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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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  #1  
Old 04-11-2011
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how necessary are lessons?

I'm pondering how high a priority I should put on finding instruction (not necessarily formal lessons, more likely just sailing with experienced skippers).

I'm no stranger to boats, and can happily sail around aimlessly (I can even lay a course with set and drift, which is more than some). I've never raced, and have no idea how to bend a mast to change the shape of a sail.

Would I be a fool to pick a light day and go tack around? Should I carefully wait until I've spent more time on boats of a similar size? Should I take a bazillion courses and get a million certifications before I leave the marina? I really feel like I should d*mn well just go and make my own mistakes, but I still have enough rational thought left to question this foolish idea.

How great a store do you set by whatever CYA/AYA courses or racing as compared to old fashioned learning?
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Old 04-11-2011
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You're on Vancouver Island? Specifically where? And what are you thinking about sailing. From the sound of your post, you've been in a boat, but not a sailboat. Is this correct?
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Old 04-11-2011
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Ummm, huge

Sailing lessons are not going to prevent you from "making your own ... mistakes." You will make mistakes. Hopefully, the lessons will give you enough background to recover from them.

I'm not talking about racing tactics, but the essentials of safety, weather, rules of the road, etc.

Unless your sailing in your bathtub, your mistakes will pose a risk to yourself, your passengers, and everyone on a boat nearby. Would you tell a novice driver to "just get on the highway and make your own mistakes?"
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Old 04-11-2011
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Find a few low hanging bridges, that should give you some mast bending training right quick. :-)

The level of foolishness of just going out and playing around is directly proportional to the size of the boat you're piloting and how much room you have to do it, but given those things, you should be fine. I would recommend you read at least this book: The Complete Sailor. It's an easy read and it will give you a lot of the basic theory that will make that playing around much more productive.

If you have access to a small sailing dinghy, that would help a lot as well, just to get the idea of changing the shape on a small, easy to maneuver sail.

Finally, look around for nearby sailing clubs. Often the lowest level membership is reasonably affordable and you may be introduced to some experienced sailors who would love to have you out on their boat to show you the ropes, or even better, may join you on your boat for a few hours.
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Old 04-11-2011
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In as much that you mention bending mast and things you seem to have some knowledge. Go sail! The more you do something the more you learn! Lessons would be nice too. shorten the learning curve.
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Old 04-11-2011
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What Denise said. Set and drift, you're at the head of the class, most don't even know what that means.
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Old 04-11-2011
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Lessosn are the fast track to more effecient, and safer sailing. Plenty of people learn by themselves. It's not rocket science, but lessosn will keep you away from starting out with bad habits..........i2f
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Old 04-11-2011
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Welcome fellow Canuck.

The east side of Vancouver Island is one of the hardest places to sail; large tides, big currents, unmarked (but charted) rocks, and light winds (in summer).

I would suggest lessons. Best you learn from the experience of an instructor, rather than making your own mistakes.

Both CYA and ISPA have very good standards. For cruising, the basic level and intermediate courses along with coastal navigation should get you started on the right track. You will also need a PCOC for boats with engines and a VHF card. First aid may also be recommneded or required.

Of course, as an instructor, I am somewhat biased.

Jack
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Old 04-11-2011
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I have never taken a sailing lesson. I grew up sailing a sunfish like boat and my uncle's C&C 24. After several years away from sailing (college until I was 30), my wife and I bought the C&C 24 from my uncle. I remembered most of the basics and read a couple of books.

The one thing I would recommend is a boating safety course. We have the US Power Squadrons and Coast Guard Auxiliary that put them on in the states. I am not sure what you have but something that will cover who has right of way, how to read a chart, how to plot a course, what safety equipment you should have and how to use it. That kind of basic stuff. You could even do them online. The US Power Squadron American Boating Course is available online.

How is the boat shopping going?
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Old 04-11-2011
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One thing to consider is that insurance companies look favorably on formal training. You have no way to prove that you have spent the last 10 years sailing your friends boat, but if you have the ASA 101 and 103 certificates that means something to them. I have taken them. They don't teach much that you can not read in a good book, but you can prove that you know it. You may get some money back from the lessons on lower insurance rates.
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