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I think you should start with small boat, too. However, I think you could learn how to sail without taking any formal lessons. You do need to seek out information from the internet, books, and other expiences sailors. You will soon find that all the sources start to agree in most important areas. BTW, when you are ready to move up to a boat that you are planning on taking 'out there', don't get a fixer-upper. You will end up spending too much money fixing it. It will be cheaper to get a boat that is in as close to the shape you want it to be in the end.