I have been doing beer can races for a year and a half. I joined a local sailing club, and have been shopping around for a 27-30 C/C or Cat 30. I am reading books and learning while racing. I took lessons last year. However, all of this knowledge and things to learn are starting to pile up and are getting frustrating. My goal is to be able to simply cruise with the family, but all of things to learn about single handing, bad weather, surveying my new boat, docking, etc...are making me think I may never leave the dock on my own boat. I'm 43, and I see videos of twentysomethings on 42 footers sailing the pacific and partying with ease...and wonder what I'm doing wrong.
is this normal for those new to sailing?
Yeah it's normal.
First, as others have said fear goes away with experience. That experience can be gained on a 22 or a 40 footer. It's making the mistakes and learning from them that matters.
On boat size start with some basic questions -- and be honest with yourself:
How big is the family?
Will you be overnighting, weekending or living aboard a week at a time on the boat?
-- overnighting means a place to lay your head, weekending means you need a decent galley, a week at a time and storage becomes more important...
How old are the kids?
-- 10 year old boys and teenage daughters have very different ideas of "acceptable" accommodations
What kind of sailing will you really do?
-- I'm a bay sailor (Barnegat and occasionally Chesapeake). No crossing oceans or bouncing around Pacific isles for me. So my boat needs are much different from someone who wants to do those things.
What's the right boat for today not someday?
-- Buy a boat for how you intend to sail now. If crossing the Atlantic is a dream for when you retire wait until retirement to buy the battle wagon.
What's the budget?
Can you re-sell it if your tastes change?
Our long term plan was to start with a daysailer, learn and move up. By getting a Catalina 22 in good shape we were able to sail it for a couple of years, do a few upgrades and sell it for about what we had in it.
Our second boat was a Catalina 30. We had the same idea, it's a popular boat, sail it for a few years then look for something in the 36-38 foot range.
That was in 2008. After living with the boat we discovered the Catalina 30 suits us well and haven't found the need to go bigger. It's not the perfect boat -- it's the right boat for us right now.
Take your time and you'll figure out the right boat for you. The advantage of popular production models like the Catalina 30/32/34/36 (and similar French boats) is they are easy to resell if your tastes change with experience.
And remember to enjoy the experience - you're buying a damn boat !