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Testing the waters in Pennsylvania

Hi all! I'm Ben and I live in the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania, USA. I have never sailed, but it has been something that I've wanted to do for a number of years. I didn't exactly grow up on the water, but I've spent a fair bit of time kayaking/boating/fishing on freshwater and saltwater (inshore and offshore).

My one and only time on a sailboat was when I was a kid and was helping tow a very small catamaran behind a pontoon boat. My job was to sit on the bow of the catamaran and hold one end of the tow rope while my cousin held the other end on the pontoon. Naturally, after a bit of boredom set in, we engaged in a tug of war that ended abruptly when he yanked me clean off the catamaran while we were underway. Hopefully my future sailing experiences are as entertaining!

Anyway, seeing as I know next to nothing about sailing, I plan to just be a sponge for a while and soak up as much information as I can. One of my next steps is to take some sort of sailing lesson, so if anyone has any recommendations in my area I'd greatly appreciate it!

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Re: Testing the waters in Pennsylvania

Find a class racing group in your area. Any class-j boats, stars, flying scots - anything. Doesn’t matter what type of boat as long as it’s sailed with two or more. Offer to do prep and boat maintenance in exchange for the opportunity to crew. That’s costs nothing but sweat and time. Racing will teach you how to sail. YouTubes, online courses and books will teach you the rest. Owning a boat when you get to that point teaches the mechanical skills.
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Re: Testing the waters in Pennsylvania

Rather than dump a bunch of money on sailing courses my suggestion would be to buy a 15 foot or smaller very cheap dinghy that's pretty beat up, but serviceable. This is not going to be a boat to take your friends out on, but instead you will be crashing into docks, running aground and even tipping her over on occasion. This is the boat to make all your beginner's mistakes on, before you buy a nicer, more expensive boat. And believe me, if you start with the more expensive boat, you are still going to make all the same mistakes, classes or not, but the repair bills will be much more expensive, and if you load the boat up with friends, there is the possibility of someone getting hurt. Sailing isn't rocket science, but it does take a lot of sailing to get it.
This is how almost every professional sailor of note learned to sail, not through some expensive cookie cutter course.
Along with your little beater, I would highly recommend a great little book called Royce's Sailing Illustrated, a fun yet very comprehensive book filled with important information for the novice sailor or experienced professional. No massive preachy tome this, just a well put together book with everything from rigging to docking and even splicing. I've been using it to teach sailing for over 45 years, and still refer to it now and then, myself.
Good luck and remember, sailing is supposed to be fun, so keep that in mind when you are having a hard day.

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Re: Testing the waters in Pennsylvania

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Originally Posted by outbound View Post
Find a class racing group in your area. Any class-j boats, stars, flying scots - anything. Doesn’t matter what type of boat as long as it’s sailed with two or more. Offer to do prep and boat maintenance in exchange for the opportunity to crew. That’s costs nothing but sweat and time. Racing will teach you how to sail. YouTubes, online courses and books will teach you the rest. Owning a boat when you get to that point teaches the mechanical skills.
Thanks, I'll look into racing groups in the area. I get the feeling that there are a lot on-the-water things to learn beyond what one can pick up via Youtube, books, online courses, etc.
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Re: Testing the waters in Pennsylvania

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Rather than dump a bunch of money on sailing courses my suggestion would be to buy a 15 foot or smaller very cheap dinghy that's pretty beat up, but serviceable. This is not going to be a boat to take your friends out on, but instead you will be crashing into docks, running aground and even tipping her over on occasion. This is the boat to make all your beginner's mistakes on, before you buy a nicer, more expensive boat. And believe me, if you start with the more expensive boat, you are still going to make all the same mistakes, classes or not, but the repair bills will be much more expensive, and if you load the boat up with friends, there is the possibility of someone getting hurt. Sailing isn't rocket science, but it does take a lot of sailing to get it.
This is how almost every professional sailor of note learned to sail, not through some expensive cookie cutter course.
Along with your little beater, I would highly recommend a great little book called Royce's Sailing Illustrated, a fun yet very comprehensive book filled with important information for the novice sailor or experienced professional. No massive preachy tome this, just a well put together book with everything from rigging to docking and even splicing. I've been using it to teach sailing for over 45 years, and still refer to it now and then, myself.
Good luck and remember, sailing is supposed to be fun, so keep that in mind when you are having a hard day.
I've actually got a copy of Royce's on the way! That's an interesting point about the small boat instead of courses. I was considering taking a course as a lower budget/lower commitment first step. Actually having a boat to practice (and fail) on instead of being a tourist at a sailing course also appeals to how I'm wired. And, I would very definitely start with a small boat. Well, looks like it's either trying to help crew with a racing group or buying a little boat.
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Re: Testing the waters in Pennsylvania

https://www.libertysailingschool.com/ sailing on the Delaware River; strong tidal current, commercial shipping and gusty winds will make you a better sailor.

https://www.njsailingschool.com/ Upper Barnegat Bay sailing, better place to learn, more consistent winds, gentler tidal current, lots of recreational power and fishing boats.

Plan on 2021 I doubt if they are going to be doing much this year.

NJ Sailing School has rental/practice boats on Barnegat Bay. Less than 45 mins drive from Ben Franklin Bridge to Brick Township NJ.
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Re: Testing the waters in Pennsylvania

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I've actually got a copy of Royce's on the way! That's an interesting point about the small boat instead of courses. I was considering taking a course as a lower budget/lower commitment first step. Actually having a boat to practice (and fail) on instead of being a tourist at a sailing course also appeals to how I'm wired. And, I would very definitely start with a small boat. Well, looks like it's either trying to help crew with a racing group or buying a little boat.
I wouldn't jump right into racing without a good grasp of the terminology and at least a basic knowledge of sailing. Racing is a fine way to hone your skills, but a pretty high pressure situation to put yourself in as a total novice.
After I learned to sail dinghies I kinda fell into racing for 7 seasons. Fortunately I had a good skipper so we won 5 out of the 7 which definitely made it a lot more fun. Unfortunately, the racing left me with more experience in that aspect of sailing so my first big boat was a 49' TransPac racer with 23 bags of sails, coffee grinders and little creature comforts below. A truly ludicrous boat for a couple to cruise.
However, before we left for Hawaii, we had a ball tearing around San Francisco Bay with all our friends from the rock bands of the mid '60s.
A couple of guitars, drum sticks on the winches, Dungeness crab and San Francisco extra sour sourdough French bread for the munchies. Oh, for a time machine.....
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Re: Testing the waters in Pennsylvania

As usual Capta is spot on. However, there’s dinghies and racing dinghies. Some racing dinghies are brutally fast. Require hiking out from the get go and very sensitive to trim with the absence of ballast. That means a lot of cold water dunks. A lot of time spent righting them and a lot of frustration. Pick something more forgiving. I learned on a cape dory typhoon. It was painted and the paint job was terrible. The trailer had no bearing buddies and was rusted. Still, I would just stop in irons or head up and flog when I screwed up. Avoided swims in cold New England waters. Ideal learning dinghy has a head sail, high righting moment, cheap and enough performance you can tell the difference between correct trim and just moving forward. Different between learning to ride motorcycles on a performance crotch rocket v sitting up and begging on a Honda or BMW. Or learning to ride horses on a well mannered saddle horse or a thorough bred.
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Re: Testing the waters in Pennsylvania

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Originally Posted by motoben View Post
Hi all! I'm Ben and I live in the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania, USA. I have never sailed, but it has been something that I've wanted to do for a number of years. I didn't exactly grow up on the water, but I've spent a fair bit of time kayaking/boating/fishing on freshwater and saltwater (inshore and offshore).

My one and only time on a sailboat was when I was a kid and was helping tow a very small catamaran behind a pontoon boat. My job was to sit on the bow of the catamaran and hold one end of the tow rope while my cousin held the other end on the pontoon. Naturally, after a bit of boredom set in, we engaged in a tug of war that ended abruptly when he yanked me clean off the catamaran while we were underway. Hopefully my future sailing experiences are as entertaining!

Anyway, seeing as I know next to nothing about sailing, I plan to just be a sponge for a while and soak up as much information as I can. One of my next steps is to take some sort of sailing lesson, so if anyone has any recommendations in my area I'd greatly appreciate it!
Sailing lessons are probably going to be hard to come by in the next year. You may have heard that there's this virus going around, and as a consequence, many schools are not operating...

That said, and this is coming from a sailing instructor, your best way to see if sailing is for you would be to take a short charter. Typically, a 3 hour charter would cost about $300 for 2 people. I know of a few such opportunities on "AirBnB Experiences" in Rhode Island.
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Re: Testing the waters in Pennsylvania

It is probably OK to take a few dunks in Barnegat Bay, but not the Delaware River, currents and submerged obstructions can be deadly. The are several deaths each year between Chester and Trenton due to falling off boats or trying to swim.

Newcastle DE has a dinghy racing club using the waters behind the Pea Patch Island dike outside the shipping channel. http://www.newcastlesailingclub.org/ Slower tidal current and not as many submerged obstructions.
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