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d_p 03-09-2006 08:36 AM

Trial by fire?
 
I am contemplating buying a sailboat in the next couple years, but have never sailed before. I have read numerous books on the subject and have grown up around powerboats and on the water. What do you think would realistically happen if I were to buy a boat (27 feet, or in that area) and just get out on the water and tough it out? Are lessons absolutely necessary? I am not intimidated by boats or being on the water and I would be completely comfortable motoring in and out of the marina. Assuming I don't go out in any serious weather until I'm more prepared, is there really anything that can go wrong (I probably shouldn't ask that)? I would appreciate anyone taking the time to point out the flaws in my plan.

Sailormon6 03-09-2006 10:41 AM

A few years ago I taught a husband and wife how to sail my then 25' boat in an hour. They steered and tacked the boat and handled the sails with coordination, and I didn't have to help. By the next weekend, they had bought a new boat and trailer and tow vehicle, and got along fine.

It's not difficult to learn the basics that are necessary to sail the boat, but why tough it out, learning the hard way? Thirty years ago, I took two basic sailing courses from a good sailing school, and still made some dumb mistakes the first few times out.

But, you don't even need to go to a sailing school. Find an experienced sailor who is willing to let you crew for him, and teach you. You need to learn how and when to raise, lower and reef the sails, how to trim the sails in relation to the wind direction and wind speed, and how to steer the boat. Those things aren't difficult to learn, but if you try to figure it all out by yourself, it'll probably be so frustrating that it'll take the fun out of it.

Also, a person who knows how to sail can singlehand a 27 foot boat fairly easily, but it'll be a handful for a person who doesn't know how to sail, and it could be dangerous. You definitely don't want to get whacked by the boom.

If you don't have a sailing friend to teach you, check with any local sailing club. They're usually looking for volunteers to crew for them, no experience necessary. Learn some of the basics, such as how to raise, lower and put away the sails. Ask the skipper to allow you to sail the boat on the way to or from the racecourse, and to explain the basics of sail trim. Ask questions. After 3-4 times out, you should be much more able to sail a boat yourself. If you're not going to actually buy a boat for a couple of years, you have plenty of time to learn by crewing.

paulk 03-09-2006 10:14 PM

Motoring in & out of the harbor is easy. Once you get out there with sails up, it's different. It only takes one accidental gybe in just 10 knots of breeze to knock you overboard. Sailormon's suggestion of getting someone to go out with you a couple of times is a good idea - kind of like not swimming without a buddy. They guy or girl you invite will probably appreciate the chance to get out on the water, as well. You hear about people who learn to swim by just getting tossed into the water all the time, but the ones who get tossed in but don't learn to swim are strangely silent. Wouldn't want that to happen to you.

nolatom 03-11-2006 11:42 PM

Well, maybe, with a few caveats:

Read a book about how to sail first, and really pay attention and think about what you've read, envision doing it in real life.

Do all your sailing/learning in 5-9 knots of wind, no more, no less, steady in direction, no current and flat seas, and away from other traffic

Do this lots, like every week, if you can get those conditions consistently

Carry a vhf radio and have someone ashore who can answer sailing questions as they come up.

That might give you the absolute basics, but then you'd have to learn reefing, heavy air sailing, and Oh, I forgot--man overboard recovery. And sail shape, navigation, chart work, rules of the road.

If you can get these conditions reliably, you might learn, I've seen people do it that way and come out okay. But if you can't, or don't get good "learning" weather consistently, or don't have the time and dedication, then take at least a couple of lessons. I'd recommend Power Squadron too, but maybe you already have this.

I'm biased on this, I suppose, as I teach sailing as a part-time gig, and think it's the better way to learn, but I have seen people teach themselves to sail. You may pick up some bad habits you'll have to unlearn later, though, and please duck during those jibes, they don't call it a "boom" for nothing.

georgetina 03-12-2006 04:40 AM

Well it's the way I did it. Self taught on a 30` Beneteau in the English Bristol channel (40` spring tide and 6 knots). First sailing yacht at age 58 having had small power boats for 30+ years. Took the navigation and radio shore courses and read and read and read. Then got out there to try it. (Always had the "Admiral" with me - not single handed). Had some "moments" but in general adopted a careful approach (not too much sail - reef early). Have now been sailing 5 Years including many hundreds of miles on the Croatia coast. Really super. A few things to be careful of - Booms (covered in other posts), remember you only have a few hp engine so getting trapped on the lee side of an island with the tide running towards the island can be a "interesting" experience. So make sure you know how to reef the sails (you can practice in the harbour when the wind is light), remember to use a harness, watch out for tides and currents.
Go for it it's a great experience.

latitude_chaser 03-12-2006 08:45 AM

My first time ever sailing was 3 weeks ago on my newly purchased Columbia 28. I read tons of books from Nigel Calder to Tania Abei. I even played "sailing simulators" online. I've been out a half dozen times in the 3 weeks and have had a ball! Now for the caveat...I can tack and sail half decent on most points of sail (except a run) but there's always a nagging feeling that I could be doing something wrong or doing better. "Is that the way the sail should look at this point?" or "Should I tighten the mainsheet?". There's always a doubt.
I DO NOT regret getting out there and doing it on my own but on the same token, I fully intend to get some sort of formal or informal training. It just seems to me that having the knowledge that I'm not just doing something right, but doing it well would add greatly to my enjoyment.
I intend to do some extensive coastal cruises next year so I have plenty of time to learn. I have even talked to a couple of experienced sailors on the dock and all have volunteered their time to go out and sail with me. To me, that's the key (learning on my own boat). I know my tired old mainsail will look different from the new Hunter 25 two slips down or the boats at the local school.
Just my rambling thoughts on the subject. If all else fails, just go out and DO IT!:D

Rick
"Pairadice"
1970 Columbia 28

Sailormon6 03-12-2006 09:52 AM

I think Rick has illustrated the benefits of having either formal or informal instruction. If you're completely self-taught, you have no feed-back from anyone, to tell you if you're doing things correctly, or if there's a better way. You have to learn entirely by trial and error.

I saw a fellow sail into a cove, and then turn around and try to sail back out. He had to beat to windward, but he didn't sheet in his sails close enough, and after every tack, he ended up further downwind. He finally had to lower his sails and motor out of the cove. If he had an experienced sailor to show him how to beat to windward, he would not only have been able to sail out of that cove, but he would never again have been in that situation. Forevermore, he would have known how to beat to windward. If he didn't have someone to tell him what he was doing wrong, he could have gone on for a long time before he figured out how to beat to windward efficiently.

I've never known a sailor who wouldn't be happy to show a new sailor the basics of sailing, if asked. There's no reason to learn the hard way when there are so many willing teachers.

Jamesdoo1 03-12-2006 11:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by d_p
I am contemplating buying a sailboat in the next couple years, but have never sailed before. I have read numerous books on the subject and have grown up around powerboats and on the water. What do you think would realistically happen if I were to buy a boat (27 feet, or in that area) and just get out on the water and tough it out? Are lessons absolutely necessary? I am not intimidated by boats or being on the water and I would be completely comfortable motoring in and out of the marina. Assuming I don't go out in any serious weather until I'm more prepared, is there really anything that can go wrong (I probably shouldn't ask that)? I would appreciate anyone taking the time to point out the flaws in my plan.

HI
I was in the exact situation you're in now until 3 weeks ago when I purchased a 25 foot yacht, a contessa. I went out on Lake Macquarir (largest salt water lake in the southern hemishere, just north of Sydney Australia) with the original owner of the boat. I picked up on the basics fairly quickly. The first time I went out on my own I just put up the jib but I quickly progressed to both sails. Yesterday, the third time I'd been out, I had the water running over the gunnels, pretty exciting stuff! As a precaution to the worst happening I held on to the main sheet so that I could quickly pull on it to release the boom and spill the air out if I lost confidence or thought the boat was going to tip too far over. After having hands on experience I think that the theory would come to me much easier than if I had the theory first. I would encourage you to go for it but the particular boat I have is a very safe self righting boat and I'm not sure what you would choose. I hope this helps a little. Best regards.

d_p 03-13-2006 09:30 AM

boat suggestions
 
What boat would you guys suggest if I were to try this. I would be interested in a boat between 25-35 feet, which would be a safe, sturdy and easy to sail. What would be the "Toyota Camry" of boats in this size range. I know there will be boats which are faster and better performers, not to mention more expensive. But I am interested in finding what boat is thought of as the "most bang for your buck" with regard to safety, ease of maintenance, and general comfort. I would also be interested in hearing what kind of boats you guys learned on (those of you who learned on bigger boats, 27' and up).

paulk 03-13-2006 09:51 AM

Since you're changing the thread to a somewhat different direction here, you might want to re-post this question on the boat-buying section instead. You'll also get more and better information by being more precise about what kind of sailing you want to do, and where. There are 40' daysailers and 24' 'Round the World cruisers. What people suggest will depend on how you expect to use the boat and your sailing area.


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