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yellowwducky 12-30-2008 11:53 PM

Charter with a crew or do a weeklong 'school'?
Hi all,

I figure the fastest way to get up the curve is to get extended time on a boat. With that in mind, I am looking at a charter for a week in the Whitsundays sometime early next year (well, 2009, we are almost 'next year' now!).

The question is, which would be better...

1) charter a boat with a captain and just go on a 'cruise' but then try and learn as much as possible on the way

2) charter a boat which is part of an official course (RYA in this case) for a week and then actually have a specified schedule/objective set

Now, I am pretty sure the second would be better from a learning point of view but of course, would be a lot less of a vacation for both the wife and I. My concern here being rather than an introduction to the fun side of sailing it feels like work and hence kills some of the best parts of cruising. In order to keep the plan on track, I think I want to keep things easy going for a first trip but am curious what the thoughts are here. Maybe these course trips are not just all 'work'.

Another question - does it really matter much if you learned on a monohull (which the one with courses I have found only has) but plan on owning a catamaran down the road? Sails are sails and ropes are ropes right? It isn't rocket science after all????



One other option - it seems in the Whitsundays that you can charter a boat and have a day sail person come along to get you going. Crazily, it seems they can then leave you to your own devices if you so choose - I assume that would mean a lot of motor sailing! The idea of getting out on our own would be daunting but also vastly more appealing from a 'vacation' point of view as well as giving a feel for what it would really be like to live on a boat as a couple. I gather you can hire this day sail person to stick around for more than a day if you want to pay and then do your own thing. I sort of like this idea but also know it likely wouldn't teach me nearly as much as the other options. Thoughts here? Definitely sounds like a better vacation but not as good of a learning one.

sailingdog 12-31-2008 01:22 AM

Actually, some of the courses, while a lot of work are fun as well. :) depends a lot on the instructor.

I would look at taking a comprehensive course as an investment in going forward on cruising long-term. A good course will give you a very solid foundation of knowledge and skills... but you still need to practice them regularly or they'll fade out... USE IT OR LOSE IT so to speak.

BTW, I generally recommend that couples take their courses separately... since, in many couples one will be dominant and the less dominant partner will not learn as well or as much in many cases.

As for the differences between a Catamaran and a monohull... not too different, but you do have to be aware that there are some differences that can get you killed if you don't know them. For instance: Multihulls tend to reef sails for the gusts rather than the average wind speeds like monohulls do. The multihull can't bleed off the excess wind in a gust by heeling, so, you have to set the sailplan up for the peak speeds or run a serious risk of overpowering the boat.

A good book, though a bit dated, that points out quite a few of these types of issues is Mike Mullen's Multihull Seamanship.

yellowwducky 12-31-2008 01:40 AM

Yes, I would like separate courses but if its going to be part of a vacation, that becomes tough - and it isn't possible to afford seperate chartered vacations for each person (well it is but it isn't practical or nearly as good a value). If one did the 'course' vacation, from the sounds of it the theory is a book/class/exam combo so taking that together makes no difference. We both know that to cruise we would have to know how to single hand so I don't think there will be a problem on this front.

I do look at the idea as an investment certainly. So to that end figure none of the options are 'bad' but one might be better than others. Heck, I think a week on a 40+ foot boat focused on learning would be VASTLY more instructive than taking a course at the local yacht club learning how to sail a laser over the course of a couple hours a week for a year - and way way more fun. At the end of the day, our objective isn't sailing lasers, its sailing a cruising boat after all.

Have any of you done both courses on a charter as well as normal charters? Can you learn a lot on a basic charter? I would think the one catch with the Whitsundays as a charter with a learning slant to it is that there doesn't look to be a lot of wind to sail and hence not a lot of chance to learn how to sail. I could be wrong but I bet there is a lot of motorsailing going on there.

edit - oh, yes, good tip with the Cat on sailing. Given they can be capsized, you want to only have enough sail out to ensure the highest gust you expect (and maybe even more) isn't at risk of flipping you over. Having read Chris White's book, I gather it is indeed possible but the righting moments for Cats are large so it would take a reasonable amount of incompetence or extremely bad luck but still, something vital to consider with a Cat.

Sailormon6 12-31-2008 07:44 AM

Ducky, most sailing schools offer a 2 day basic sailing course, in which you have 1/2 day of classroom instruction on the general principles of sailing in the morning, and then you spend the second half of the day practicing those principles on a boat. I suggest you begin with a 2 day class of that type, followed by a 3 or 5 day cruising course, all of which will be on the water, in which you'll learn basic navigation, anchoring, docking and similar techniques that you'll need to know. The cruising course will have the "feel" of a casual cruise, rather than a "course," supplemented with occasional instruction. The 2 day course will give you the intensive basic knowledge that you really need, after which you can learn in a more relaxed format.

xort 12-31-2008 01:41 PM

I don't have the answer...but your wife does!

If you are trying to convince her to get into sailing then a fun week with a great charter crew is the way to go. They'll be happy to give you some instruction along the way. You can do the formal training later if she buys into the whole thing.

If she is sold on the whole idea from the start then I'd go the formal week of training. You'll still have fun (hopefully!).

Remember those 2 very important words...'yes dear'.

Calabego 12-31-2008 06:42 PM

Ah, xort beat me to it. I second his comments.
Use the charter as the bait, if she bites, set the hook and get into separate lessons when you're sure she's engaged and shows an interest in the "doing" part rather than just the "going" part. Depending on your cap'n, you or both of you will be given ample opportunity to participate and learn, (provided its not just a quick sunset trip around the harbor), or be allowed to just sit back, sip your painkiller and just go along for the ride. I for one love it when my guests offer to participate, and the ones who do, and show interest, get invited back.

sck5 12-31-2008 07:54 PM

Xort and Calabego are right. You need to make sure your wife has a totally excellent experience the first time out or you are in trouble. What I did was go take some lessons myself, get certified and then take her on an easy charter with just us and our sons.

My brother in law had a sort of combined approach - He chartered a boat in the Bahamas with a captain who is also a certified ASA instructor - After a week he had his bareboat certification (he wasnt starting from zero) and his wife had 101. Now we are all (me, my wife, her sister and brother in law) going to Belize to sail around next week. My brother in law and I have been scheming and planning to get the girls addicted to sailing - making SURE they have good experiences is key - and not rushing anything. They will learn just by being on the boat and taking the wheel and seeing what happens when you tack, etc. Now my wife has said she wants to take some lessons on our new-to-us boat without me aboard. I think the good guys are winning!

yellowwducky 12-31-2008 11:31 PM

I discussed it with her. She thinks the lessons route for a week is the way to go for us. "Yes dear". Am I learning to sail now? That is a yachting term right?

So I am now looking at something like this...

Whitsunday sailing holiday yacht charters bareboat skipper yourself charters

As they have a course and also Cats (I figure it makes the most sense to learn on a Cat as the boss has already decided that if we were getting a boat it would be a Cat - "yes dear"; I am not going to argue as that is what my preference is anyway).

sailingdog 01-01-2009 05:53 AM


"Yes, Dear" should probably be your first response to anything she says... :) Arguing is futile... you'll just piss her off and end up doing it her way in the end... :)

yellowwducky 01-01-2009 08:52 AM

If I can sell here on this idea so far, now all I need to work on is working her up to a decent sized boat. We all know a 48 is better than a 42 right? ;)

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