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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail > how necessary are lessons?
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Thread: how necessary are lessons? Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
05-13-2011 02:33 PM
MarkSF I just did the Coastal Nav, 105 over the winter. That's a good one to do while the weather's bad and there's no sailing. Although I found that a bit difficult.. passed & well, but it made me sweat a little during the exam!
05-13-2011 02:23 PM
cb32863 I tend to agree with the lesson folks here. 101 & 103 are great but, 105 is Coastal Navigation, that is a good one to have under your belt as well. My 2 cents of a year and a half of knowledge suggests, 101, 103, & 105. 104 can be fun too. I took 103 & 104 together in the Apostle Islands last year. Was a great time. I agree with MarkSF, they are like mini vacations.

05-13-2011 02:17 PM
MarkSF Another reason to do ASA101 and 103 - they were fun! Each time I took a week off work and did the course during 4 days. Had a great but exhausting time. They were like mini-vacations for me. Welcome change of pace from work.

Looking forward to doing 104 next summer maybe.
05-13-2011 01:46 PM
MITBeta
My two cents

Here's my perspective:

I took the US Sailing Basic Keelboat course last fall and jumped into the Basic Cruising course to follow up on it this past weekend. I don't own a boat and don't have much experience. In the BC class with me were two guys who already owned boats and were looking to learn more about how to sail them.

One of the guys who owned his own boat and had been sailing it for years dropped out after the first day of class. He said that he didn't understand a thing the instructor was talking about (vocabulary...). He said that he had no idea why were doing what were doing (sailing theory...). He said he must have been put in the wrong course, and I can only hope that he didn't give up altogether, but instead dropped into the BK course.

The point is that self taught sailors can get to a certain point by themselves, but until you're working with others with an instructor forcing you to use the correct terms, constantly quizzing, etc. there's going to be a gap in knowledge.

Second point: If I were you, I'd take the classes now in smaller boats. Don't wait until you get your own boat. It may be worth it once you get your boat to hire an instructor for a day or two to go over the systems and establish procedures for the boat, but start laying down the background now.

Good luck.
05-12-2011 12:44 PM
jcwhite Thanks for all the great responses - I'm glad they're still coming.

I went out on a friend's boat last night for the first of my many learn-from-sailing-with-other-people trips. Informal wednesday night racing (well, some people take it more seriously, as I learned from the shouting in other cockpits). Got a bit of an education in winches, spinnakers and race tactics while I was there.

I read through the syllabus Jackdale linked, and I was impressed enough to want to take some courses OR sail for a while with an instructor aboard my own boat. I haven't started researching particular instructors or organizations, because I have no intention of doing so until after I've purchased my own boat (one thing at a time, and I'm still spending time on OPBs to learn exactly what I'm looking for in my own boat).

It sounds like the largest issues people are bringing up are 1) tides and currents, 2) rules of the road 3) consequences of error. Another issue that is very pertinent to me personally is 4) deck gear on a mid-size boat. Now to address them in order:

1) I'm an oceanographer and a whitewater paddler. This means a few things. The less important facets are that I have a reasonable idea how and where tidal currents form, and have an excellent idea how boats handle in current (if it's got a keel, that can be summarized as "badly"). The more important facets are that I have HUGE respect for current (yes, I've seen the Skook wave, and I've canoed and kayaked on stuff like that, or bigger, a lot more than my grandmother would care to find out), also that I know where to find the tide and current tables for my area, and any area where I might be going. I will have those tables with me on board at all times, and I know how to read them. I've watched fibreglass boats shatter on rocks, and I've crawled out to stand on the rocks that wrecked them and wait for rescue. It wasn't fun, and I don't want it to happen again.

2) I know most of the rules of the road, and I know how complicated the other ones are. If I get into a situation in which I'm unsure, I'm more than willing to give way in the interests of safety, and make use of my radio (I've got that ticket already). More than Right of Way, however, I'm quite aware of the Right of Weight. I would never go and play with a freighter - it doesn't matter who's at fault, he's still gonna win. I use the same tactics riding my motorcycle.

3) Yes, the water is cold. No, I don't want to be in it. I've never been on hand to help rescue someone out there, but definitely listened to them on VHF 16. It's not fun, and I spent the whole time trying to dissect exactly what happened, why, and how I can not have it happen to me.

4) This is actually the point that is of most concern to me. I would have to and will spend a lot of time playing with the gear before I start sailing with it and working under load. It would be a slow process, likely starting with having only the main up and only going out in light winds, and gradually moving from sail to sail as my comfort level and skills increase. These are the skills that I'm most interested in improving in my little trips around the harbour. I also think that these are the skills that can get me into the most trouble (example: I'm sailing along, happily knowing exactly where I am, how fast I'm going, and what the tides are doing. I go for a tack, tangle a winch, get a bit stressed because my headsail is stuck in the wrong place, don't notice that my wheel torqued over a bit, veer towards the side of the channel, get into some stronger current, and then I'm on the rocks. Would the whole starts from a simple winch error. Of course, I could also have lost a finger or had some other mishap. The snowball effect is pretty common for disaster scenarios).

SeaLifeSailing - thanks for pointing that out about the commercial vs cruising certificates and the insurance companies. I hadn't considered that, and it makes a fair bit of sense.
05-11-2011 01:10 PM
strandedsooner
Blackfish Al

I did a daysail in Victoria with Blackfish Al. It was an awesome experience and I found out he is a CYA instructor as well. Might be worth giving him a call since he's in your area.
05-11-2011 10:25 AM
VetMike I agree. A boating safety course is a must and all insurance companies look favorably on some formal instruction. The ASA 101 and 103 course should be all you need. Otherwise, get out there and sail! Dent a boat. bend a mast but sail and enjoy!
05-11-2011 09:45 AM
BubbleheadMd
Quote:
Originally Posted by lapworth View Post
I disagree I have learned much more solo sailing and from Asa 101 courses.
You need to race more, and on boats more complicated than mine.

Actually, if (probably) I sign up for the fall or Frostbite races again, we will be spinnaker division. This will give you a whole lot more to do up there at the pointy end of the boat.
05-11-2011 08:18 AM
SeaLifeSailing
Insurance discounts

JC, I am not trying to defend the insurance company folks; they will always find a great way to make the most money possible. The reason they won't give you discounts for the commercial stuff, is because it doesn't reduce the likelihood of you putting your sailboat onto a lee shore. In other words, those tickets make you a much more competent mariner, but not in terms that meaningfully mitigate their risks of having to pay out a claim against your new sailboat. I have trained lifelong freighter captains and they were surprised how much new information they picked up in a few days, because the content is specifically relevant to cruising boats and the scenarios we find ourselves in, which are very different from the risks on large, powered commercial craft. In terms of personal risk, I've seen experienced sailors doing things around winches that could one day cost them some fingers, or worse yet, a thumb. On my boat, in 20 kts of wind, there's something like 4000 lbs of line force on my Genoa sheets. When the sail is flogging, the peak line force can be much more than that. The cost of a moment's inattention can be very different than in a dinghy. Just sayin'...

Quote:
Originally Posted by jcwhite View Post
Thanks folks!

I am indeed in the PNW - I'll be mooring in Victoria (and yes, when I was last around the West side of the island it was aboard the Pacific Grace). I can't pretend I know the waters around Victoria like the back of my hand, but I do know how the currents form and where the rocks are likely to be (oceanographer ) so I'd be staying away from the rips and channels. I've been out on sailboats a fair bit - what will be new is the skippering, not the sailing.

That being said, I read through the syllabus Jack linked, and I was reasonably impressed. The chartwork, rules of the road and weather stuff I could quiz on now (I did so as I read it), but there's a lot in other sections that I didn't know (some of the power-oriented skills, rescuing a MOB under sail). I'll certainly put both of those courses fairly high up on my list. I'll also be fishing around for recommended instructors . . .

While I can't say that I'll take the course before I ever leave the dock, I will certainly take it, and reasonably soon. One thing re: insurance. I was talking to a Dolphin broker, and they were going to give me $15/yr off my insurance with a CYA course (not much, but a little). I was amazed, however, that she wasn't willing to give me anything for commercial/TC tickets (like an SVOP, MED A3, MED A1/2, etc), or for my previous offshore sea time (which is signed off by the skipper). Is that common?

Also, I have to ask: YeahJohn, did you mean you took a course in 'cruising', or was it actually 'cursing'? 'Cause I'd definitely take a course on how to curse like an old sailor . . .
05-11-2011 07:50 AM
SeaLifeSailing
Lessons: yay or nay

I am going to weigh in on this one.

As an instructor, of course I am biased, but here's why.

Putzing around in a sunfish on a warm inland lake is an awesome way to learn how to sail, and those of us who learned to sail this way, often encourage others to do so.

But if you're planning on going sailing in the Gulf islands, at very least, get out there with some experienced sailors first of all. We have some of the fastest tidal passes anywhere, due to the incredible amount of volume of water entering and exiting the Georgia Straight twice a day. Our water looks beautiful and calm, but we get some challenging conditions, and they can evolve pretty quickly. Planning on sailing up to Skookumchuck Narrows? The current there runs at over 15 kts at max flood, and I've seen videos of huge tugs being overturned. You have a 5 minute window there at slack tide to safely make that passage. Care to play roulette with your boat and your life, or does a lesson make sense?

Not sure where the shipping lanes are, and what the rules of the road are?
"Geez, I'm sailing, doesn't that give me priority over the freighter that's bearing down on me at 35 kts?" Not if you're in a commercial shipping lane, it doesn't.

Our water temps in the Straight mean that if you wind up overboard, whether in winter or in mid summer, you're into severe hypothermia in 40 minutes; the kind where they airlift you to the hospital if you're lucky enough to have your hand-held with you when you hit the drink.

If you don't believe me, pick up a cheap VHF handheld, and monitor channel 16 on a busy long weekend. You'll get a quick education in how many things can go wrong, really quickly. And most of the people calling in their 'May-Day's' are 'experienced boaters'. I don't mean to sound heavy-handed, by I interrupt my own sailing holidays quite a bit to help out boaters who are out there figuring it out on their own. Hitting a shoal while sailing at 8 knots though, may cost you your boat.

No, formal instruction will not stop you from making mistakes, and you need to make a whole bunch of your own. Only not sailing will prevent that. But formal lessons will point out in advance, a whole pile of classic blunders that can be very expensive. You don't need 'a bazillion courses and get a million certifications before you leave the marina', but some on the water instruction is a pretty good idea. If you don't want to get formal lessons, definitely spend some time on the water with experienced skippers. If you do decide to take on-the-water courses, then choose them based on the kind of sailing you plan on doing. If you plan on cruising, take a cruising course. If you plan on racing, follow that track. But the cost of a 4-day sailing trip with a professional instructor is less than my annual haul-out and bottom paint, or a couple of month's moorage.

And in the winter, why not take a coastal navigation course and the VHF radio operator's course? Cheap courses and money well spent. The cheapest insurance is the knowledge of how NOT to wreck your boat. Boats and everything on them are expensive; lessons are cheap. I was a self-taught sailor, and in the process of going through a whole series of courses, was shocked at how many knowledge gaps I had. Anyhow, that's my 2 cents worth.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jcwhite View Post
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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