Rookies first outing, hunter 260

Jul 2, 2021
Hunter 260 Ottawa
Our Hunter 260 will arrive early next week and we plan on spending a few days learning the mast raising/lowering in the driveway prior to our first attempt at sailing.

We have ZERO sailing experience.

We aren't absolute morons, which is arguable, and believe we can figure things out.

We live in Ottawa and are planning a trip out to teach ourselves how to sail.

Our choices
1. put her in the ottawa river at nepean sailing club.
2. Trailer to lake ontario and figure things out there, within sight of shore.

I fear the ottawa river is unforgiving with the rapids holding you accountable for mistakes.

Opinions, thoughts, concerns?
Oct 26, 2010
Hunter 40.5 Beaufort, SC
I don't know anything about the Ottawa River. but if it has even moderate currents I'd opt for the lake and start my "beginner" un-instructed learning in only light to moderate winds with life jackets on and some sort of propulsion available if things go south. Getting a sailboat to move is easy, getting it to move the direction you want it to move efficiently and FAST takes a lot of practice and skill.

As a better alternative, I'd find some willing sailor to go with me for the first few sails and get some instructions or try to enroll in a basic keelboard sailing class. If things go bad, you or more importantly your significant other, may sour on sailing. I was once told, and took to heart, that your first sail should be enjoyable, not a trial by fire, or I'd never get my spouse on the boat again. It was enjoyable and she does go out with me although I mostly sail solo.


Jan 7, 2004
Hunter 260 Perrysburg, OH
We sailed our H260 on the Maumee River near Toledo and on Lake Erie, and a river can be unforgiving. I can't tell you how many times we depended on getting our engine started quickly to avoid rocks, docks, piers, tree trunks, jetsam and the like - and failed several times narrowly avoiding serious damage and injury.

I'd recommend you take it to the lake and ask an experienced sailor from the Nepean SC to go with you - even if it is a person who only has smaller boat experience. We loved our H260 and sailed with the kids when they were small for many years; one of the best boats we ever owned.

Raising and lowering the mast is something we quickly got the hang of, best with 2-3 people. I'd also recommend knowing the engine's starting capability by testing with a garbage can full of water in the driveway covering the lower end, just in case. Having some muscle memory on the choke settings, safety cutoff, throttle position and number of pulls it takes to start or battery juice needed can be helpful.


Jul 25, 2013
Between Boats near Vancouver, BC
FWIW, here's my advice, as a self-taught sailor.

I guess the first thing is that it would probably be smarter to teach yourself on a dinghy. That worked well for me (dinghies and sailboards). But it sounds like that ship has sailed, for you.

I would not start on a river. I'm not familiar with the Ottawa river but I've seen it. It's a big river so I assume it can have strong currents. I've been sailing a Macgregor 26S for four years and I still haven't taken it on the river near me, because of currents. Consider even just the potential complications of getting the boat on and off the trailer when there's significant current. The river near me can have currents that rival a sailboat's hull speed. Perhaps the Ottawa river is very slow? Even if it is, rivers are narrow and so, unless you get ridiculously lucky with the winds, you'll be doing zillions of very short tacks--good practice, perhaps, but likely not the ideal learning environment.

I do know Lake Ontario a bit, having sailed on it in a friend's C&C 30, down near Toronto. It's a damned big lake and can get angry, but I don't know what it's like up toward the Ottawa end. The sheltered parts around Kingston are probably pretty calm, but they're also on the narrow side for sailing pleasure. I was hoping there'd be a decent smaller lake near you, but I don't see anything obvious on the map. Big Rideau Lake is big enough for decent sailing, but I expect it's overrun with powerboats. If Lake Ontario is your only real choice then I think you should take an experienced sailor with you the first time, as @smokey73 suggested.

I would say the ideal size of lake to start on is something like Nipissing. But that's a long tow, for you. The Baskatong reservoir looks to be a good size, and it's around the same distance as Lake Ontario. Is that an option? Or Lac Saint Pierre?
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Jul 2, 2021
Hunter 260 Ottawa
Thanks for the replies. Maybe somewhere between Belleville and Kingston. The boat does have a very good running outboard which I think can get us out of trouble in a pinch if we stay within a click or 2 of shore.

The Ottawa river on the west side of the city has a set of rapid just past the 2 marinas. I'm not sure about how fast the water flows but its fast enough for breakers. I'm not feeling great about that.

The wife and I have agreed to grin through it, hopefully, we can laugh at issues that arise while wearing our lifejackets!

I believe the big rideau will be jammed with motor boats and PWCs. I'll try to have a better look at Basatong but am seriously considering the Prince Edward County area.
Jul 2, 2021
Hunter 260 Ottawa
sounds like a really BAD plan. a really selfish plan.
There seem to be plenty of "Learn to Sail" videos on youtube, presented by people with decades of experience.
I have to assume they are presented to show people how to get on the water with only the video and a boat under their belt.
May 25, 2012
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
basic sailing is not hard to learn. just like driving a car is not hard to learn. yet a few lessons are required.

i am a trained sailor
i am a trained instructor
i have 6 decades of sailing
i have over 1,000,000 miles at sea

while you "assume", i know

i stand by my blunt response
Jul 2, 2021
Hunter 260 Ottawa
do you know the 'rules of the road' by heart?
I think I've been pretty clear on what I do and don't know. Do I have the basic minimum legal requirement to operate a small craft in my local, yes. That's about it.

Jon, I do hope my wanting to learn how to sail hasn't upset you. I'm certainly not the first person to teach themselves how to get that done or drive a car for that matter. I certainly am not here to ruffle feathers, I'm just asking for advice and I'm not negating yours.

If it makes you feel better, I'll repeat that I posted looking for local guidance. I am trying to take your advice.

Is it not reasonable to think that I can get on a calm body of water in good weather, sails down, and motor in and out of a launch?
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May 25, 2012
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
i'm blunt. no ruffled feathers at all. i enjoy sharing the skills of sailing. by being blunt i hope to make you assess that which you want to achieve.
find someone to give you a few nice lessons. you can get the feel of your boat. ask some questions. have a picnic
Jul 2, 2021
Hunter 260 Ottawa
i'm blunt. no ruffled feathers at all. i enjoy sharing the skills of sailing. by being blunt i hope to make you assess that which you want to achieve.
find someone to give you a few nice lessons. you can get the feel of your boat. ask some questions. have a picnic
Trying to get that sorted out. I do believe I will find someone locally that is willing to help us out.

Thanks for the advice.
Jan 19, 2010
Hunter 26 Charleston
46 years ago, I got my first sailing lesson... it lasted about 10 minutes. He did not use sailing terms... Here is what I was told...

1) Pull this rope to make the boat go faster (he was talking about the main sheet) unless the wind is behind you a little.
2) Let this rope out if you start to tip over (again the main sheet)
3) When changing directions, never let the wind cross your back, always cross the wind over the front of the boat
4) If you want to sail in the direction that the wind is coming from, you have to zig-zag your way there.

Then I jumbed into my 14 foot dingy sailboat and spent the rest of the summer on the lake.

I've owned about a dozen sailboats since.
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Feb 21, 2013
Hunter 46 Point Richmond, CA
.........We live in Ottawa and are planning a trip out to teach ourselves how to sail. Our choices
1. put her in the ottawa river at nepean sailing club. or 2. Trailer to lake ontario and figure things out there, within sight of shore.
Suggest learning how to sail on a lake vs. a river, otherwise you mght find yourself down river and no way to get back if you loose wind. I know, because everytime I launched my first small sailboat in a body of water with a strong current it would lake all day to sail back to the launch ramp.
Jun 21, 2004
Beneteau 343 Slidell, LA
Many (many) years ago, at age 21, my brother & I purchased a venture 15' catamaran. Damned near killed myself a few times.
I finally decided to take sailing lessons and probably saved my life (and crew), and finally learned the nuances of sailing safely & enjoyably. I have taken several sailing courses over the years and always learn something new & beneficial along the way.
Do yourself ( and wife) a favor and learn the basics from someone who knows what they're doing, preferably from a reputable sailing school. Much easier and safer than the trial & error method. As the saying goes " you don't know, what you don't know." You can watch all of the videos; however, that is not the same as being on the water and being in command. After basic hands on instructions, you will have a better basis for learning from books & videos. Congratulations on the new boat, have fun, & be safe!
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Feb 11, 2017
Islander Freeport 36 Ottawa
The Ottawa river is a lot more forgiving than Lake Ontario. Don't worry about the rapids, just turn left when you leave the NSC channel and you won't be anywhere near that danger. I've sailed on the Ottawa (out of BYC) for about a half century, it is extremely rare for anyone to go down the rapids. There was one a couple years ago but that was a pontoon boat and they had no clue the rapids were even there, just drove right down, so you are already way ahead of them.

Let me know if you have any questions about local knowledge. I've hit most of the reefs myself ;)

I've never launched at NSC so I can't help much but I do know people that sail out of there that may be able to help. I've never rigged a Hunter 260 but feel free to contact me (PM for contact info) and maybe we can meet up to get your started. I've rigged and sailed more boats than I can count.

I really (really, really, really) recommend you contact Advantage boating and sign up for the basic cruising course. Ask about having them train you on your own boat; it will be way more help than you can possibly imagine. If Ron or Doris answer the phone, tell them D'Arcy sent you. I'm not affiliated with Advantage in any way, I've just sailed with (and raced against) them for many years.
Jul 2, 2021
Hunter 260 Ottawa
Thanks, maybe the Ottawa river it will be. Possibly including Advantage, will look into it if I don't hear from a volunteer. ;)

At least this option is just 20 minutes from home.
Am I crazy to think that I could launch the boat at NSC, start the 9.9 and motor around for an hour or 2 at a few knots. Possibly raise a bit of sail if there wasn't much wind, and go from there?