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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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  #1  
Old 06-21-2006
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How do people get started?

So I have been investigating learning to sail for a few weeks now. I found a sailing school nearby and was all set to sign up for Basic Keelboat. Then the practical side of my mind kicked in and I started thinking about sailing opportunities after I learn.

I live in South Carolina about an hour from Lake Hartwell and maybe 3 hours from Charleston. I looked into renting sailboats in those two areas and I only found 1 boat available for rent. (I asked the captain at the sailing school and he claims to have the only rental boat on Lake Hartwell).

I don't own a boat, and it probably wouldn't be a good idea for a brand new sailor to just go and buy one. I don't know anyone with a boat I can borrow. I contacted the local sailing club, but most members own their boats and the small fleet they do have is reserved for youth sailing.

Looking ahead I see buying a 25'-27' to get some more practical liveaboard experience with the family. After a few years of experience and after the kids get a little older I envision a larger boat and longer trips.

So I'm looking for some practical advice. Before I go and plunk down 5 figures for a pocket cruiser only to find out my wife gets seasick and my kids hate the ocean how can I fill in that experience gap between just learning and boat owner? How do most people gain experience after they learn?
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Old 06-21-2006
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With most sailors I know, sailing education starts at a very young age. I never had formal sailing school experience, but fumbled through the school of hard knocks, starting on day sailers when 7-8 years old at summer camp fresh water lakes. While growing up around newport, RI, several friends had HobieCats, Ensigns and Shields which I shagged on occasionally, honing my interest in ocean boating.

Additionally, every tropical vacation destination with my family, included taking out resort sailboats from beaches. I've owned 8 boats within 30 years, but my first sailboat was the Nauticat 33, which I currently own. Again, no formal training, but lots of practice and lots of books. If you have a will, you will find a way.
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Old 06-21-2006
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Check out Annapolis Sailing School. They have a website. They offer packages that include beginner sailing for two days and a hotel for the weekend. Its a great deal because you have an opportunity to see if it's something that you and your family can enjoy together.
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practical advice

First you should take the class. I presume there is time on the water. Although 3 hours away, Charleston is bound to have some rental boats..perhaps you can take the course there and carry the family along on the water class. Check online for sailing schools and rentals in Charleston. As far as your family concerns....start sailing on a lake. It will be less threatening, give a safe opportunity for practice, and almost no one gets sea sick on a lake. You will find plenty of challenges.

Regarding a boat and cost..There usually are many boats 23-25', vintage 1983 for no more than 5K. If you take care of her and make a few improvements you can sell the boat for about what you paid. With a family I think you might want an older boat of this size. You could also look for a 22' daysailer for a bit less but with less room. There is no substitute for talking with a person who sails a lot. You can find them and they will talk. Ask to go out with them and take your family if possible. Happy sailing!
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Old 06-21-2006
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Rahima...I have 2 suggestions since you mention Lake Sailing and not wanting to invest 5 figures.
1. Buy a small car topper sailboat that you can take to the lake and mess around with till you're sure that you and everyone in the family want something more. Try this link as an example... www.castlecraft.com/sailboats.htm

2. Buy an old and cheap 20-22 footer on a trailer. You should be able to pick up somethinng serviceable for $2-3K and you can work on her in your driveway while having something serviceable to use on the weekends. When you go to sell, you'll get most of your $$ back.

Have fun!
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Old 06-21-2006
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Have you thought about something like a
lazer or a flying scott? A small boat will teach you a great deal about sailing, more that most pocket cruisers. The kids will have an opportunity to learn and decide how much sailing will come into your life. Also, think about chartering a bigger boat with a captain, taking the family and see how they enjoy it. For the lake, a smaller boat capable of overnighting would make sense and they can be had for under 5k.
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Old 06-21-2006
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I'm not knocking the sailing school idea at all, but.....
If you are near any sort of organized racing such as a local yacht club, there are always boats looking for eager and willing crew. At the local level it's not uncommon for boats to be sailing shorthanded and the racing is often more casual, so people are quite willing to take on newcomers.
This is a way to find out if sailing is for you, whether or not racing is for you, and to gain skills and abilities with little to no investment required. All that is required is enthusiasm and a demonstrated reliability.
I know I have invited, over the years, dozens of people like yourself to sail with us, many of which have taken us up and gone on to sail/own themselves.
On the flip side there are just as many that say they'll show up and then don't (various reasons, kids, family obligations, rain, whatever) After a couple of those episodes, they usually didn't get invited back.
With luck you'll hook up with some excellent people, learn lots, and be much better prepared when you do take the plunge and buy your own boat.

Another alternative is to ask around, there are often certified individuals offering personalized lessons on their own vessels for reasonable rates, outside of the mainstream schools.
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Old 06-21-2006
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I thought about sailing and cruising for twenty plus years. I finally bought a 21' Mac on a trailer for a grand. Now I wished I'd done this 20 years ago. I reckon I have some catching up to do.
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Old 06-21-2006
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Start with the lessons, and something simple (sunfish, etc.) that you can throw on the car and use at your lake. They're cheap, easily bought and sold used, so you won't get stuck. You will get wet sailing it, but wth it is summer now.

The sailing school usually can put you in touch with whatever local resources there are, and if there are clubs in your area that have any kind of races, they always need crew and you can usually hitch a ride.

Of course sailing on a sunfish and sailing on a bigger drier boat which has a HEAD on it are very different things, especially for the wife. Whether she'll like it, you won't know unless you take her for some lessons on a bigger boat, maybe a long weekend at a destination where you can do that. If that works...ask what they have that's a bit longer, get her exposed to it in a couple of different places and she if she likes it.

Some folks will take a couple of classes and work up to a week-long "bareboat" class, then just charter a boat for a week twice a year. That's one way to sail without having to maintain a boat--and find out strange things like, your wife might say she prefers a BIGGER boat. With a nicer galley and head.

If she doesn't, then you have to decide: The wife? Or sailing? It's a common problem.
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I've put my ideas about this on another thread, so let me add another...
most weekend mornings the local yacht/sailing club is (are) full of boaters. Strike up a conversation, and see where it leads.
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