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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest Forums > Learning to Sail
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  #1  
Old 01-25-2010
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How do I begin??

Hello,

I know this question must be asked often so please excuse me. I live about 3 hours from the coast of Maine and have a real desire to begin sailing. I have motor boating experience and a deep respect for the ocean. I'd like to buy a 27ish ft weekender with the goal of coastal sailing. Fortunately I have access to at least 2 skilled sailors that are willing to get me started. So my question is it is a bad idea to just buy the boat I want and learn to sail on it (with my friends help)? If not what are some suggestions? Thank you in advance.
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Old 01-25-2010
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Hey luv - welcome to SN dude. That's basically what I did - but I sail in a lake so it's much more forgiving for new sailors like me.

A big challenge I think is knowing enough to pick the right boat with the limited knowledge of a beginner. I own a C27 and personally feel it's a great learning boat that fits everything you've laid out above. But many advocate starting smaller - for perfectly good reasons.

I'd say dig really deeply into your questions around here and rely on your sailing friends to help you with your decisions. Try to get out on as many boats as you can and learn (I sailed a H30 and an O'Day 25 prior to finding the C27) - and ASA lessons are well worth the money in my opinion.

Sailing is the best thing ever invented. Enjoy it.

Many salts around here will give you great advice (I ain't one of them). Enjoy the place.
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  #3  
Old 01-25-2010
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Not really a bad idea to buy a boat and get help from friends to learn to sail it, but there may be better ways. A few reasons why purchasing a boat before you know how to sail include:
  • it is impossible to know whether you like small boat, large boat, trimaran, or catamaran sailing without ever trying any of them. Sailing a small dinghy is much different that sailing a 35' keelboat (though I happen to enjoy both very much) You may, in fact, end up with a "dog" of a boat that sails like a sunken bathtub and turns you off to the sport, whereas another boat that handles easily, sails comfortably, etc might really turn you on to sailing. Once you buy a boat, you are at least committed to that boat for a time, since a bad boat is even harder to unload than a good boat.
  • How do you know what boat you want to purchase? (See point 1 above) A boat is not an insignificant purchase, and each style/model has very different characteristics from other styles, even if they may "look" the same to an untrained eye. It may be easier to research a good first boat when you understand what is involved in sailing.
  • Purchasing the boat is usually just the beginning of the expenses. It is better to make sure you like sailing before you plop down $10-15K or (sometimes a lot) more for the boat, another $10K for repair/refit and sails, and the list goes on. I certainly love owning my boat, but the initial purchase price is just the beginning. Not to mention that you would be buying a boat without any sailing experience or sailboat knowledge, which is risky even if you have a survey done to ensure the boat won't sink the first time it hits the water.
I am not trying to discourage you, but possibly sailing a few times with friends, crewing on a few local "beer can" races, or taking a local sailing course might be beneficial as a good way to get yourself introduced to sailing. Hopefully you will love sailing, and then you can start down that steep and treacherous path to sailboat ownership.

On the other hand, if you know for sure the boat is a good, safe, simple, and comfortable boat, and you have the money to spend, learning to sail can be fun on your own boat. Good luck.
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Old 01-25-2010
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In my humble opinion, sail on your friends' boats first and get a sense of what you like and don't like. Figure out what features in a boat are important to you. You want to cruise, but do you want to go out for a week at a time? A month? Overnight? Do you like to camp out on the water, or are creature comforts important?

Given the size of boat you are considering (27-ish), these are very important questions. Smaller than that, and you won't find likely find standing headroom or an inboard engine. However, the boats are much cheaper and make fabulous daysailers/weekenders. Once you hit 28 feet, the options for cruising comfort open up. The flip side is that costs are exponentially higher. You don't want to pay for features, systems and amenities (both in up front costs and in ongoing maintenance) that you will never use. Also, if you grow in your ambitions as you gain experience (or if you just made a mistake), I think it is easier to sell a small boat and move up than vice versa.

In any case, its a fun dilemma. Let us know what you do. Good luck and happy hunting.
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Old 01-25-2010
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To be honest, your desire is modest and achievable. You didn't say something like "I've never been on a boat, but want to sail around the world. What should I buy and what do I need to know?" In those cases, you can almost hear the collective drawing of a single breath from Sailnet because the answer in that case is so big. But Sailnet-ers are polite and try to help guide the newbie.

While I would prefer any new sailor to learn sailing on a smallish daysailor (14'-18'), 27' isn't to big a leap. In Maine, you can sail many coves and in protected water while learning. Of course, you could buy that small daysailor, save the drive, and learn to sail the many lakes which must be near you. Then after 3 or 4 years, move up. You won't have so big an investment in the little boat that it will prevent you from moving up if you can't sell it.

My Dad learned on a Sunfish, moved to a GP14 that he built, then to a Cat 22, Cat 27, & Cat 30. It was a progression that lasted about 20 years before my sister and I bought our own boats and he sold his. When my wife wanted to learn, we crewed on a Sabre 34, then bought a GP14 where she soloed, then we bought a Sabre 28, then the 38. We wouldn't have taken the each step unless she was comfortable.

Sailing is a journey, each step is its own experience. But start small and don't be in too big a rush to get to the big boats. They have their own set of problems and joys. Sometimes I wish that I had a Bic Open.

Do it.
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Last edited by Sabreman; 01-25-2010 at 04:53 PM.
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  #6  
Old 01-25-2010
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I would highly recommend sailing a few times on other people's boats, like Padean said, so you can get a feel for what you like, don't like, want, don't want in a boat. Try as many different boats as you can, so you can get a feel for what would work for you.

One other thing to consider is whether you want a trailerable boat or not. There are a lot of boats in the 25-28' range that are trailerable, and owning a trailerable boat can have some major advantages over a non-trailerable boat.

First is the cost of storage. If you live someplace where you can park the trailer, say in your driveway or behind your house, then your costs of storing the boat during the off-season will be much lower than if you have to keep it at a boatyard.

Second, if you feel like trying a different sailing area, you can make 55 mph to windward with a trailerable boat, which will greatly increase the areas you can sail in over a season.

Third, hauling out a non-trailerable boat can be expensive and leaves you at the yard's mercy...owning a trailerable boat means you have a lot more flexibility in when and where you launch or haul her, even if you decide to keep the boat in a marina most of the time.

However, there are some downsides to having a trailerable boat. First, many trailerable boats have less room inside than do the non-trailerable boats.

Second, there is the cost of owning and operating the trailer and having a vehicle large enough to tow it safely.

Third, some of the better choices, depending on the type of sailing you want to do, aren't trailerable.

That said, I'd point out that keeping a boat on a mooring or in a slip can often mean the difference between getting in that short afternoon sail or not. That may not be as important in your case, as you're three hours from where you might likely store the boat, but it does make a difference. Even the best trailerable boat will be easier to get away on if it is kept rigged and in the water. My boat, a rather large trailerable, is normally on a mooring at a marina during the season.

As Padean said, owning a boat is a pretty big commitment, and your OP doesn't mention whether you've had any experience in owning a boat. They're expensive. They're a lot of work. They take up a lot of time and effort to maintain properly. If you're up for that, then get some sailing in this season and figure out what kind of boat you really want—and then buy it.
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  #7  
Old 01-25-2010
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What great advice. I own a V6 Dodge Dakota but don't know if this vehicle has enough muscle to pull a larger trailorable boat. It would be great to begin in some of the lakes nearbye (Lake George, Schroon) and even the Hudson River, which is also nearby. I've gone out in my friends 17 ft sailboat on a nearby lake and have gotten some practice in there but don't have many other option than this. I also think it was good advice recommending a sailing class too. this would give me the opportunity to sail different boats that I don't have access to and provide me with the basics.

When the time comes any recommendations for a trailorable boat? I have moved away from the MacGregor (water ballast) as I've heard the sailing is less than desirable. Also I would like a weekender so that my wife, daughter and I can really get out on the water. Eventually I'd like to include another couple but don't want to get ahead of myself.

Thank you all again this is very helpful!
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Old 01-25-2010
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A Catalina 22 circa 1980's or 90's will get you on the water cheaply and with a sturdy boat. Just make sure that the centerboard pendant and eye are in good shape. You can trailer it and use it on lakes or larger bodies of water. Can overnight on it too.

Another small boat that I want is an International Moth. Those boats rip. Sometimes I just want to sail without all the hassle of engines, winches, blah, blah, blah.
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Old 01-26-2010
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Gotta agree with Sabreman: you can't go wrong with the Cat 22 or 25 for those lakes. I also recommend looking at the Oday family of trailerables too: the 22 (and 222), 23 and 25. Stick to the later versions (I would avoid the pop top 23's with the iron keels; they leak and rust, respectively). I like the keel/centerboard design of the Odays better than the swing keel/crank of the Catalinas. But the Catalinas are great boats with great support. Any of these boats would fit the bill. Buy the one that is in the best shape with the newest outboard and sails.

btw, I LOVE Schroon Lake. I went to summer camp there back in the day every year. I learned to sail on Sunfish and Sailfish on that lake. The camp is long gone, but I have very fond memories of the greater Pottersville area. Had my first illegal beer at the Brown Bear!
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Old 01-26-2010
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Find your local Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron and take one of their basic sailing classes. Cost is nominal, and you'll learn all the most important, basic principles of sailing, and, when your friends are teaching you how to sail, you'll have a better understanding of it all.

For your first boat, keep it simple. If you buy a boat with complicated systems, you'll spend more time figuring out how to operate the boat's systems, and how to keep them working, than figuring out how to sail the boat. A Catalina 22 or similar boat would be a good choice. Get a boat with an outboard engine. An outboard engine is reliable, and it's much easier to learn to maneuver a sailboat with an outboard engine, than a sailboat with an inboard engine. Don't worry about whether your first boat will meet your long-term goals for a sailboat. Think of it as a learning platform, that you'll sail for a year or two, until you learn more about the sport, and can make informed decisions about your next sailboat, such as, whether you are more interested in cruising or racing, and, whether you want to stay small or move up in size.
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