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Ziaduck 07-29-2008 11:57 AM

Best way to get started without much help?
First of all I would like to thank everyone who supports and contributes to this site, it's a great resource!

I've read as much as I can, but the amount of information is a bit daunting so I thought I would start a new thread.

I've never been on a moving sailboat. I've never sailed a boat. I don't know anyone very well who owns a sailboat. I've been around motor boats most of my life, an worked at a marina in my teens before working for the State Park system at a lake for a couple of years. I've owned numerous kayaks (both touring and WW) and paddled for quite a few years.

I'm determined to learn how to sail. Twice in my life I've commited to learning a new skill with no real instruction. Once with paddling, and once with motorcycling. I grew to be fairly proficient at both. This time will be different because my objective is to take my family (wife and 2 daughters, 4yrs and 2 yrs) with me. Obviously I will learn as much as possible and practice until I'm satisfied before I take my daughters with me. I have a friend who sailed small boats and cats years ago who can show me some of the basics, though he admits he isn't a proficient sailor.

I live in New Mexico and will only sail inland lakes. I have access to several small lakes and one medium size lake, so I can start small. I'm not aware of any official instruction or classes offered nearby. I have made contact with a member of the only local sailing club (which is quite small) and will pursue learning as much as I can from the members. This will not be easy because they are located about 2 hours away.

When I started motorcycling and kayaking I simply learned as much as possiblen then bought one and got started! Is this a real option for sailing? Can an absolute noob figure it out safely? The local sailboat offerings are fairly slim; I've found a Hobie Cat 16, an '84 MacGregor 22, and a Catalina 22 (which I can't afford.) Is it best to start with boats such as a Javelin or Holder to learn the "ropes?"

I will continue to read as much as possible, but I really appreciate any/all advice from you all. Thanks for reading through my rambling!:o

SailKing1 07-29-2008 12:24 PM

You might try some of the local sailing clubs. Most are always looking for crew. You might start out as rail meat (someone who sits on the windward rail) but you will get an opportunity to be on a sailboat. From there you can pay attention and learn before making any kind of investment.

You might also just go down and hangout at the docks. You will find that most sailors are friendly and happy to talk about their experiences. Ofter this leads to an offer to go sailing. I've taken complete strangers out many of times just for the extra hand as i single hand most of the time.

What ever you decide good lock and welcome to Sailnet.

Ziaduck 07-29-2008 12:34 PM

Thanks, Sailking. I suppose "Club" may not be the correct word for the group of sailboat owners I found. It's more of an association of owners. There is no formal instruction or boats to use. This not really a "sailing" area, the few boat shops we have don't offer sailboats, lessons, or parts.

I will continue to try and make contact with local sailors and do as you suggest.

sailingdog 07-29-2008 12:40 PM

Yes, it is an option for sailing...but even a basic course would go a long way to cutting the steep part of the learning curve down considerably. IMHO, it would well be worth the money to take a weekend off and take a learn to sail ASA 101 course someplace.

I'd recommend Dave Seidman's book, "The Complete Sailor" as one of the best ones for you to read and keep with you. It covers a fairly wide breadth of history, design, technique, and philosophy and is very, very well written and easy to read. It is also fairly well illustrated. The book is about $17 at B&N or Borders, cheaper on-line.

I'd also like to welcome you to the asylum, and recommend that you read the post in my signature to help you get more out of the time you spend here.

zz4gta 07-29-2008 02:07 PM

Sail on other's boats a lot. As much as you can. Read up online, there's lots of free advice, articles and forums for your questions. Hold off on buying a boat. Get on the water asap. You may even try leaving little notes at the marina bulletin board offering your balast.

chattan 07-29-2008 03:17 PM

It is possible to learn how to sail by banging it out on a small sailboat until you can get it to go. Also learning from others casually on the dock can be fine. However bad habits that you can get away with on the small boats translate in to dangerous problems when the size of the vessel, and the forces exerted on it increase. Winch control, sail trim, jibing safely, rules of the road, and crew overboard drills are important areas covered in basic sailing courses.
Text books for sailing schools, ASA, U.S. Sailing, etc. are available online, these will give you a good guideline for terminology and theory, however, practical on the water time with a competent instructor in invaluable. Take the time to learn properly from a reputable school they will give you the skills and confidence to take your family sailing safely. when looking at schools find out how much time you will spend on the water not just how much the course costs. Some schools offer quicky two day basic courses that while giving you an intro into the basics don't really give you the opportunity develope, and practice new concepts. Will you be able to recover a person in the water by yourself in varied conditions? Safely sail the boat back to the dock when, not if, the motor fails? and many other what if's that should be easily at your command at the end of a basic course.
Sailing is a wonderful way to spend your time (life), and confidence in your abilities comes with, knowledge and practice. Starting with a solid instructional base will give you the tools to develope as a competant sailor
Good luck!

Ziaduck 07-29-2008 06:12 PM

Thanks! I value the advice so far, please keep it coming!:)

soulesailor 07-30-2008 07:43 PM

Yes, you definitely can teach yourself to sail. Read books. The one sailing dog recommends is a great start for off-line reading. Books are great for technique, vocabulary and theory. Classes, if any are even offered in NM, are great for seamanship skills. Get out there and DO it, it's not any harder than kayaking. You do have to have a bigger skill set to begin, though, it's a LONG, LONG swim back to shore ;)

Where did you kayak (I'm a former ww junkie)?

Ziaduck 07-30-2008 08:05 PM

Thanks again to everyone!

I have ordered "The Complete Sailor" it should be here by Saturday.

I've also made contact with an ASA instructor who will be offering 2 classes in New Mexico next month, so I will be attending one of those. I'll have to drive a bit, but I think it's worth it.

Soulesailor: I've had both touring and WW boats. In the touring boats we paddled every local lake, and most within a couple hundred miles. We also took them to the Grand Tetons on 2 separate occasions. All of my WW time was spent on the Animas River in Durango, CO, and some on the NM side.

PTsailing 07-30-2008 09:24 PM

My husband and I are teaching ourselves to sail on a 28 ft sailboat in puget sound. We go out, sail around, try some stuff, scare ourselves occasionally and then we debrief at the dock. Every time we go out we learn something different. The other weekend we learned about reefing in the mains'l. :)
I have several books including Complete Sailor and the ASA books Keel boat and cruising. It's not hard to pick up the basics on your own, get an inexpensive sailing dinghy and head out to the lakes.

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