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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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  • 2 Post By nolatom
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  #1  
Old 07-22-2014
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New to Sailing

I will be taking the 101 course next month and am looking for some advice regarding learning to sail.

Better to learn on a small or large boat?
Wheel or tiller steering?

Does it matter?

Any other advice.

Thanks
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Old 07-22-2014
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Re: New to Sailing

Small.

Tiller.

Yes.


You'll get better feedback from a smaller, lighter, faster, less forgiving boat. And develop a better sense of balance between boat, crew, and wind. Ditto for tiller instead of wheel, you get more feel and always know where your rudder is.
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Old 07-22-2014
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Re: New to Sailing

Welcome to SailNet and welcome to the sport of sailing. As to your questions;

Better to learn on a small or large boat?
It is generally easier to learn on a small boat. Small boats tend to be more responsive so it is easier to feel what is going on. As a result a new sailor more naturally becomes more aware of the causes and effects.

Wheel or tiller steering?
Similarly, most reputable sailing schools start students on tiller steered boats. There is more feel to a tiller and so you are more aware of the connection between the rudder and the water, and can feel how the forces change with windspeed, sail trim and heel angle.

Does it matter?
For most people it does. Whether you are person who takes to sailing innately, or a person who learns over a period of time, whether you have ambitions of being a serious sailor, or someone whose goals are simply being able to get out on the water in fair weather, it is a much less painful learning curve on a small boat. For most adults, a tiller steered, 22 to 26 foot, fin keel- spade rudder sloop works very well. If you are more athletic a dinghy is an even better choice.

Good luck,
Jeff
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Old 07-22-2014
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Re: New to Sailing

Size is relative as well based on where and who you are. If you are in an area that has cold water you will want to learn on a small keel boat as you will stay dryer. Also age and physical condition can play a roll as well. Small dingies are fun but are a workout and you have to be agile. If you are young and in warm water nothing teaches you faster than a few trips into the water!

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Old 07-22-2014
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Re: New to Sailing

Consistent with the others, my recommendation is to learn on a small boat. If you want to learn to sail, you need to sail often. A small boat is more affordable to buy or to rent. If you buy, it's easier to handle and more affordable to maintain. If you pick the small boat carefully, they can be a ton of fun! Of course, another great way to learn would be to race or to join regattas.

WRT the ASA classes, I recommend that within a month or so of taking the class, you bareboat charter the exact boat (or closest facsimile) in which you took the class. Then, reproduce everything done in the class by yourself. Of course, it will be easier to bring along a crew to help make things a little easier. But, you should skipper the boat. This will increase your confidence and build a bareboat charter resume that will enable you to do bigger and better things.
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Old 07-23-2014
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Re: New to Sailing

Tex,

There's some good advice for you. I was waiting to the old "You have to take ASA 101 through 10bazzillion, crew for 30 years at yacht club, then buy a 3 foot dinghy for best feedback, and eventually buy a 40 footer." That's the elitist mentality. Hang around long enough, you'll see it. But these are some good words.

For my two sense, buy a trailer sailor, similar to what Jeff was saying. Easy on the budget and back. You can make all those mistakes and loose some gelcoat on an inexpensive boat plus you'll find out if sailing is for you. If you get one in the 22-25 foot range, weekend cruises are a great thing. We cruise for a week at a time in our Lancer 25. Then, you love it, learned a few things, so you sell the trailerable and move up to a 30 footer. Still not TOO expensive but more financial responsibility. The biggest thing is get experience. In the middle of a blow-down is the wrong time to open the book. When the sail tightens and creaks hard and it feels like a giant just grabbed your masthead, your hand should dump the main before your mind has a chance to think. That's experience. But . . . one more thing. Take a Sailing and Seamanship Course through your local USCGA. Knowing the rules on the water are paramount to safety. In Maine, certification is not required so most boaters are absolutely clueless but have "grown up around boats". Yeah, I grew up around horses but that doesn't make me a cowboy.
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Re: New to Sailing

Thanks for all the sound advice. I think I will change my plans. Originally was targeting a school that started you out on a 32ft. wheeled cruiser, as my plans are to retire and start cruising. Probably was a bit naive.

Don - I lived in Gorham, ME for the last 3 years and just moved back down to Texas recently. I used to get out on Casco Bay on a friends boat.
Cheers
GS
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Old 07-23-2014
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Re: New to Sailing

Quote:
Originally Posted by nolatom View Post
Small.

Tiller.

Yes.


You'll get better feedback from a smaller, lighter, faster, less forgiving boat. And develop a better sense of balance between boat, crew, and wind. Ditto for tiller instead of wheel, you get more feel and always know where your rudder is.
Bump. Exactly what I did learning from the US Navy Sailing Program. All that prepaired me for a bigger boat and a wheel.
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Old 07-23-2014
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Re: New to Sailing

I went from Sunfish and Hobie sailing a few times per summer as a kid to bareboat charters in the Caribbean in my thirties and forties with nothing in between. I did well on the big boats but I knew I wasn't a good sailor. Those charter boats are such slow-reacting slugs that I never really knew what effect my actions were having. I was constantly over-correcting for the previous over-corrections.

Now I'm in my fifties and I want to become a good sailor. I bought a sailboat to learn the fine points. I went small mainly for $$ considerations and also I noticed that most of the bigger sailboats stayed at the dock while the little boats were out sailing.

What I've learned so far is: yes, small boats are much better teachers due to the instant feedback. They are sportier and I get more of the joy of sailing feeling in comfortable, light air conditions than I ever got on a big boat. But the biggest difference is the work and expense of boat ownership. I cannot tell you how glad I am to own a boat that has a simple rig and no auxillary systems like electricity and plumbing. Someday, maybe. But I'm going to learn all I can on small and cheap before I go big, complex, and expensive.

If your intention is to always charter and never buy, I'd tell you to go ahead and learn on a big boat.
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