Experiences on learning to sail - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 13 Old 06-15-2011 Thread Starter
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Experiences on learning to sail

Hi,

I am currently in the process of designing a concept for a sailboat (and/or a service related to them), and one of my goals is to make sailing easy to approach and easy to learn.

So I'd like to hear from you, what did you consider was/is the most difficult part in learning to sail and why? What was clearly the easiest part? Would you have had benefit from having some sort of automation on-board?

Thank you in advance! All feedback and comments are most welcome
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post #2 of 13 Old 06-16-2011
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On a small sloop (on which most folks learn) I don't know of too much that automation (??--not quite sure what you mean) would help, except maybe a really simple tiller autopilot to hold course while trimming sails shorthanded. But autopilots may reduce the amount of hands-on tiller time, which latter is necessary for learning.

One thing that is challenging is handling main and tiller simultaneously during a jibe--if the sheet needs to be trimmed hard just before and eased hard just after, often the tiller gets neglected and the boat rounds up after the jibe (and gets knocked down in a breeze) instead of steadying down on a 'new' broad reach. Maybe some kind of "boom-flipper' that could do a quick trim followed by an immediate quick ease of the mainsheet?

Just a thought. But part of me wonders if automation and learning to sail may not be a good combo, at least at the beginning.


PS--Fyi, I teach part-time. I think sailing is easy enough to learn, it's the accessibility of it (time, location, cost) that may deter people from taking it up more than the actual learning process.
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post #3 of 13 Old 06-17-2011 Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by nolatom View Post
On a small sloop (on which most folks learn) I don't know of too much that automation (??--not quite sure what you mean) would help, except maybe a really simple tiller autopilot to hold course while trimming sails shorthanded. But autopilots may reduce the amount of hands-on tiller time, which latter is necessary for learning.

Just a thought. But part of me wonders if automation and learning to sail may not be a good combo, at least at the beginning.

PS--Fyi, I teach part-time. I think sailing is easy enough to learn, it's the accessibility of it (time, location, cost) that may deter people from taking it up more than the actual learning process.
Yes, it seems like most people with experience are against having automation, at least for learning purposes. This has made me think of an alternative scenario: what if the automation was a reward for being able to handle different situations? So the vessel is 100% manual at first. And then if the user becomes too ignorant or simply makes a mistake, the automation would correct the situation and would require the user to again practice to re-gain the automated functions?

I'm not sure if this would appeal to experienced sailors, but I am in the understanding that most boating/sailing accidents take place when people become too oblivious or over confident.



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One thing that is challenging is handling main and tiller simultaneously during a jibe--if the sheet needs to be trimmed hard just before and eased hard just after, often the tiller gets neglected and the boat rounds up after the jibe (and gets knocked down in a breeze) instead of steadying down on a 'new' broad reach. Maybe some kind of "boom-flipper' that could do a quick trim followed by an immediate quick ease of the mainsheet?
That's a good point. I'll soon arrange a brainstorming session with some people and will include this idea.

Thanks for the input!
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post #4 of 13 Old 06-17-2011
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My C25 is my first sailboat. I bought it after a friend took me out on his 05 C36. We spent the morning sailing and he showed me many things, how they worked and why...then after lunch put me behind the wheel....and I've been hooked for life. The C36 has all the nice doodads....apparent wind, wind speed, knot meter, depth sounder, GPS, chartplotter, radios, roller furling, autohelm, etc, etc, etc. Very easy to sail, but alot of "stuff" that is nice to have.

I sail on an inland lake so don't have the "need" of many things. In fact, all I have is a windex. I do have a depth sounder but haven't installed it yet.

I rarely look at my windex. I'm learning to sail by "feel". The wind on my face tells me where to steer, as well as the direction I want to go. The telltales help me trim, along with the sounds the sails make, the heel of the boat, the weather helm in the rudder....I make adjustments depending on all of these factors and things I "sense". When I go sailing, I become one with the boat, the wind, and the waves. It's all by feel and every trip out is an incredible experience! It's Zen like really.

Automation would ruin all of this. Sure, might make it easier in a sense, but can't replace the ability to sail your boat, only enhance it. IMHO, automation, in the form of roller furlers, autohelm, electric winches, etc....all of that would come into play once you're an experienced sailor, have a larger boat you want to single hand, and are cruising coastal or blue water. These things help you ease the burden of the many tasks at hand and allow you to sit back and relax for the long haul.

Personally, I think you should learn to sail your boat manually first, then add in all the gizmos later. During the initial learning stages, having to learn the gizmos too is task loading that may exceed a student's threshold, cause frustration, introduce complexity....and could lead to a higher quit rate.


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post #5 of 13 Old 06-17-2011
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Read book. Jump in Sunfish and go. Automation not required.
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post #6 of 13 Old 06-17-2011
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Siamese has it right......read and GO. Sunfish or Dyer-dow or other small sailboat Trust me you will figure it out. With automation you will never learn EVER.
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post #7 of 13 Old 06-17-2011
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In many ways automation would be the enemy of learning to sail. There have been all kinds of schemes to automate sailing including some which were very clever analog solutions.

My favorite was a scheme where there was a simple non-electric wind indicator mounter near the deck. The arrow pointed at colored segments on a dial for each point of sail and the jib and mainsheets were also made up with colored segments that corresponded to the colors on the wind indicator. So when the arrow pointed at blue for beam reach the sheets were pulled in to the blue segment.

In theory, with even this simple automation, you could sail without knowing how to sail. But these kinds of crutches prevent someone from really learning what those adjustments mean or why they were made. To learn that the automation would need to explain what is happening, while watching for potential problems outside of the simple sailing issues, in effect becoming an automated sailing instructor. But of course, at this point in time you could pay a real sailing instructor for a dozen years for what it would cost to automate that role, and frankly, at this point a sailing instructors real eyes, and ears and experience are far more effective tools.


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post #8 of 13 Old 06-17-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeDiver View Post
IMHO, automation, in the form of roller furlers, autohelm, electric winches, etc....all of that would come into play once you're an experienced sailor, have a larger boat you want to single hand, and are cruising coastal or blue water.
I was with 'ya until the roller furlers (for the jib) -- that's something I really value.

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post #9 of 13 Old 06-17-2011
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I was with 'ya until the roller furlers (for the jib) -- that's something I really value.
Yeah, I know....I'm just justifying to myself why I shouldn't spend the money on something I REALLY want for my boat.....


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post #10 of 13 Old 06-23-2011
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Originally Posted by pamakela View Post
Hi,

I am currently in the process of designing a concept for a sailboat (and/or a service related to them), and one of my goals is to make sailing easy to approach and easy to learn.

So I'd like to hear from you, what did you consider was/is the most difficult part in learning to sail and why? What was clearly the easiest part? Would you have had benefit from having some sort of automation on-board?

Thank you in advance! All feedback and comments are most welcome
You're trying to reinvent a wheel that many many talented and passionate people have worked on for a long time. This isn't written to discourage you, but to help you look for precedents that were really game changers. 1. Look at really successful individual boats that got a lot of people on the water. 2. Look at successful business models. 3.Look at the history of gear development/refinements.

In your shoes, I'd study Hobie Alter long, hard, and seriously for both 1 and 2 a la the Hobie 14 and 16.. Rod Johnstone for 1 and 2 as well for the J-24. Write a PM to WDshock who posts here a lot and ask him about the Lido 14. It's truly a great little platform that thousands have learned on. Look at the Optimist dingy and the Open Bic. ( Sailboats for childrens or teenagers : OpenBic - Bic Sport ) The latter is very interesting. Gear? Find all the back issues of Seahorse magazine you can get your hands on, and read up on everything dealing with 'Open' class single and double handed racing. Many developments at the bleeding edge here end up making cruisers' lives much easier. Be ecumenical with the information you find as it's likely it will change the perimeters of what you think possible for your assignment. Most importantly and above all, go sailing yourself. It will give you the best ideas of 'what', 'why', and 'how' that are the precursors to knowing what could be improved.
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