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Best Boat To Learn To Sail On?

ToddS

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Sep 11, 2017
248
Beneteau 373 Cape Cod
+1 to all the votes for dinghies. I'm 46 years old, with a 37' boat, and I still own, and use a Walker Bay 8' dinghy... it requires pretty close to zero maintenance (plastic hull)... you can drag it across a parking lot... you can throw it on the roof of a mid-sized car. it is not the fastest, it is not luxurious, it is not terribly comfortable, is it not stiff enough for my liking... yet it is still fun. There is SOOO much to learn from sailing a tiny boat. Adjusting the daggerboard, adjusting trim, adjusting the vang, adjusting how far forward/aft you sit all have not only significant impacts... but IMMEDIATE impacts on performance.
 

dLj

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Mar 23, 2017
1,760
Belliure 41 Snug Harbor, Lake Champlain
I don't remember if my first sailing experience was on a sunfish or a sailing canoe. I was sailing both from a young age. I owned, after rebuilding, the canoe, and my good buddy had a home made sunfish. Then there was another small boat that was actually made from stryofoam with a skin of fiberglass over it. It really sucked compared to the first two. I immediately got hooked up with folks racing small boats like Rhodes Bantums, Stars (those were fast) and Thistles. A sailfish was in the mix too. Never sailed a dingy. Bet they are great to learn on.

Owned a C scow through college then progressed up to a 9.25 meter ocean going Sirocco, a European boat that was fast and blue water capable. Sailed with numerous folk on multiple different boats, steel hulls, wooden, fiberglass boats of various models. I totally agree with each boat teaches you something new...

I'll still sail a sunfish and enjoy it. I don't know what I'd recommend for an adult to start with - certainly small to begin. Depends upon all the answers to the orignally posted questions sounds about right to me.

I've never taken formal lessons, but I've sailed with a lot of very knowledgeable people. Lessons would be good.

dj
 
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Likes: jssailem
Feb 26, 2019
68
Seaward 17 Ohio
My first is a Seaward 17. Still learning. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I can't get the hang of sailing a close haul. It just sits there or turns downwind. Advise welcomed!
 
Apr 12, 2007
131
Hunter 420 Herrington Harbor South
I followed the jssailem method.
local school on flying scot
2 yrs later purchased a Hunter 27, 5 years sailing the Potomac
purchased a Hunter 386 sailed the Chesapeake for 9 years
and now Hunter 420
It worked :)
 
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Likes: jssailem
Apr 21, 2014
182
Hunter 356 Middle River, MD
Power Boater with my parents when young around the Chesapeake BUT we did get a Boston Whaler Sailing Dinghy, which was great to tool around in and get exposed to sailing although it never materialized with a larger boat.
Fast forward and I had a small Sea Ray in my twenties but did not want to pay for for the gas to operate it and family came first. Another 15+ years go by and a neighbor invited me out on his Hunter 27 and I remember the instant when the motor went off and just the sound of the waves and wind was all I could hear, and that relaxing feeling came over me. Plant that in my brain for later.
Kids were in college and look at the wife and say, what can we do with our time and sailing came to mind. Went to look at a Hunter 43 as my possible first boat and the wife firmly said NO, so looked at a 356 36' that they said I could sail by myself if I wanted and it had all the equipment that would keep her happy. Got the boat and took a 11 week Power Squadron Sailing class to learn the basics correctly and have been learning ever since.
 
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ToddS

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Sep 11, 2017
248
Beneteau 373 Cape Cod
My first is a Seaward 17. Still learning. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I can't get the hang of sailing a close haul. It just sits there or turns downwind. Advise welcomed!
I don't know that specific boat... but that doesn't really matter. It's almost certainly one of three things...
1) Trim your sheets (main and jib assuming you're using both) in enough that they are not luffing... luffing is when the LEADING edge of the sail is flapping... a little flapping at the trailing edge is something else. If you have tell tales (little pieces of string/yard/ribbon on your sails, the tales on BOTH SIDES of your sail should simultaneously be streaming horizontally/aft...(NOT just one side calm, while the other side is waving around).
2) You should have your dagger board, or centerboard (whatever that boat has) fully lowered... it seems small, but makes a huge difference sailing upwind... without it, you'll never get very high up into the wind.
3) You might just be trying to go too high up into the wind... every boat has a different ability to point up into the wind... generally 45 degrees is sort of a "rule of thumb", but different boats can go higher (or lower) than that. No matter what boat you're on, at some point you can't close haul any higher up into the wind without stalling (like you're describing). Watch other boats around you and try to match what they're doing... some might go a little higher than you can, but none of them are going to be able to point 20 degrees higher than you, unless you're doing something wrong (see #1 and #2 above). Fall off the wind a little bit, and (within reason) you'll actually get to where you're going up wind faster.
#4) (BONUS) If you are sailing in very light wind, sometimes it helps to make your sails a little bit rounder/looser... so anything flattening them (downhaul, or outhaul, etc.) can be eased just a bit to create a rounder, deeper sail... likewise if the wind is very high, making the sails stretch nice and flat will "spill off" some of the excess wind. These kinds of adjustments come with more time/experience... My bet is that you're either messing up with #2 or #3 above.
 

dLj

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Mar 23, 2017
1,760
Belliure 41 Snug Harbor, Lake Champlain
My first is a Seaward 17.
Todd gave you a bunch of good advice above. The only thing I would add is a simple - I say this but don't really know the simplicity - technique I sometimes do to figure out how well a boat points. Be sure to follow Todd's advice above first.

I will start not pointing very high upwind and get the boat sailing nicely. I'll then let the sails out just a bit until I get some luff, then bring then back in just until the luff is gone. Then I'll point a bit more up wind, sail should luff a bit and then bring sail in to just barely loose the luff again. I'll do this repeatedly at the same time as watching the boat speed. By doing this, I figure out how well a boat points. I'll also typically do this on both tacks as it always seems to me many boats, or maybe it's just me, point a bit better on one tack than the other.

Hope this helps...

dj
 
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Likes: Will Gilmore
Jan 19, 2010
9,907
Hunter 26 Charleston
Todds and dlj gave good advice. One more thing to note is that a boat can usually point better if it is moving faster. So fall of the wind a little and then start the testing that dlj recommended ... and some point you will find that sweet spot that lets you make progress up wind while still moving the boat at a decent speed. If I get knocked by the wake of a ski boat (or whatever :mad:) I often fall off to get my speed back up before I try to point again.
 
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Likes: BudGates
Sep 20, 2014
1,273
Rob Legg RL24 Chain O'Lakes
My first is a Seaward 17. Still learning. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I can't get the hang of sailing a close haul. It just sits there or turns downwind. Advise welcomed!
You may have a difficult time assessing this, but how baggy are your sails? Baggy sails do not sail upwind. They tend to just blow the boat over, rather than moving it forward. Without any speed, you loose steering. Baggy sails will not produce speed. I don't know how the Seaward is setup, but if you can put a little bend in the mast, it will take out some of the bagginess. It won't fix it, but may help. Even an inch or 2 of bend will completely change the sail shape.
I had a boat with similar issues, but maybe worse. It had a flat blade rudder, which would easily stall, and not steer the boat. I always had to drop the jib sheet just before my turns, otherwise I would miss the turn. I don't know how many times I would just jibe or make a "power turn", as it was very common to not carry enough speed to make the turn. I was always singing, "I need a rudder that won't drive me crazy".
 
Jan 19, 2010
9,907
Hunter 26 Charleston
Baggy sails do not sail upwind.
Right.... should have thought to mention that. Great point! A baggy main will will have you struggling with the rudder to keep from rounding even on a reach.
 
Feb 26, 2019
68
Seaward 17 Ohio
Thanks for all the advice! I'll try them all. I've also heard/dreamed/imagined that creating heeling helps???

I've got a traveler and car mounted in the cockpit and attached to the main sheet. How do I use it?
 
Jan 19, 2010
9,907
Hunter 26 Charleston
Creating heel is something you do on very light wind days so that gravity can help you keep sail shape. You need to sit very still and allow your boat to slowly pick up momentum. Many call this ghosting. I LOVE it. Any rocking of the boat will cause your sails to flap and you loose your momentum. But if you do it right you can get to 3 or 4 kts in what seems like a calm day.

@Jackdaw or @Don Guillette are your go-to guys for sail trim advice but here is how I understand it. When pointing (especially with stronger breezes) you want to induce some twist in your sail. Bring the traveler slightly to windward and then let the boom out with the sheet until it is about mid-line. Loosen your vang. You will feel the boat pick up speed and heel less. When the wind is behind you, move the traveler to the leeward side and tighten your vang. If you have tell-tales you will want to then play with sail trim until they are streaming aft. There are more subtle trims regarding genoa cars. If you have genoa cars you move those in and out also depending on if you are reaching, pointing or running.
 
May 17, 2004
2,021
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
I've got a traveler and car mounted in the cockpit and attached to the main sheet. How do I use it?[/QUOTE]

Dhamil: You're question, while a good one, is starting you're sail trim learning process in the wrong place -- in the middle. Many beginners, including myself, do that. In other words, the first thing you should learn is WHAT all the sail trim controls for the main & jib are actually adjusting - it's like going to flight ground school. Once you know that then the next step is to determine which sail trim controls adjust WHAT. For example, the traveler adjusts angle of attack. After that you need to know the actual adjustment for each sail trim control for each point of sail and wind condition.

Sounds like a lot of work doesn't it? It is and how would you go about it? Well, you could get a good book on the subject such as Dennis Conner "Sail Like A Champion" and look up EVERY sail trim control for the main and jib and outline the result. You'll find that the traveler might be on pages 17, 55, 9 & 115. In other words, the problem with these book is that the info is all over the place. Is there an easier way? Take a look at my book, The Sail Trim Users Guide. I've already done the research for you and each sail trim control has it's own section. Then take a look at my Sail Trim Chart - I've outlined all the sail trim adjustment for each sail trim control for the main & jib for each point of sail and wind condition. The first chapter of my book is the most important. It outlines WHAT all the sail trim controls are adjusting. At the end of the chapter I caution the reader not to continue with out understanding that chapter because sail trim will not make sense.

After you finish my book, take a sailing class. You'll know more about sail trim that 99% of the beginners in the class - you might even know more than some instructors!!
 
Sep 25, 2018
243
Catalina Capri 22 Capri EXPO 14.2 1282 Stony Point
First sailed in a sun fish and had no idea what I was doing. Decided I liked the idea of the wind propelling me thru the water. Took sailing lessons at Steve Colgate's school on City Island on a Soling. Showed me all the sail trimming but it didn't stick. Began renting boats wherever I traveled. Flying scots on the Potomac, Rhodes 19 at Oyster Bay (with Mr. Rhodes watching the bay from his house on the top of the hill on the south), O'day 22 and Catalina 22's on SF Bay, a local built boat on Bermuda. Finally got a Hunter 23.5 as a birthday present which I sailed and complained about for 12 years. This year got a Capri 22 WKSR with race package. Only sailed it 3 times so far, still on my shakedown phase of learning sail trim on a boat with sail controls up to the task. Very responsive yet steady. Also got a Catalina Expo 14.2 in Florida to bop around Boca Ciega Bay when I'm down there.
Plan to get something around 30 feet to cruise when I finally retire and have the time to travel. Haven't really looked much but found the Catalina 315 to be about the right size. Just me, the admiral and my dog. Any suggestions for a responsive fun cruiser is most welcome.
 
May 17, 2004
2,021
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
In other words, the first thing you should learn is WHAT all the sail trim controls for the main & jib are actually adjusting - it's like going to flight ground school.

I received a email this AM from a forum lister -- he wanted to know what's with the flight school analogy? It's like this - you decide to buy a plane. The day after the purchase you decide to have breakfast at the local airport restaurant where local pilots dine. Your first question to them is"how do the flaps work?'.
 
Feb 26, 2019
68
Seaward 17 Ohio
Ordered the book and charts today. Assuming it will take a few days to get here, what advice can you offer for this weekend?
 

danm1

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Oct 5, 2013
124
Hunter 34 Mamaroneck, NY
Grew up with motorboats and canoes. Probably sailed first on a Sunfish at summer camp. Around 1972 I decided the age of steam was over and bought an international 420 and taught myself. A few years later I took lessons on a Soling and found out how much I didn't know. Decided I needed to cruise the world and bought a San Juan 21. Been up and down and up in size since. But I agree with several earlier posters that 1. You can't go too far wrong with school boats: Solings, Sonars, J22s, Colgate 26s, etc. and 2. The choices for ownership have to be somewhat age appropriate.