailing trip in Australia. I have the general idea of things, but I am not quite ready to buy my sailboat and go sailing off into the sunset.

Thank you.

Mike

Last edited by Sensiblemike; 02-17-2014 at 04:13 PM. Reason: Update past experience.
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Old 02-17-2014
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Re: Learning to sail by full immersion.

I would definitely go with a captained charter first, and make sure the reality matches your vision of it.

You can learn a lot in a week from a good captain. Not to mention, there are sailing schools that do that, google "learning to sail on a charter sailboat".
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Re: Learning to sail by full immersion.

I did a week long chartered sailing trip in Australia and I fell in love with it. I learned a few things, but not enough to buy my own boat and take off in to the sunset.
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Re: Learning to sail by full immersion.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who would say it was a bad idea, but I sure ran into a lot of people who were learning as they went on my last cruise. Just don't try to sail across the Atlantic or to Tahiti or anything.
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Re: Learning to sail by full immersion.

Mike,
Your Post 911 GI Bill may pay for some of or all of any training you wish to use it. Before you go on terminal leave talk to a Vet Rep at the VA and see if you can use it for training. I believe you can.

These guys have a good name for themselves
Offshore Sailing School ? The Best Sailing Lessons at America?s #1 Sailing Schools

I wouldn't recommend you buy a boat until you really know what you want. Try to sail on as many different boats as you can. Maybe even get a trailer sailor and go travelling for a while. Saves you some big money.
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Re: Learning to sail by full immersion.

I will definitely check with the VA. The less I spend on training, the longer I can hang out in the Caribbean.

I am very seriously considering taking a one week long course, then buying a boat and figuring it out. That seems quite reckless though. I am a helicopter pilot in the Army, so I have a good understanding of aerodynamics, navigation, weather, etc... I would like to see a few countries down there and eventually end up in Florida. Is it reasonable to assume I could accomplish this?
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Re: Learning to sail by full immersion.

I learned the parts necessary to sail / cruise a boat other than sailing by owning the boat and fixing it.
No better way than hands on, but it is a slow and error prone method.

Diesel classes, electrical classes, navigation, etc - beat the bushes at your local community colleges. Mine here (in Annapolis area) are far less expensive than the trade schools and IMHO are just as good if you apply yourself.
The goal isn't certification, it's being ABLE to do the work.
As to the sailing part, stay safe, but again the best way is to do it on YOUR boat. Every boat is different in it's wants and needs and those are what matters. Learn the basics anywhere you can, apply them at home.

Since you are talking cruising I'll go out on a limb, learning how to sail a dinghy is meaningless. Crewing on a race boat that's anything but a beer can race mostly for fun is meaningless.
That dinghy will not sail like a cruiser, and being a winch grinder and rail meat teach you nothing but how to fold a sail. Almost no one takes the time to teach you what is going on around you and more importantly why on a 10 man crew until you've been there a season.
On a 2-4 man / person local beer can bob race, plenty of time for lessons and learning.
Now you racers can hate me all you like, I'm firm in my opinions on that.

You didn't say if you are just getting out or retiring or if you have reserve time etc.
Check out the morale and welfare pages, not just Army, but all branches. Retiree's and reservist get all kind of bene's on the water (the USAF has a marina in Tampa Bay for pete's sake). All of it is very much less expensive than commercial.

Having said that, I call dibs on the docks at the USN air base in Key West.
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Re: Learning to sail by full immersion.

Lessons?

If anything is gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there!
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Re: Learning to sail by full immersion.

I am not disabled, I am not retiring, and I do not have any inactive ready reserve time to serve either. I am completely done with the army. What this means is that I lose the vast majority of any benefits I had for being in. I am pretty sure I will not be able to access any of those military programs. I will definitely check though.

I am a fairly good mechanic. I am a Maintenance Test Pilot, so I have a fair amount of training on complex systems. If I knew half as much about sailing as I do about the AH-64D, I would be circumnavigating the globe. I am confident that I could repair/replace any of the systems/components on a boat.
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Re: Learning to sail by full immersion.

I second the suggestion for Offshore Sailing School. Take their one week liveaboard cruising course. You'll become a competent fair weather sailor in that week. You could go on to Offshore and Nav course, if you like.

They have a school in Tortola that is a terrific place to train and become more familiar with the Caribbean. However, their Florida school is less expensive and is the same training.

p.s. Thanks for your service.
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