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I know there's a lot of threads here like this, and I apologize in advance if I'm walking a frequently-trod trail with this line of questioning. I have read quite a bit, and have tried the search here, but it's hard to find posts relevant to my particular train of thought since the search terms are pretty common and not exclusive to what I'm looking for input on.

In a nutshell, I'm looking for advice on a plan for the next 5 years which culminates in owning and sailing a "real" cruising sailboat.

I live in corpus christi, tx. It would be an understatement to say we're blessed with sailing weather. My experience is a couple dozen afternoons in trailer-sailers, a childhood/youth full of commercial fishing in Alaska and a single 28-day passage from tahiti to hawaii on a 50-ft wooden gaff cutter. The good news is I am well aware of the realities of passage-making and ocean weather. Bad news is, my wife is not. She is very much "on board" with the ideal of cruising (exotic ports of call, blue lagoons, etc...), but other than a couple sails on a 20-footer, she's a true greenhorn.

So the goal in the next 5 years is to spend as much time sailing and developing skills as we can, to familiarize and comfort-ize my wife with all things nautical, and to save money and (near the end at least) buy and outfit a cruising boat.

I see a few different general paths, all with pros and cons. I would LOVE some input from the more experienced crew on the relative merits of each way.

1. Get a dinghy sailer, spend a lot of time sailing it. Pros: cheap, easy to store, low cost of ownership (equalling more money saved). Cons: small, wet, probably not enough boat for corpus christi bay on many days out of the year. Wife factor: small enough not to be intimidating, but wet, probably not too comfortable, no head, a one-trick pony (only for sailing).

2. get a trailer-sailer/pocket cruiser, spend a lot of time sailing it. Pros: Still relatively cheap, more comfortable, can camp with it, better in stiffer wind than a dinghy. Cons: A step up in cost of ownership, more hassle stepping mast before each outing, still days where wind will be too much around here. Wife factor: Drier, more confidence-inspiring. Note: we had a gulf coast 20 a couple years ago, hence my username. We only got to take it out twice before circumstances and a move forced us to sell it. Stepping the mast was a huge hassle, and probably stopped us for taking it out more than we did. I'm sure there's easier ways to accomplish the mast-raising, and I could probably work on that aspect, but it definitely left a mark. :)

3. get a cheap pocket-cruiser and keep at the marina. Pros: Quickest dock-to-sail time of the bunch, should be able to handle most days in corpus christi bay, head, bed, etc. Cons: with dockage, most expensive to own and buy, draft probably make it tough to camp with Wife factor: confidence-inspiring, maybe indimidating

4. Go through the ASA classes and bareboat. Pros: Real education in sailing on big boats by professionals. Cons: as expensive (for both of us) as purchase of a nice used boat, less overall water time. Bareboating very expensive.

5. An option I haven't considered?

I'm all ears folks, thanks for any input, and again I'm sorry if this has already been covered in depth at another point in time.
 

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I'm a rookie , so I can't say the best route to get you cruising. But I would say pick the option that will make you happy for the next five years , a wise man once said that life is short... we are always waiting for moments that never come.
 

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Get a dinghy sailer, spend a lot of time sailing it. When you feel comfortable sailing bareboat charter. It's the cheapest path to develop skills and assess whether you want to invest in a cruising boat
 

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Call around for sailing clubs. Some sailing schools will rent you boats after the class. Sail as much as you can and as many boats as you can. Your idea of want you want will change.
 

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I would highly recommend taking the ASA courses as a way to build a fairly solid base foundation of sailing knowledge. I would highly recommend that you and your wife take the courses separately, since that often seems to be far more effective at getting both members of the couple up to speed.

I would also recommend that you and your wife spend as much time sailing on as many different types of boats as you can while doing the courses. This can often be accomplished by joining a local sailing club and crewing during the weekly races. The more boats you sail on, the better idea you'll have of what you like, dislike, want, want to avoid in the boat you buy.

Then, after getting some experience from the OPBYC, start looking for a smaller cruising boat, to learn about boat ownership and maintenance on. This boat should have the basic versions of the systems on a cruising boat—plumbing, head, galley, propane, electrics, diesel inboard, etc.

Ideally, you'd want to get the boat you'll be cruising on about a year before you leave, so as to have time to finish upgrading, refitting and shaking down the boat before going off.

A good place to start looking at boats is James Baldwin's Boat List. His list consists of fairly well proven pocket bluewater capable boats under 32' LOA or so. A couple can cruise fairly long distances in boats of such size as proven by Larry and Lin Pardey.

I'm a big believer of smaller boats for cruising... but that doesn't work for all people.
 

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We started off with a Catalina 250 and quickly went up from there. We were in the same baot as you, so to speak. My wife had no sailing experience, while I had a fair bit but mostly smaller boats.

If I could, without it being a financial drain, I would opt for something that would allow me and the wife to spend weekends aboard and be able to anchor out. There are MANY positives of this, including finding out what you like and do nto like about anchoring out and boating in general. You may very well find a passion in it and spend every weekend and holiday out there. We quickly outgrew our 250 and realized that cruising was what we wanted to do with our life. Our regret was that we ended up buying a boat inbetween that could not go cruising, but gave us large boat systems. It cost us money to get rid of that boat, so to speak, and get the boat that we really could go cruising on.

The least expensive way to make this happen if you are sure that you are going to go cruising is to go ahead and make the plunge. Yes, I realize the boat would cost more, maintenance, slip, etc... but you would have 5 years of learning her and getting her down and having a lot of fun doing it. It would also give you time to fix it up to where you like it and improve systems along the way. Not to mention, there is a lot of fun (and things to be learned) at a marina - including meeting up with friends with similar interests, parties, rallys, and just some good old quiet dockside sunsets.

Go to the next Houston Boat show and walk around and take the wife with you. Look at all the boats. See what is nice and what is not. A new boat is probably not the way to go fo ryou (and who knows, maybe it is??), but the shows are a lot of fun to walk through and a great way to get excited about the life to come.

Just some of my thoughts. Others will agree and dissagree, but that was what worked for us.

- CD
 

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get a trailer-sailer/pocket cruiser
In my area there are marinas with launch ramps, you can rent a spot to leave your boat on a trailer with the mast up when not using & the cost is much less than renting a slip .
 

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I have to agree with sailing dog, and cruisingdream.

Lessons, and seperately will refresh you, and give the wife confidence.

The trailer sailor pocket cruiser will have systems to work on, and give you a chance to camp. When it's time to buy the cruiser you will recoupe your money for the pocket cruiser.

The more time on the water the better. When you feel comfortable with your skills you can always charter on vacation time to get a better feel for what you want. BEST WISHES in moving forward with your plans.

The Tahiti trip still lives deep down in your soul would be my guess?.......i2f
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Wow, some great advice here, right out of the gate. Thanks a bunch for everyone's input!

So it sounds like a good initial step would be to get the ASA 101 course under our belts. While it's not cheap at like $300 each, it would get us out for a full weekend of intense sailing education/practice and might be a relatively inexpensive guage my wife's interests and abilities.

WRT the boat choices, I'm still really up in the air about the whole thing... There's a possibility I may have a friend with a dock on a canal. That is to say, I DO have a friend with a dock on a canal, I may have the possibility of using it for a nominal fee since he has no interest in boat ownership. Without the $150/month marina fees, would that change anyone's opinion on which way to go?

And imagine2frolic... Yes, it's stuck deeeep in my heart. It was 9 years ago, and it's still the best thing I've ever done. Sailed on Balamar, a wooden 55 foot gaff-rig Bequia cutter from Riatea, Tahiti to Lahina, Maui with my dad and Denny, the captain/owner. 28 days in passage. Spent 8 of the last 10 under double-reefed main with the boards working so much that we were getting better than 80 strokes on the bilge pump each hour. Combers in the cockpit a couple times per watch during that storm, never once did I feel unsafe on that great old boat.

We made the entire trip on a starboard tack. First tack (jibe, actually) to port was when we turned down the Pailolo channel. It messed me up so bad after a month on the opposite tack, I was falling all over the boat, tore out my leecloth and everything.

I still pull out my old journal and marvel at it, it was still the best thing I've ever done in my life. I loved the midnight watch, ghosting along at four knots with a cup of tea and a jay, stars so bright you could walk the deck and work the rigging without lights, helm so perfectly balanced without vane or autohelm it could go an entire watch without any attention, the sense of being completely out of contact with the rest of the world, of being able to follow your thoughts all the way to their natural conclusions without worry or interruption. The world band told us that Florida had somehow messed up the presidential election, and I really couldn't care less. It was probably the most formative month of my life. I'd love to share that with my wife.
 

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Hey, i live in Corpus Christi and I am currently sailing a friends 26ft columbia! I sleep on it when the weekend is here to get a feel for what it is like and I have spent the weekend on another friends 40 ft sloop, If you know anyone with a sailboat have them take you out as opposed to spending money on lessons! it's not real hard to get a feel for it it is the maintenance thats the real deal! but if you need instruction then pay for it! I guess I am just a natural and have been sailing hobi cats for years, it is really up to you and how you feel about it!
 

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I would say do both! Definitely sail with others but I would also recommend the course. It will build confidence for you wife and it will improve your sailing too!

I sailed for a few years before getting a basic certification and the course really gave me a leg up seamanship, confidence and even racing.

The second course I did offered quite a bit less to me as I am a self learner got off the steep learning curve you have for the first couple of few years of frequent sailing.

I would recommend you give a good amount of study to a general sailing (boating) book like the Chapman's Piloting and Seamanship it will allow you to get a lot more from the course.

Best of luck!
 

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One real reason you and your better half should take the courses separately... when you are out cruising as a couple, remember that 95% of the time, you will effectively be single handing the same boat at different times.... There will often be times when the your spouse is unable to come to help you—using the head, cooking, sleeping, seasick, injured, taking care of the children, etc... and you both have to be able to single hand whatever boat you have. This is one MAJOR REASON that I advocate going with a smaller boat....since the weaker of the two of you has to be able to set and retrieve the anchor, stow and deploy the anchor, hoist, reef, and lower the sails, and such BY THEMSELVES, as there may be an emergency where it is required.
 
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