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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail > How big is too big to start out?
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Thread: How big is too big to start out? Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
03-19-2002 01:38 PM
scnicklefritz
How big is too big to start out?

EricS., A laser is a great boat to learn to sail on. They are cheap, easily trailerable and very easy to rig.
03-19-2002 12:15 AM
Tantalus2k
How big is too big to start out?

Another two cents worth....

I would encourage someone reasonably young to start out small also. There is just nothing quite like the thrill of learning on a small boat. When you get out on a good breezy day, with the boat heeling as you sail close to the wind...main sheet in one hand and tiller in the other...fighting to keep it right on the edge...feels like you''re traveling about 60 miles an hour (in reality your lucky to be doing 5 or 6).
In short..buy something small to learn on...a few hundred bucks for the learning experience, and you can always buy the big boat later.
03-09-2002 07:12 PM
cantwisle
How big is too big to start out?

I have been sailing a Macgregor 22 for a number of years and would highly reccommend one for starting out. It has a heavy swing keel which is a lot more reassuring than a small dingy that is easily capsizable. It trailers nicely and launches just about anywhere off the trailer. I started out with smaller boats but moved up to this one for greater comfort level with children in rough water. (Someone out there mentioned they have one for sale.)
01-03-2002 05:10 PM
DARE-Oriental
How big is too big to start out?

Trusted names,Sparkman and Stephens designed the Blue Jay as a trainer. At <14'' it might work great for an 11 yr old, yet dad can be somewhat comfortable also.
01-01-2002 09:38 AM
valhalla2005
How big is too big to start out?

Hi.
Yes, it would be excessive.
Start as small as your son''s bodyweight allows. This will help awoiding any future fear, and creates a lot of confidence.
I started with an Optimist at five and now, 28 years later I''m confident sailing anything that floats. Always change size of boat and type of rigging, centerboard to keel etc as carfully as possible.
12-31-2001 10:20 AM
EricS.
How big is too big to start out?

Thanks BIG RED 56. Sage advice to be sure. Have to say I am thrilled that my son at 10 has already been lured by the sea as opposed to any vice of contemporary living. Who knows, with any luck, perhaps young people will be reading Treasure Island and other sea stories again.

Fair winds and a following sea to you.
12-27-2001 03:38 AM
BigRed56
How big is too big to start out?

Ahoy, Eric, the only real consideration is can your son physically handle what you put him in. Is he an expert swimmer or a novice prone to panic? Dinghys can be made unflippable with the proper modifications such as oversized centerboard or small rudder and rigging .Such changes can be slowly readjusted as his skill grows. I would reccomend any dinghy up to 12'' as a beginner and advance from there. I own and teach in the following order, Novice : 7'' sailing/ rowing dinghy ,11'' classic Moth,Experienced :11'' Scorpion (similar to a sunfish but with a deeper well and slightly slower), Expert :16'' planing dinghy (my own design), 16'' Glen Marine designed catamaran Competitor: Highlander or similar class racing scow. The novice boats can''t be flipped very easy, the Experienced can and will flip but teachs how to right a boat, Expert can be flipped however righting can be difficult.Competitor well you damn well better be able to swim and afford the recovery efforts. Each level increases in speed and performance. All this said the last thing is to have as much fun along the way as possible. Big Red 56
12-26-2001 06:43 PM
Jeff_H
How big is too big to start out?

It would only be excessive if you expected your 11 year old to take the boat out by himself. I started sailing when I was 11 (40 years ago now). I sailed at camp in a 13 foot aluminum dinghy. I learned much more about how to sail a few years later with my family on our first boat which was 25 footer. I really developed my skills puttering aroundon my first boat which was a 10 foot sloop that I bought somewhere about the time I was 13 or so. I think that a 16 to 18 footer should make a fine daysailor for your family and is a managable size of a pre-teen as long as there is the weight and judgement of an adult on board. Don''t be surprised if you 11 year old is not asking to borrow the boat and go sailing with some friends by the time he is 14 or so. By the time I was 15, I was taking the family 32 footer (our second boat)out sailing with a just couple friends my age. I can''t say that Dad was thrilled but he was certainly a good sport about it. I actually lived aboard by myself the summer I turned 16 and rowed to work at a job I landed in a boatyard. It was a bit of a Huck Finn lifestyle, but it taught me a lot of responsibility.

I think that having sailing to share with my father and mother built a very strong relationship and a comfort in talking openly. This relationship lasted through my teen age years and is still strong today when I am now a 51 year old and Dad is still sailing well up into his mid 70''s.

While this is only my opinion, I think it is a wonderful thing you are doing, introducing your child to sailing as you yourself are building skills.

Regards
Jeff
12-26-2001 04:02 PM
EricS.
How big is too big to start out?

Hello All.

I am in pretty much the same situation as Jef212 the original poster of this topic with a slight modification. I have an eleven year old that is also interested in sailing. My question to you all is would starting in a 16''-18'' dinghy be excessive for my son to learn on?

Thanks in advance.

Eric
12-26-2001 09:17 AM
dimwit
How big is too big to start out?

Jeff,
I''ve followed this thread with interest, and since your situation is somewhat like mine, here are my two cents:

1) Think like a hermit crab: you will own a succession of boats, and will trade up as your needs change. Long-term thinking must prevail here. You won''t be the same sailor in five years that you are today. The idea of having one boat for your lifetime is romantic, but impractical. What you need NOW is something to do your basic learning with. Therefore,

2) Buy a trailer-sailer. They are usually in the range of 18-23'', and have several advantages:
(a) they are small enough to force you to really learn the basics of boathandling, and those foundational skills will serve you well when you move up to something larger. I can''t overstate this point.
(b) they offer good economic leverage: stored on the trailer during the off season, and waiting anxiously in a rented summer slip for you to get a hankering to sail. This way, you can be out on the water 45 minutes after you see the breeze on Saturday morning, because your boat is ALREADY in the water, the mast is ALREADY stepped up, and all you have to do is grab your sunscreen and car keys. And in the off-season, storage on the trailer is cheap. A big back yard is ideal; but even renting a space in an RV yard is less costly than renting a slip for the 8-9 months when you''re not likely to sail. I''m on the west coast, and I can''t imagine your sailing season is longer than mine is here in southern CA. Renting a summer slip/storing off-season is the best way to go, and the trailerable boat with a swing-keel is the way to do it.

2) Starting off with a trailer-sailer avoids this talk about hoisting, locations, costs, and inconvenience.

3) Trailerable boats offer the best of both worlds for a first boat. They are small (responsive) enough to put you on a good place on the learning curve, so that you don''t imagine you know how to sail standing behind the wheel of a 34-footer. The smaller boat will humble you and teach you. Jeff is right: there are plenty of guys out there in larger boats who don''t know much about sailing. And the smaller boat is still plenty big enough for week-end trips for two, or even multiple-day trips when you get adventurous (I cruised the coast of CA for two weeks in my Catalina 22 a couple of summers ago).

4) These trailerable boats have TILLERS. You learn faster by handling a tiller than you do holding onto a wheel. You get feedback from the boat through a tiller that you just don''t get (or aren''t experienced enough to detect) from holding onto a wheel. I''d never put a beginning sailer behind a wheel, if there were a boat with a tiller available. It''s a better teacher. You will wind up ahead of the game in boathandling skills by wearing the varnish off a tiller.

You will know automatically when it is time for something bigger. I''ve spent four seasons with my swing-keel trailerable, and now I know I have the skills AND the desire for something in the 30'' range. But I wouldn''t trade my "training seasons" with my current boat for anything: that''s the boat that made me a sailor.

Fair Winds,
Jeff C
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