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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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  #1  
Old 12-03-2008
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so what would stop a guy from...

I'm a new sailboat owner. Never been out on her. I'll be working on her this winter to prepare her ofr the water come springtime.
I have never sailed before. So what's to stop a guy from learning the hard way, i mean circumventing the yacht club sailing school, and just getting out there and Have at 'er?
I mean, I'd obviously take precautions, ie check the weather thoroughly, stay relatively close to home, bring all the required and recommended safety equipment, and my dad nearby in a powerboat, lest i mess something up completely. I've read a fair deal
I have a healthy fear of the elements, having grown up around boating and boating safety freaks (like my dad). I just don't feel like learning to sail on a 14 footer when I could be learning on my own boat, you know? I'm itching to sail it!
I'm interested in your opinions..
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Old 12-03-2008
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Get at least some basic instruction.

You wouldn't be the first to learn that way. I know a fellow who had a 28 or 30ft Oday. He said he and his crazy brother taught themselves, and they hadn't even read anything. He also asked me if my boat had a rudder or a tiller. . . . .
. . . long pause . . . ."Umm, I have a wheel." "Oh, a rudder."

You may do fine, or learn an expensive lesson the hard way. Going in with at least some basic knowledge is not too much to ask. While sailboats seem very slow compared to powerboats, things can happen extremely quickly with no second chances. Go out on a calm day, then get a fresh puff and you'll see what I mean. No point in risking yourself, your boat, and anyone else. There are examples every few days of sailors with experience that get into trouble. Even if you're a natural, why stack the deck against yourself? I got my basic keelboat diploma on a Catalina 310. It was my first and only training so far, but I still wanna get that time on a 14 footer. There's a lot to be learned. Master the little boats and you'll be better at the bigger ones.

Last edited by seabreeze_97; 12-03-2008 at 11:37 PM.
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Old 12-03-2008
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Nothing at all really. A lot of sailors learned exactly that way.

For the most part, schools don't teach much more than you could pick up on a few outings with a friend. The advantage comes in with the paperwork you get, as often insurance is cheaper if you have it.

Ken.
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Old 12-03-2008
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The hard way is called that for a reason. I knew someone who learned the hard way that he should clip on his harness and keep his head down. His crewmates think (hope?) he died of the concussion from the boom before he hit the water. They never found his body. There are lots of other lessons you can learn the hard way. Some of them can be quite fun for us to watch as you learn. Others can be fun for us, but less fun for you. Others can be expensive in more ways than one, and no fun for anybody.

It sounds really macho to read about "doing it the hard way" online, and to refer to your dad as a safety freak. It could also be that sailing is more dangerous than you currently understand. Did your parents let you cross a busy street before you learned to look both ways? Traffic on the water can come from any direction. So can the wind. Waves and weather change, and the water can get suddenly shallow. Equipment can break, or someone can make a mistake, and you're swimming.... ten miles from shore. There's a lot more to look out for sailing than there is in crossing the street. You can cross the street without looking, but you've learned that it's smarter to look first. Sail smart.
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Old 12-03-2008
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I have been sailing off and on for the past 50-odd years and never had a lesson yet (and that's not to say I don't think that they are an excellent idea). However, I did have a lot of good experience early on with people who knew what they were doing and I thoroughly recommend getting some sailing practice crewing for someone. It isn't possible to over-emphasise what others have already said - situations develop unexpectedly at sea and experience along with an ability to stay calm and think on your feet in a crisis provide you with the best chance of surviving these unscathed.

I would definitely stick to your cautious approach and gradually extend yourself as your confidence grows.

Stuart
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Last edited by Jarerex; 09-19-2013 at 04:16 PM.
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Old 12-03-2008
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More than just sailing

There is more to learning to sail than just the lessons on how to steer, trim, dock. There is learning to rig a boat, understand the mechanics of safety, eg crew overboard etc. Try to get lessons on a smaller keelboat with a tiller. I learned on a yngling and soling through the local university sailing club. You will learn more in a few weeks than a whole summer of dock crashing.
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Old 12-04-2008
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Buying a sailing lesson is a good idea; you should be able to find an instructor with a boat similar to yours. I took my lessons on a Ranger 29 and bought a Catalina 27; nothing forces you to start on small boats (but as has been said, it's still a good idea to see what they're like).

Your first time out on the water with somebody who knows what they're doing can be enlightening. Lots of things you'd learn right away on your own, but there's still tons and tons of things that might never occur to you that a good instructor will be able to communicate in minutes.

When I took my lessons, I had never been on board a sailing vessel before, and I had no friends who were sailors. The way I see it, I paid to have a temporary buddy-who-is-a-sailor, who conveniently was also qualified to grant me some legally required certifications. It's worth the couple of days you'll spend doing it.

Besides, you said yourself your boat isn't ready to sail just yet. If you can find an instructor in the off-season, that means you get to start sailing that much earlier
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Old 12-04-2008
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Find an instructor or an experienced friend who will teach you ON YOUR BOAT. There is more to learning to sail than how to handle the lines - you need to know the rules of the road, navigation, safety requirements, legal requirements, etc.
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Old 12-04-2008
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Sure,
You can do it, but it will be the slowest way. It is much faster to learn from other peope's mistakes. Then you can use the time to build your own experience on some base.

Personally, I would read as much as I can , since I enjoy reading and easily memorize a lot of info, wich is the fastest way in my opinion to learn the "formalities and legalities" like the rules of the road, navigation, etc. And then find somebody with more experience, friend or hired instructor, to show you how the theories are implemented on the water (well that is how I did it).
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