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Old 04-07-2013
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Intermediate sailing class or dinghy class?

I'm just about finished with my sailing one class. We are using j22 boats. The class is 15 hours on the water and 5 in the classroom. My original plan was to take this class, then buy a boat and my wife and I would like to try to liveaboard. We've been fulltimers in our rv and we like the idea of trying this life style on a boat. Well after taking the class I realized I need to be a much more proficient sailor before I try to take my wife out. She is not a good swimmer and has always been nervous around the water. I need to be good enough to make her feel at ease.

Which brings me to my question. Do you think I'd be better off taking the dinghy sailing class or the intermediate keel boat class. I've read that dinghy sailing can make you a much better sailor overall and I've also read if you want to get better at sailing keel boats then you need to be sailing keel boats...your thoughts?

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Old 04-08-2013
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Re: Intermediate sailing class or dinghy class?

Buy a used trailer sailor. Read books, sail as often as you can, forget the lessons.
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Old 04-08-2013
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Re: Intermediate sailing class or dinghy class?

I'm a firm believer than nothing teaches basic core sailing skills like dinghy sailing. Feeling a dinghy respond to every movement of the tiller, every trim of the sail, every puff, etc. is an awesome thing and your body will be able to tell what's going on at the slightest change in wind direction, if you're pointing too high, sheeted in too much or not enough.
You will learn/improve faster and for a lot less money.

When you move up to a keel boat, those sailing skills acquired on the dinghy have become second nature and now it's more about learning the keelboat systems, docking, engine operation, etc.
And in my humble opinion, it's a lot easier to focus on those new areas when you already have a good knowledge of sailing.

In any case, whatever you choose to do, the best thing to do is too spend as much time on the water as you can.
Everytime you go out, you will learn something, no matter what boat you're on.
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Old 04-08-2013
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Re: Intermediate sailing class or dinghy class?

Dinghy sailing does make you a better sailor, since it's unforgiving and the feedback is immediate so you learn more, and faster. Those skills transfer easily up to bigger boats by simply getting used to slowing down the reaction factors. Think learning to drive in a stick-shift sports car versus an automatic SUV.

So for you, I'd say dinghy. But the "unforgiving/immediate feedback" factor may not be what your wife is looking for. So for her, the intermediate keelboat class might be the way to go, while you take the dinghy class. Or, just go out on that trailer-sailor JW recommended above.

Just a suggestion, lessons for her may make her feel more at ease than you "getting good enough" to accomplish the same. Do both if you can.
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Old 04-08-2013
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Re: Intermediate sailing class or dinghy class?

Agree that the dinghy/small boat sailing classes are better at teaching sailing skills. If you are looking to buy a boat that you can live on, you might want to take the keelboat instruction. The intermediate and advanced keelboat instruction covers rules of the road, basic navigation, anchoring, boat systems, etc. Things that dinghy sailors generally don't have to worry about too much. Or you can learn on your own.
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Old 04-08-2013
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Re: Intermediate sailing class or dinghy class?

I'm always amused by people who don't react well to boats because they're not good swimmers. The whole point of the boat is to stay out of the water.

I agree wholeheartedly with nolatom that lessons for her are more important in her comfort factor than you getting good. My wife hated healing until she took a basic sailing course. Now she's OK up to about 20 degrees. It's progress.

I've sailed dinghies and keel boats and I'm not convinced that becoming a great dinghy sailor helps you all that much on a keel boat. They really are different in so many ways. But I agree that the most important thing is time on the water in whatever you can. Also, you'll learn more in one season of racing than in 5 years of daysailing. Find a group of racers and try to get aboard as rail meat.
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Old 04-08-2013
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Re: Intermediate sailing class or dinghy class?

Heeling, not healing. She's an NP, what can I say?
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Old 04-08-2013
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Re: Intermediate sailing class or dinghy class?

Start with the dinghy's. you will learn a lot faster how to sail a boat. then any keel boat becomes just a longer dinghy.
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Old 04-08-2013
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Re: Intermediate sailing class or dinghy class?

I'm usually a big proponent of starting small, for all the reasons set forth above. And if that fits with your plans, then go for it! I'm also a big proponent of buying, rather than renting (though crewing for others can be a good option), because you learn a lot more when you actually own the boat.

All that being said, in your particular case, I think a keelboat class makes more sense than a dinghy class. You're not planning on sailing a dinghy any time soon, and your goal is to be a proficient big boat sailer. I whole heartedly agree that dinghy sailing teaches you a lot of skills that translate nicely when you move to bigger boats, but I also agree that they are different animals. It won't hurt you to focus on keel boats, and that will help you get out on the water sooner in the kind of boat you intend to own while still allowing you to learn to be a competent sailer.

Getting your wife in the dinghy class would probably be a mistake - most dinghies are tender, and she'll be heeling quite a bit, which may well turn her off to the whole notion. If you can get into a comfortable boat for the keelboat class, she may see the difference size and weight make, and be more comfortable aboard. The idea of splitting you up may make sense, depending on how receptive you think she'll be to taking the keelboat class alone.

My wife is a decent swimmer, but we have kids and that makes her very concerned about the boat's stability. She and I took lessons on a 14.5' American, and she was nervous about having our boys (at that time, ages 3 and 5) aboard. We "graduated" from there to a 25' Catalina, and have now moved up to a 31' Allmand. The difference in stability between each of those is significant. For example, when boarding the American you needed to get to the centerline as quickly as possible to avoid feeling like the boat was going to capsize. The Catalina handled people climbing aboard over the lifelines, but a roughly 200LB person would cause the boat to rock pretty well. The Allmand is significantly more stable; you almost don't notice someone climbing aboard. The boats are also comparably tender, in my opinion.
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Last edited by jimgo; 04-08-2013 at 01:41 PM.
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Old 04-08-2013
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Re: Intermediate sailing class or dinghy class?

I've learned a ton by owning my own boats, but a lot of that has been on how to maintain and repair boats, not only on how to sail them.

The two best sailors that I know have never owned a boat. I aspire to be as good of a sailor as them one day. They also have a lot less money invested in the sport by renting instead of owning. Both have been sailing instructors and have tons of access to smaller boats through that. I love introducing friends to sailing and hope to teach beginning sailing soon.

I took a single class and have been a mix of self taught and taught by inviting more experienced crew to sail with me. This has worked well (and I'm lucky to have many good sailors who are friends), but I think I could have benefited from instruction as well (especially with handling large inboard-driven keelboats in tight quarters).

At a minimum I'd suggest that your classes should cover enough sailing that you can understand how to safely handle the boat in a variety of wind conditions, do man overboard rescues in a few different ways, steer the boat with the sails (doing that helps you understand how to balance the sails), hove-to in rough conditions, and dock under sail (in addition to docking under power). Classes will help you get experienced in a variety of sailboats, which will make you a more informed buyer when you do get your own. I know that I found it difficult to understand the differences in how 20', 22', 25', and 30' boats would feel and sail in a different sea conditions without personal experience.
boats that I sail on regularly: Pearson 28-2, Rondar 505, Yankee 30, Blanchard Junior
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Last edited by Alex W; 04-08-2013 at 02:03 PM.
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