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  #11  
Old 12-13-2011
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I personally do not think you can become a competent sailor in a week of courses. Competency requires some level of hands-on experience from which you develop the necessary judgement and responses. I'd suggest you look around for a local club, some one must be frostbiting int he area, and see if you can spend get some weekends in as crew and then skippers in small boats. The take your classes.

If you do the class (and get the certifications as I suspect you would), be sure next Spring to get yourselves into a club boat somewhere and spend a few weeks with your hands on a tiller...before you head out of a harbor as the skipper of a cruising boat....
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Even after they get their 1 week cert most people can tell that they are not really sailors yet. Trust your own gut not someone you paid a few hundred to for a piece of paper for your own safety.
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I think rather than spending hundreds of dollars on a sailing course you might want to put the money into a small sailing dink and spend a season all by yourself sailing it and observing how the boat responds. You can supplement this by reading a few books but nothing beats one on one with just you and the wind. From there you can move up to larger and larger vessels. When you can dock a full keel boat like an Ensign under just sail alone you can assume you are now compentent enough to take on a larger vessel. It seems too many folks want to jump into a 35 or larger vessel and go cruising by paying for a course and getting a certificate rather than spending time on the water all by yourself.
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I agree with Sailingfool and you guys. I took the class for keelboating, but supplementing with reading book after book and also crewing a bit. I feel comfortable on a boat, and ready for a first season exploring locally sailing on my boat and on others. The catch is that the classes are just a great way to get some hands on experience thats all about your skill level. I dont recommend assuming competence based on certificates, that comes only with experience. I do recommend classes, because it will be a great way to get familiar and learn the safe way to do things (often not taught by friends or other sailors), and because it's a fun albeit small part of learning to sail...
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I think it's important to take a certified course, as well as get a lot of experience.

For myself, i know i'm new. I started sailing 8 months ago. I took my Basic Keelboating Standard, read 'The Sailing Bible', 'Sailing For Dummies', and 'The Complete Sailor'. After that, I logged over 150 hours this summer cruising and racing my club's fleet of J24s. After one season, i'm quite capable of safely single-handing a small keelboat. I also know that I'm not familiar enough for the 30'-plus yachts yet. That's what I'm expecting my Intermediate Standard to help with.

The summer's cruising/racing experience taught me much more than the course did, but the course went through the safety aspects that are necessary and often overlooked if you just buy a boat and cast off. Similar to taking Drivers Education before getting your driver's license, you'll be fine 99% of the time but might need that special training for the dangerous 1%. To me, the danger of not knowing what to do in an emergency justifies taking formal training.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InkyMatt View Post
I think it's important to take a certified course, as well as get a lot of experience.

For myself, i know i'm new. I started sailing 8 months ago. I took my Basic Keelboating Standard, read 'The Sailing Bible', 'Sailing For Dummies', and 'The Complete Sailor'. After that, I logged over 150 hours this summer cruising and racing my club's fleet of J24s. After one season, i'm quite capable of safely single-handing a small keelboat. I also know that I'm not familiar enough for the 30'-plus yachts yet. That's what I'm expecting my Intermediate Standard to help with.

The summer's cruising/racing experience taught me much more than the course did, but the course went through the safety aspects that are necessary and often overlooked if you just buy a boat and cast off. Similar to taking Drivers Education before getting your driver's license, you'll be fine 99% of the time but might need that special training for the dangerous 1%. To me, the danger of not knowing what to do in an emergency justifies taking formal training.
You have expressed very well the need for both experience and training. I often tell prospective instructors that they need to have made a lot of mistakes before they can teach. There is nothing quite like saying "and when that happened to me ..."

You can also use the experience of the instructor to avoid some emergencies.

In many ways dinghies will help to improve your sailing skills, they will not be of much assistance in developing cruising skills and knowledge.
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