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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello Sailnet, I'm happy to have found this forum and look forward to making my contribution. Thinking about buying a 1979 Catalina 39 fixer-upper and get it to the point where it's seaworthy to hopefully sail the Caribbean. I'm going to take a sailing course as a first step, then hire a captain to go out with me a few times in the initial stages until I'm comfortable. Grateful for any tips that can be shared to help me get over my fears in order to prepare and enjoy sailing.

1. I'm nervous about the boat getting stuck in the middle of the ocean for day, or even worse case sinking with me and my family on it. Perhaps this can be avoided with good planning, attention to weather and good boat maintenance?

2. I'm afraid of large fish attacking my keel or rudder, read a few stories about these.

3. I hope the sailing course will go into approaching rough seas and how to stay as safe as possible, or is this more of a learn-by-doing thing?

I always sit and stare out into the ocean and love the calm it brings me. I'm hoping sailing with amplify that and be the perfect outlet.
 

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I'm pretty sure the responses you get will run the gamut, but let me just welcome you to the sailing community, even if a little ahead of time! It definitely sounds like the interest is there.
As you've surmised in your #1, cruising in a boat, especially an older one, requires knowledge and maintenance skills. If this is your first boat, you're going to need to study a lot. Maybe start with something like Don Casey's "This Old Boat."
 
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Welcome, and it sounds exciting.

Your Paragraphs 1 and 2 are probably not how you want to start off your learning, if you'll permit me to say so. Do it in more bite-size pieces. You'll work your way up gradually to the larger boats and longer passages, by which time you'll know better how to avoid the disaster scenarios, or react and seek help if needed.

You'll get a survey on the boat before you purchase, well worth the money. Start small if you can, you probably will in an ASA or USSA instructional course, it'll give you the "feel" of sailing more demonstratively than starting out at 39 feet. The sailing courses might not get you out in rough seas, but will advise how to handle them. A hired Captain, though, might just be willing to wait for that windy rough-seas experience, and take you out in snotty weather. Learn about weather and seas in short coastal snippets before taking off on a long ocean trip. Crew with others, whether in a race or just for fun.

Learn navigation. The Power Squadron is for motorboaters, but same nav training and chart work as for sailing. That's how I got started , as a teen, the knowledge never leaves you.
 

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Welcome to sailing and Sailnet. The previous posts have much wisdom young grasshopper (Kung Fu TV series) BUT you have only mentioned a few of the many many fears of sailing. Others will add their irrational fears of sailing so I will add mine. I fear the sudden disassociation of the molecular bonds of the water molecule. As far as sudden sinking, carry a inflatable life raft. I think most sinkings occur during violent storms so abandoning ship to the dingy is not the most survivable option since the dingy will turn turtle. How bad of a fixer upper is the Catalina? If there is a listing for that boat, post it so we can eyeball it and offer informed opinions. The general rule is it is more economical to purchase a boat in good condition rather than a fixer upper for a few reasons. The reasons being yard time (its not free), undiscovered problems that were not budgeted, under estimating repair cost, mission creep, travel time and cost, ect. Fair winds and hope to see you and yours out there.
 

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I was once in your shoes, so don’t do what I did at first. My first sailboat was a 26 foot “fixer upper” that I never got into the water. I really had no idea what I was doing, and I bit off more than I could chew with that boat. Instead learning how to sail it, I spent two years trying to fix it. As I learned more about boats (while trying to fix it), I learned it was really way beyond my abilities, budget, and desire to repair. It was impossible for me to stay interested in it when I had never even sailed it, or knew from experience what I wanted to do with it. I ended up parting it out.

I approached my next sailboat with that education (the cost of which I would like to save you). My second sailboat was also a cheap 26 footer (Pearson Ariel), in rough cosmetic shape, but floating in the water. I paid little for it, put very little money into it, but it sailed. I learned a lot sailing that boat and didn’t worry too much about running into things. I made sure it was safe, clean, and reliable and that’s about it. During the sailing season, I sailed it, fixing only what broke. During the winter, I took on one maintenance job at a time so I knew it would be ready to sail come spring. I sold it after I was ready for a bigger and actually broke even.

My next sailboat was a 30’ Ericsson that was in better shape, but still pretty cheap. I did the same with that one: keeping it running and safe but not sinking much money into it. I sailed that one for a number of years. That one really taught me what I wanted and needed in a boat.

After that, I bought a Tartan 37 that cost a lot more, was in much better shape, and I was willing to spend a lot more money on not only keeping it running and safe but actually improving and upgrading it. That’s because I had learned from all my mistakes on my cheaper boats, and knew what I wanted and understood what I was getting into.

So, my advice to you is don’t buy a boat that you can’t immediately start sailing. And even if you can afford a turn key 39 footer, don’t spend a lot of money on your first boat. Until you spend hours and hours sailing in different conditions and for different purposes (racing, single handing, longer overnight trips, with non-sailing guests, etc.) you won’t know what you really want from a boat.
 

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1. I'm nervous about the boat getting stuck in the middle of the ocean for day, or even worse case sinking with me and my family on it. Perhaps this can be avoided with good planning, attention to weather and good boat maintenance?

2. I'm afraid of large fish attacking my keel or rudder, read a few stories about these.

3. I hope the sailing course will go into approaching rough seas and how to stay as safe as possible, or is this more of a learn-by-doing thing?
I'd offer the following opinions on these (I'm not very experienced, so doing my best to learn these things too):

1. As you say, planning, weather, and maintenance are all very important to keeping yourself safe. Then you have to prepare for when things go wrong anyway. Safety equipment and emergency communications are part of that and your needs will change as you get further away from land. This is stuff you can read about and experienced people can help by giving examples of what they do. Someone who wasn't nervous may take too much risk and do too little preparation.

2. I've read of these in the Bay of Biscay but not sure they are common in the Bahamas or Caribbean. But the safety precautions you take in point 1 can also help if this does happen.

3. If you follow the ASA class progression, you have to take quite a few classes before you can expect experience in rough seas. Not a bad thing if you have the time and money to do it. There are also groups where you pay to be on their boat for an ocean crossing - someone we know did this with a group called 59 North. Our plan was to slowly work up to bigger winds and seas but we got a bit derailed from that goal by endless boat work :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I'm pretty sure the responses you get will run the gamut, but let me just welcome you to the sailing community, even if a little ahead of time! It definitely sounds like the interest is there.
As you've surmised in your #1, cruising in a boat, especially an older one, requires knowledge and maintenance skills. If this is your first boat, you're going to need to study a lot. Maybe start with something like Don Casey's "This Old Boat."
Thank you arf145 for that book recommendation. I’ve been reading blogs and following Youtubers. A lot of them have small libraries onboard and based on the Amazon reviews, this one looks like a most-have for starting out and keeping in the library. I also love every opportunity to grab a book instead of a screen when possible. I’ll definitely be ordering it as part of my educational tools.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Welcome, and it sounds exciting.

Your Paragraphs 1 and 2 are probably not how you want to start off your learning, if you'll permit me to say so. Do it in more bite-size pieces. You'll work your way up gradually to the larger boats and longer passages, by which time you'll know better how to avoid the disaster scenarios, or react and seek help if needed.

You'll get a survey on the boat before you purchase, well worth the money. Start small if you can, you probably will in an ASA or USSA instructional course, it'll give you the "feel" of sailing more demonstratively than starting out at 39 feet. The sailing courses might not get you out in rough seas, but will advise how to handle them. A hired Captain, though, might just be willing to wait for that windy rough-seas experience, and take you out in snotty weather. Learn about weather and seas in short coastal snippets before taking off on a long ocean trip. Crew with others, whether in a race or just for fun.

Learn navigation. The Power Squadron is for motorboaters, but same nav training and chart work as for sailing. That's how I got started , as a teen, the knowledge never leaves you.
Thank you nolatom, I appreciate the advice on taking that gradual approach. I won’t even start the engine of that boat on my own until I’ve had some formal training and feel qualified to do so. I have friends with boats of various sizes so will be going out with them to get experience in increase my confidence and comfort level.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Welcome to sailing and Sailnet. The previous posts have much wisdom young grasshopper (Kung Fu TV series) BUT you have only mentioned a few of the many many fears of sailing. Others will add their irrational fears of sailing so I will add mine. I fear the sudden disassociation of the molecular bonds of the water molecule. As far as sudden sinking, carry a inflatable life raft. I think most sinkings occur during violent storms so abandoning ship to the dingy is not the most survivable option since the dingy will turn turtle. How bad of a fixer upper is the Catalina? If there is a listing for that boat, post it so we can eyeball it and offer informed opinions. The general rule is it is more economical to purchase a boat in good condition rather than a fixer upper for a few reasons. The reasons being yard time (its not free), undiscovered problems that were not budgeted, under estimating repair cost, mission creep, travel time and cost, ect. Fair winds and hope to see you and yours out there.
Skipper Jer, your reply is already brining relief 😊. Good point on the inflatable life raft, I’ve seen Youtubers talk about their “go-kits” for emergencies, so I’ll research that deeply.

While researching sailing and looking for a much smaller boat as a training tool, I came across this larger boat and it seemed a good deal, even if I were to secure it until I’m able to captain it after training. Yard time is indeed expensive, but I was able to rent privately owned dock space at a bargain and it's not too far from a marina where the boat can be lifted.

The boat is currently on the water (floating!), has been for more than at least two years. The engine runs but needs maintenance. The owner said the rigging and mast are in good shape, it has no blisters on the hull, no leaks, but the inside is in rough cosmetic shape and needs some work. I’ve engaged a surveyor and will have it inspected and hopefully take some pictures to share once the owner has had a chance to remove some personal items he currently has on board.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I was once in your shoes, so don’t do what I did at first. My first sailboat was a 26 foot “fixer upper” that I never got into the water. I really had no idea what I was doing, and I bit off more than I could chew with that boat. Instead learning how to sail it, I spent two years trying to fix it. As I learned more about boats (while trying to fix it), I learned it was really way beyond my abilities, budget, and desire to repair. It was impossible for me to stay interested in it when I had never even sailed it, or knew from experience what I wanted to do with it. I ended up parting it out.

I approached my next sailboat with that education (the cost of which I would like to save you). My second sailboat was also a cheap 26 footer (Pearson Ariel), in rough cosmetic shape, but floating in the water. I paid little for it, put very little money into it, but it sailed. I learned a lot sailing that boat and didn’t worry too much about running into things. I made sure it was safe, clean, and reliable and that’s about it. During the sailing season, I sailed it, fixing only what broke. During the winter, I took on one maintenance job at a time so I knew it would be ready to sail come spring. I sold it after I was ready for a bigger and actually broke even.

My next sailboat was a 30’ Ericsson that was in better shape, but still pretty cheap. I did the same with that one: keeping it running and safe but not sinking much money into it. I sailed that one for a number of years. That one really taught me what I wanted and needed in a boat.

After that, I bought a Tartan 37 that cost a lot more, was in much better shape, and I was willing to spend a lot more money on not only keeping it running and safe but actually improving and upgrading it. That’s because I had learned from all my mistakes on my cheaper boats, and knew what I wanted and understood what I was getting into.

So, my advice to you is don’t buy a boat that you can’t immediately start sailing. And even if you can afford a turn key 39 footer, don’t spend a lot of money on your first boat. Until you spend hours and hours sailing in different conditions and for different purposes (racing, single handing, longer overnight trips, with non-sailing guests, etc.) you won’t know what you really want from a boat.
The boat I’m looking at can sail right away (once new sails are added), but It sounds like I’m about to embark on the journey you did with the 26’ Pearson Ariel. I definitely don’t know what I’m getting into since I’m entirely new to this, but I have a bit of FOMO with this boat at the same time. Sailboat prices in my area are significantly higher than the asking price and I’m satisfied with the reason this one is as low as it is, so it won’t be a lot of money at all. Thank you for sharing your experience with me, definitely food for thought and I’ve read and re-read it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I'd offer the following opinions on these (I'm not very experienced, so doing my best to learn these things too):

1. As you say, planning, weather, and maintenance are all very important to keeping yourself safe. Then you have to prepare for when things go wrong anyway. Safety equipment and emergency communications are part of that and your needs will change as you get further away from land. This is stuff you can read about and experienced people can help by giving examples of what they do. Someone who wasn't nervous may take too much risk and do too little preparation.

2. I've read of these in the Bay of Biscay but not sure they are common in the Bahamas or Caribbean. But the safety precautions you take in point 1 can also help if this does happen.

3. If you follow the ASA class progression, you have to take quite a few classes before you can expect experience in rough seas. Not a bad thing if you have the time and money to do it. There are also groups where you pay to be on their boat for an ocean crossing - someone we know did this with a group called 59 North. Our plan was to slowly work up to bigger winds and seas but we got a bit derailed from that goal by endless boat work :(
AndyL, I’m grateful for your feedback, and it is this kind of experience sharing you mention in point 1 which helps with some of the fears I have. It boosts my confidence hearing of instances where safety practices where employed successfully, and equipment trusted to get sailors out of danger. Sorry to hear your plans to get more experience got derailed by boat work, hopefully this will just be a short delay on your journey.
 

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I won’t even start the engine of that boat on my own until I’ve had some formal training and feel qualified to do so.
Hmmmmm, if you ask on an internet forum "Am I qualified yet??????????" you will always get a firm NO by more than one person. Even if you have been doing it for decades.

My dad bought an old 26 footer, wouldn't let us kids anywhere near it (I was 12), he put the How to Sail book on one knee and learned to start the outboard on the first day out into the middle of Sydney Harbour. Second day he pulled up the mainsail; 3rd day the jib.

We are not heading to Mars, we are here learning in a bay, lake, river etc a simple thing done for millennia. For an intelligent, rational person its just not that difficult. To win races is difficult, but to sail safely and enjoyable is not.

Mark
 

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The only thing I could add is if you are worried about learning to deal with adverse conditions then maybe book your sail training in the off-season when the weather isn't so pleasant. I assume you're east coast but I know a lot of the "best" training here on the west coast can be done early spring/late fall when the winds are up and weather has the potential to be shirty. That way you at least learn how to reef a sail when you actually need to reef a sail rather than as a theoretical exercise. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
The only thing I could add is if you are worried about learning to deal with adverse conditions then maybe book your sail training in the off-season when the weather isn't so pleasant. I assume you're east coast but I know a lot of the "best" training here on the west coast can be done early spring/late fall when the winds are up and weather has the potential to be shirty. That way you at least learn how to reef a sail when you actually need to reef a sail rather than as a theoretical exercise. ;)
Thank you MacBlaze, I'm actually in the Caribbean, but I believe that advice still applies.
 

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Hello Sailnet, I'm happy to have found this forum and look forward to making my contribution. Thinking about buying a 1979 Catalina 39 fixer-upper and get it to the point where it's seaworthy to hopefully sail the Caribbean. I'm going to take a sailing course as a first step, then hire a captain to go out with me a few times in the initial stages until I'm comfortable. Grateful for any tips that can be shared to help me get over my fears in order to prepare and enjoy sailing.

1. I'm nervous about the boat getting stuck in the middle of the ocean for day, or even worse case sinking with me and my family on it. Perhaps this can be avoided with good planning, attention to weather and good boat maintenance?

2. I'm afraid of large fish attacking my keel or rudder, read a few stories about these.

3. I hope the sailing course will go into approaching rough seas and how to stay as safe as possible, or is this more of a learn-by-doing thing?

I always sit and stare out into the ocean and love the calm it brings me. I'm hoping sailing with amplify that and be the perfect outlet.
Since sailing is a dream and not a reality yet, I would grab the significant other and go to a sailing school for an introduction to the beauty of it, not the fear. Your family has to love it along with you, right?
 

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I'm already suspect and please don't take that personally. I am more wondering exactly what boat you have! pictures would be awesome! No worries many of our boats had warts as we have owned them (many of mine have been documented here) I welcome you to the insanity, and think many of your fears will be well mitigated as you learn, and grow with the sport.

Reason I ask, is, Catalina did not make a 39 footer in 1979 (someone correct me if I am wrong). So that leads me to believe its either a 38 (very interesting Catalina in my opinion, not sure my I am fascinated by the 38, but it always looked very shiply to me)
and or perhaps typo and its a 30?

The 30 is perhaps one of the most successful designs by Catalina by shear numbers sold, save for their venerable 22 and 27. There are many fine examples of them.

Below is a picture of a Catalina 38 I stole off the net. Jeff could probably tell me all about why this boats shape was as it is (IOR rule perhaps?) But to me it always looked heavy/fast. Probably impractical shape for sea-kindliness I am sure, I still love it.
Boat Sky Watercraft Plant community Naval architecture
 

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A fixer upper project boat as the first one might be too much to take on. Sure you'll learn tons of things... But you also need some good skills from the get go to do things right and seaworthy.
Almost any boat will require upgrades/fitting out, new gear and replacement of existing. I spent 5 years getting a new boat which was ready to sail.... ready to sail and live aboard offshore... as I learned to sail and became familiar with the boat.
Start with a boat which has a good plan...for sailing and for living. It needs to be comfortable and dry. Systems can be easily replaced with basic tools and skills. Cosmetic work and joinery work are not as easy as they seem.
Get a boat model which has been used for what you intend to use it for. plan plan and plan.... measure twice and cut once.
Good luck!
 

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Hello Sailnet, I'm happy to have found this forum and look forward to making my contribution. Thinking about buying a 1979 Catalina 39 fixer-upper and get it to the point where it's seaworthy to hopefully sail the Caribbean. I'm going to take a sailing course as a first step, then hire a captain to go out with me a few times in the initial stages until I'm comfortable. Grateful for any tips that can be shared to help me get over my fears in order to prepare and enjoy sailing.

1. I'm nervous about the boat getting stuck in the middle of the ocean for day, or even worse case sinking with me and my family on it. Perhaps this can be avoided with good planning, attention to weather and good boat maintenance?

2. I'm afraid of large fish attacking my keel or rudder, read a few stories about these.

3. I hope the sailing course will go into approaching rough seas and how to stay as safe as possible, or is this more of a learn-by-doing thing?

I always sit and stare out into the ocean and love the calm it brings me. I'm hoping sailing with amplify that and be the perfect outlet.
 
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