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I've only posted questions a couple of times, but I lurk on a fairly regular basis. My husband of 4.5 years shared a formerly undisclosed passion for sailing that led to sailing lessons two years ago and the purchase of a Beneteau 352 last year. Life's little surprises. :) We are currently based in the frozen wasteland known as Michigan.

So I've completed (and passed) ASA 101 and 103. I've attended Strictly Sail Chicago, the Midwest Women's Sailing conference and read a variety of sailing books - how to and real life stories.

I know that I need a lot more "on the water" hands-on experience...and I want to learn and am willing to do/try anything that has to do with the boat. So here's my question - at my age (55), will sailing ever become more intuitive and instinctive? At this point, I have to think about everything and sailing the boat still seems so process-oriented. It still doesn't seem like I've become "one with the boat" like our ASA captain said would eventually happen.

Is it just a matter of time and experience?
 

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...
Is it just a matter of time and experience?
There's no absolute answer because everyone learns differently. But, for me, yes.

I remember taking the classes, reading the books. After I spent time with butt at helm, one thing after another started to click into place. Things I remembered that people told me, things I read in a book. Ten years later things are still clicking into place as I do something new, try something new, expand my comfort zone.

Keep doing what you're doing and as long as you have a passion for learning something new, you'll probably be just fine.
 

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It's intuitive. Aside from the counter-intuitive bits :) I personally think the key is understanding why things do what they do, not just what they do. Once your brain gets around that, many things fall into place. Part of the problem might also be that a 35' boat simply doesn't react that much to many things, so you have never really felt what the controls do. One of the main reasons I always advise people to start on a smaller boat, the things that become second nature there transfer to larger boats.
 

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As in every other sport, with practice it will become intuitive. How long it takes is dependent on how much you sail and how you learn. You will continue to learn because stuff happens and you learn to react to it.
 

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IMO it is a lot easier to develop intuitive sailing when you sail on a small, but well designed dinghy. Initially most people have to learn a lot but with time it does become intuitive. At least that is how it was with me and quite a few sailors I know.
 

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well... i also learned it on small dinghies and while i am quite confident that i understand the physics behind it...
the actual sailing on those flimsy little thingies was everything but intuitive...
the tiller is always pushed the wrong way unless you are in reverse and the right of way rules were confusing...
but that is because the german terminology is obscure: starboard tack is - for no apparent reason - called port tack and vice versa... :confused:
it has probably something to do with the other term used in german where you refer to the sheets being on either side of the boat on a given tack...
 

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I agree with Kris. A small dinghy like a sunfish will help speed along this process. You are much less worried about making mistakes so the learning progresses faster.

Crewing on a race boat also helps.

After 40+ years I cannot remember sailing not being intuitive.
 

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I think it becomes intuitive when you forget about all the stuff you learnt in classes and just go out and enjoy yourselves.

These days there seems to be so much bullsh!t. The new people are told you need to have 87 certificates before tou hit the water, the old buggers tell you you need to know astro navigation and you will always be sh!t because you havent sailed around the Horn, but you must never sail around the Horn because you have never sailed around the horn.

It just gets to total impossible grandstanding by everyone telling you what to do.

Sailing is a lovely thing where its just your boat and nature... No one else breathing crap down your neck.

Go sailing and leave the knowledge at home! :D
 

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Shari,

Your problem is unrealistic expectations thinking that you can learn from a few courses and books. I used to teach that it took 200 hours and a 1000 nm to be competent at the helm but that real seamanship takes a lifetime.

A thousand hours of boat time will only get you to the point that you are ready to learn seamanship.

Mark needs crew, spend a month helming his boat. Not only will it teach you to sail it will also qualify you for sainthood!

Good luck
Phil
 

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I agree with Mark - get away from land and sail for awhile, without considering the advice of the masses trying to sell you something.

If you and your husband cast off your lines and cruise for a week or two, you will become much more connected to your boat and sailing.

Becoming a good sailor takes thousands of hours of time spent on the water, but you can begin to experience the beauty of it by simply ignoring all the "lessons" and learning how to move your boat to the next destination.
 

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Best thing is to sail. The suggestions about sailing a dinghy make sense. You want something that is very easy to sail with a fairly small sail area. Then just get out there by yourself and see what works and what doesn't. Wear a bathing suit and pick a day when the water has warmed up a lot.
 

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Like driving a car, sailing becomes intuitive once you have done it enough.

It doesn't start out that way, though. Think about hard it was to drive right after driver's ed (or when you first started driving) compared to now.

You learn it faster, the more you do of it though. :D
 

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The advantage of a dinghy is that it gives immediate feedback when you make a mistake, so you know exactly what you did wrong. It becomes intuitive very quickly when sailing under these conditions.

A 35 footer has enough inertia that it could be a minute or so before you realize that you made a mistake, and by that time you can't remember exactly what you did to cause the problem. Hopefully your mistake only led to a loss of speed. Other mistakes could get you in much bigger trouble during that one minute time lag.

So a smaller boat would help you a lot. Pick up a used Sunfish or something similar (I have a Phantom), keep it at your slip or mooring, and spend a couple hours playing on it when you're at the boat.
 
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IMO it is a lot easier to develop intuitive sailing when you sail on a small, but well designed dinghy. Initially most people have to learn a lot but with time it does become intuitive. At least that is how it was with me and quite a few sailors I know.
What Kriss said. Sailing always felt intuitive, to, me, but...
* I learn well by reading or by doing, so I read a lot.
* I'm an engineer, and engineering is intuitive to me.
* And most important, I learned on a small boat. Children learn on small boats and a have a lot of fun doing it. It is far easier to learn the feel of wind, motion, and trim on small boats, where cause an effect are plainly obvious. Just a few days in borrowed dingy might make a huge difference.

Sail Delmarva: The Merits of Learning to Sail on a Small Boat
 

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Best thing is to sail. The suggestions about sailing a dinghy make sense. You want something that is very easy to sail with a fairly small sail area. Then just get out there by yourself and see what works and what doesn't. Wear a bathing suit and pick a day when the water has warmed up a lot.
I totally agree... Do as much sailing as you can on a smaller boat, it's by far the best way to accelerate the process towards making sailing "intuitive"... You need to be able to easily feel, and see, the effects of the things you do. Smaller boats afford that sort of feedback in spades, and the primary drawback of trying to learn to sail on larger boats is the difficulty of replicating that feedback in anything less than heavier air - which of course can result in only scaring some newbies, or making mistakes that can risk injury, or the breakage of gear...

One other thing I'd suggest, is to sail your own boat as much as possible in LIGHT AIR... That's probably the best way to appreciate the subtlety that even modest inputs can have when sailing a larger boat. You have a big advantage in that you've chosen a reasonably nimble boat that should have decent performance in light air, so try to take advantage of that, and resist the inclination to fire up the engine whenever the breeze goes light... Hard to get a larger boat moving in light air unless you're doing things right, so it's a great way to learn what works, and what doesn't. I've always thought that one of the primary reasons so many cruisers I see out there might not be, technically, particularly good sailors, is the fact that so many so rarely bother to sail in light air...

 

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So here's my question - at my age (55), will sailing ever become more intuitive and instinctive? At this point, I have to think about everything and sailing the boat still seems so process-oriented. It still doesn't seem like I've become "one with the boat" like our ASA captain said would eventually happen.

Is it just a matter of time and experience?
I think sailing can be intuitive. But my opinion is, it's possible to spend years on a big boat, and never have sailing become intuitive.

Sounds like a broken record in this thread, but to become "one with the boat" is so much easier and faster in a small sailboat.

It's little more than the moment you feel the wind come forward, the little sail rattles and fills, and the tiller comes alive and you're off!

It's a magic moment and you'll know exactly when it happens and never forget the feeling.

 

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I disagree with the dinghy stuff. I sailed dinghys from about 12 years old (I think I was sweet back then! :rolleyes:). It was great fun having my ass hanging in the water, being catapulted through the shrouds, past the mast into the cold water as the dinghy pitchpoles and then better fun trying to right the bloody thing. Great fun for a kid to see how far a skiff can heel before you end up on the side and then learn the trick to go from the high side straight onto the centreboard instead of swimming.

But this lady is 55 years old and has the perfect boat to continue to learn, love, and cruise through the Great Lakes where she DOES NOT need to have a wet bum, be freezing cold and hating every moment that a 12 year old thinks is fun.



Mark <----- Warm, Dry, and 54!
 
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