Hardest Part Of Learning To Sail

Mar 26, 2011
2,937
Corsair F-24 MK I Deale, MD
1. I learned to sail on a small boat (beach cat). That, in combination with being a person who learns easily from books, made for a pretty steep curve. I think as an engineer that sail trim, rigging, balance, and leeway were all pretty obvious, though learning the nuances takes a lifetime. I'm still learning.
2. The hard part. For me, that was learning that blocked practice of things you don't do often, like docking or reefing, is required. You can learn to do them just sailing, but learning to do them WELL and RIGHT is best learned by taking yourself to school for a few days. Just repeat and repeat, focusing not on getting it right, but on understanding the problem. Then you'll get it right. Just ignore the people that are watching.
3. Finally, there is continuing education. You get a new boat and everything changes. I like that. It makes you dig up those fundamentals again.
 
Oct 22, 2014
16,130
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
hardest part when fist sailing is finding an isolated spot so you don’t get laughed at and made fun of when you get back.
I would think that was true when you sail angry people might laugh... They can be so cruel.
 
Mar 26, 2011
2,937
Corsair F-24 MK I Deale, MD
The hardest part when fist sailing is finding an isolated spot so you don’t get laughed at and made fun of when you get back. (early teens)
The first time I tried backing my twin-engine 16-foot beam cat into a 17-foot slip it was a little (very) time consuming. One of my buddies down the dock announced that "What happens in Deale, stays in Deale." Good guys, really.

I knew sailing, I just didn't understand twin screws yet. I actually felt good about entertaining them. Nothing got broken or scratched, and they got a laugh.
 
Oct 22, 2014
16,130
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
first time I tried backing my twin-engine 16-foot beam cat into a 17-foot slip it was a little (very) time consuming.
Come the end of May... @LeslieTroyer and I are taking the wives to Belize for a Catamaran cruise. We'll get to test our skills at twin engine boat control. Sounds like it was a piece of cake..:)
 
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weinie

.
Sep 6, 2010
1,297
Jeanneau 349 port washington, ny
Trying to figure out why the boat is doing s&^t you don't want it to do...
Like getting stuck in irons, rounding up, heeling too much, not turning downwind, etc.
 
Mar 26, 2011
2,937
Corsair F-24 MK I Deale, MD
Come the end of May... @LeslieTroyer and I are taking the wives to Belize for a Catamaran cruise. We'll get to test our skills at twin engine boat control. Sounds like it was a piece of cake..:)
Everything is easier. However the process for backing into a slip in a cross wind is different.
  • Approach parallel, closer than for regular backing.
  • Start the turn away and put the away engine in reverse at the same time. Put the near engine in neutral. The boat will turn, slow and skid, without moving very far from the slips.
  • Center the wheel before she stops in front of the slip. You will not touch the wheel again.
  • Steer and back using the throttles. Allow for the wind or current.
The point is you want to sort of skid to a stop about 8-15 from the slip, mostly lined up. Then back in, using the throttles to turn and move fore-aft. Backing in in the normal manner gives far less control, and you don't need any distance, because you can spin the boat. Finally, because you do not have a deep keel this sliding approach, like a power boat uses, give better control in a cross wind.
 
Oct 22, 2014
16,130
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
I like it. Thanks for the info. Sounds like similar to the twin engine power boats I played with back in the 70's. It is like riding a bike right? Once you tried it it comes back pretty quickly? Hopefully.
 
Mar 20, 2015
2,255
C&C 30 Mk1 Silver Harbour, Lake Winnipeg
I agree with the majority of sailors that will say, the dinghy is the best tool to use to learn how to sail.

I don't think sailing is a difficult thing to learn at all, in a dinghy, especially for the very young. Starting on a large boat seems to me to be much more difficult. Some sailors don't ever 'get it', and starting in a bigger boat, may be why.
That is my belief. I had a discussion with the long time members of our club, they see more new members buying a 30ish foot keelboat as their first boat (aka floating cottage)... after taking a short sailing course, instead of starting with a dinghy like most of older people have done.
Many don't stay in the hobby for long.
 

TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
2,663
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
That is my belief. I had a discussion with the long time members of our club, they see more new members buying a 30ish foot keelboat as their first boat (aka floating cottage)... after taking a short sailing course, instead of starting with a dinghy like most of older people have done.

"Many don't stay in the hobby for long."


That has been one of the more perplexing questions about sailing that I can't find an answer for. I too have known many sailing enthusiasts, that have come and gone from the hobby - sport - recreation, whatever you want to call sailing.

Racers, cruisers, many I have known well, who moved on. Not necessarily a bad thing, maybe you don't want, it.

It meaning sailing, being a passion for me that can border on obsession. I can't drive by a body of water, no matter the size or odd place, without imaging myself on it under sail. Sailing haunts my thoughts as it does many of my sailing friends that live a sailing life.

EB White summed up his sailing obsession, near addiction, in the essay, The Sea and the Wind that Blows: For me, I can not not sail. I understand this odd phrase.

I can and have picked up and left many things in my life, with ease. Sailing is different. It's a physical and emotion state of being that has stayed with me, on and off the water.

I can only trace it's origins to that moment; holding the tiller and sheet and feeling the wind and water dynamic, sometime long ago, in a small boat.

I think I can see it in other people. I believe I can see in this photo, she (who I don't know), has it.
North Haven dinghy.jpg With me, I cannot not sail. .jpg
 

TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
2,663
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
i call it 'a game of chess with mother nature' and she is a formidable opponent :). i call motor boating, which i have a few in my collection, a game of checkers. that's fun also, sorta
That's a brilliant description, Jon. I'll remember it.

Further thought, being on the water in any boat is a means to a great end. That is a big part of sailing and boating.

If you're passionate about sailing, you need to do it.
 
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May 17, 2004
2,032
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
Years ago when I lived in So Ca, a group of gals from Newport Beach approached me and asked if I'd help them prepare for the the Newport to Ensenada Race. I never liked that race even though I did it 3 times (actually I don't like racing that much -. I'm more of a cruiser). The N to E race is all downhill and I consider it boring - you could rig up a 55 gal drum with a broomstick and a bed sheet for a sail and do that race!!

Anyway, the gals were competing in beer can races and coming in last all the time and they were the butt of jokes from some of the guy racers. The first problem the gals had was they had no idea what all the controls for the main & jib were adjusting. It's a common problem a lot of sailors have. The results is they guessed at the adjustment for each point of sail and wind condition and mostly the sails end up working against each other. It's an easy fix if sail trim is explained in simple English and a logical manner. Once we got over that hurdle I assigned each gal to a position and they work at that position until they had it down cold. After that they started coordinating their efforts and working as a team to get 100% efficiency out of the boat. They hardly communicated with each other -- they just KNEW what each other was doing. It really was joy to watch. Then they starting moving up positions in the beer can races. Then they starting winning some races. They never finished lower than 3rd that season.

By the time of the Newport to Ensenada race they had a lot of confidence in their sailing ability. They came in 2nd in their division and finished hours before the boat I was on. They met me at the dock and were so happy I thought they were going to pick me up and throw me in the water - they didn't!!.

I've had a number of sailing experiences that have made my day and that day was one of them. I learned from that experience and incorporated it into a 4 hour "On The Water" seminar that I'll explain later.
 
May 17, 2004
2,032
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
Thought we werent supposed to sell stuff here.
Bobby: I'm not selling a seminar -- I'm going to explain how I presented the program and what it consists of. Hopefully, a few sailors might be able to use some of the material, or even improve upon it, and use it at their club or in teaching their family, friends or whatever to become familiar with all the sail trim trim controls for the main and jib.

I used to conduct sail trim seminars in So Ca, Lake Havasu, Phoenix & Tucson but no more -- there's no money in it because normally my wife comes with me and she goes shopping while I conduct the seminar and spends every dime I make!!

See my signature -- I am selling the Sail Trim Chart & Sail Trim Users Guide and they'll make make nice Xmas gifts. They are available through the SBO ships store. Selling my products on the forum is the one perk given to me by SBO for conducting this forum for the last 19 years.

PS: Thanks Stu J. Hope you and your family have a nice holiday.
 
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Jul 1, 2010
871
Seaward 25, Catalina 350 Erie, Pa
Hardest part? My wife and I both tend to have type a controlling personalities. We somehow make it work. We still can't wallpaper or paint together, though.
 
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Oct 22, 2014
16,130
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
Years ago when I lived in So Ca, a group of gals from Newport Beach approached me
"you had me at Hello".... There was no way any red blooded, woman loving, sailor is not going to get on that boat and go sailing with "a group of gals from Newport Beach" whether they know anything about sailing or not. Hell they'll make it up just to be on the boat.

I Like that the story had a happy ending.

But like Paul Harvey always talked about, what was the rest of the story?
 
May 17, 2004
2,032
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
"you had me at Hello".... There was no way any red blooded, woman loving, sailor is not going to get on that boat and go sailing with "a group of gals from Newport Beach" whether they know anything about sailing or not. Hell they'll make it up just to be on the boat.

I Like that the story had a happy ending.

But like Paul Harvey always talked about, what was the rest of the story?
JSsailem; Yup, it was good duty!! I only went with them on one race. One guy asked one of the gal's "who's the old guy who just stood there and did nothing?". She said "he's DAD to ALL of us and the only one willing to help us because you (I forgot the term she used but it began with "A") wouldn't - end of conversation!!

In my opinion when it comes to learning how to sail, I think gals make the best students. Here's why I think that. They come at it without any preconceived notions. Guys that I've encountered frame their questions this way "I've been sailing for 20 years and have this & that experience" and then they ask me about the topping lift or something. Gals are not trying to impress anyone. They know they don't know and want to learn.
 
Sep 20, 2014
1,282
Rob Legg RL24 Chain O'Lakes
Sailing, like most things is learned in layers. There is a basic layer of learning to just make the boat go and not get blow over. This includes the real simple stuff, like viewing the sail as a fan blade, and understanding the basic concept of blade pitch (angle of attack). Learning to turn into the wind to reduce sail load. The next layer is not any more difficult, but just more information. This has to do with sail shape and how to achieve it. This layer really overlaps the next layer, which is learning what your specific boat likes in what conditions. The last layer would be a crew who learns to work as a team, where each crew member knows the whole boat well, knows what the boat needs and performs assigned tasks in rhythm with the expected action of others.
The only part I see as difficult is terminology. Everything else has a logical reasoning. The memorization of terminology has no reason, so there is no basis for learning. You can't just figure out the terms, you have to memorize them. Everything else is cause and effect, so it is easy to learn.

BTY: Someone earlier suggested the concept of lift was difficult. I would suggest the only reason it is difficult, is that every diagram trying to explain it, is simply wrong. All diagrams show lift with the arrow on the leeward part of the sail, which implies something (wind) is grabbing onto the sail and pulling it. Lift always comes from the windward side and is pushing against the sail. What happens on the leeward side is only an absence of pressure.