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CambridgeKid 06-20-2011 01:09 PM

How much experience before...
How much sailing experience is it worth having before buying your own boat? I have zero at the moment. How much time did you spend on another's boat before you made the plunge and bought your first?

arknoah 06-20-2011 01:43 PM

Honestly, I didn’t wait long at all. I took a sailing class in June of 2010, and purchased a little 17 foot racing-type boat in summer not long before school started again. Once it became clear that my family wanted to go out and we needed more space, I purchased a 25 foot MacGregor sloop. That was in November. We got the boat out of the marina where it was stored and launched it on May 21 of this year. So, from sailing class (and really the only significant sailing experience I had) to boat purchase was only 5 months. Having said that, I was sold on sailing when I took my class, so I was pretty sure I was going to like it long term.

I’m perhaps one extreme, but there are also people who purchased boats before they learned how to sail, though I don’t know how much sailing they had done on other people’s boats before their purchases.

To answer your other question, I looked for awhile before I purchased the MacGregor, looking at other boat types and evaluating what I thought I wanted. I also asked my instructor more questions about compromises on boat types than he probably wanted to answer. Once I was confident I knew what I wanted, and didn't want, I felt comfortable making the purchase.

The amount of time will obviously vary with the person.

Tim R. 06-20-2011 01:58 PM

Depends on what you think your first boat should be. I honestly think starting off with dinghys will make you a better sailor faster. You can start with a bigger boat but you will not understand sailing as quickly. There are very few exceptions to this. But dinghy sailing will not teach you proper anchoring techniques, navigation, MOB, boat maintenance and other aspects associated with larger boats.

I would suggest the following:

- Buy a small sailing dinghy
- Try to get as much experience on OPBs
- Do some chartering
- purchase your own larger boat and keep the dinghy as a tender

HopefulRookie 06-20-2011 04:35 PM

My wife and I have no exp. sailing and we are looking at a Catalina 25. The PO is willing to give us some lessons and we have a good bit of work ahead of us. We will only be on a lake so should be a good learning environment.

tomandchris 06-20-2011 09:20 PM

If the Catalina is in good shape, and it works for you, then go ahead. I understand the idea of starting in a dingy and working up, but a C25 is not really that big to start with if you get a little help and do a lot of reading.

The question not asked, and that rarely is, is what is your long term plan...if any. It is great to start in a dingy, move to a 2o something, then a 30 something, and finally a really big boat so you can start downsizing when you are older. The problem arrives when you are already 60 something and by the time you arrive at your destination you cannot handle the dingy let alone the big boat. C25 is a great little boat and you can learn on it. Have at it.

BarryL 06-20-2011 10:05 PM


Back when I was in high school (early 80's, yes, I'm old), I did some sailing on friend's parent's boats. Fast forward to 2003 and my wife and I decided that a sailboat would a good idea. I did some research and ended up with a Catalina 22. It was easy enough to learn to rig and sail. I trailer sailed it the first year and got a mooring the second year.

What I didn't plan on was getting totally hooked on sailing. Soon I wanted a boat that my family of 5 could spend a weekend on and a few years after that I wanted something big enough for us to spend a week on.

Anyway, I think that if you start fairly small and fairly cheap that you really can't lose.


CambridgeKid 06-20-2011 10:11 PM

I guess I worry about getting in over my head, but your advice seems sound. I'm thinking two months taking lessons here in the harbor and sailing with friends to get some one-on-one instruction is great, but once I've done that and some reading...all that's really left to do is dive in and get a boat of my own, no? Flawed thinking?

JoeDiver 06-20-2011 10:44 PM

I'd been sailing twice in my life:

When I was a very young kid in the 70's...on a Hobie Cat.....all I remember was going very fast, holding on to the trampoline like deck, and seeing my dad and the guy who owned it standing on the outside hull as the boat tilted way up.

Back in February, a friend took me out on his Catalina 36, and nice newish 2005 model. He spent a couple hours teaching me stuff, we did some tacks and I pulled sheets...he told sailing stories....then put me behind the wheel. As I became one with the boat, wind, waves and was in control of that magnificent vessel, something changed in me.

6 weeks later I bought my Catalina 25!:)

I've been teaching myself to sail... and getting out there and sailing! Plus, all the work I've been doing on my own boat has been richly rewarding, making her my own.

wingNwing 06-21-2011 09:14 AM

Our story is a lot like JoeDiver's: Spent 1 afternoon as a kid on a friend's sailing dinghy, 1 afternoon as an adult on a friend's Catalina 24, got so hooked that we signed up for a 1-week liveaboard learn-to-sail course, and bought our Erickson 27 the following summer. Taught ourselves from there, made lots of mistakes, learned the systems on that relatively simple boat. 2 years later bought our present boat and 2 years after that sold the house and moved aboard fulltime.

The conventional wisdom is to start with dinghy sailing and then graduate to a bigger boat ... makes sense for some people, but its not the only route that will get you there. A boat in the 20-something-foot size range is still light and simple enough that you can learn and make mistakes - and sell without too much of a financial hit when its time.

pdqaltair 06-21-2011 10:12 AM

I built some models as a kid. I understood the priciples.

After college I rented a Sunfish for a few hours without instruction. I was hooked. A few weeks later I happened to be at the Beach during the Hobie 16 Nationals and was thrilled by the spectical; it was a seriously large fleet. I bought a used beach cat a few weeks later.

I would never have learned to LOVE sailing if I had not spent years flying and getting wet on a beach cat. There is no substitute for small fast boats, for fun and for learning. I'm comfortable in a blow on a big cat because I really pressed that small boat.

Personally, I'm not much for leasons: read a book, get a small boat, and go for it. In a few seasons moving up will be easy, and the small boat will sell for what you paid for it.

I wish I still had the beach cat.

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