Friday, August 12, 2011

NKOTB - Sailing Experience Required?!

NKOTB (New Kids On The Boat) ... A Weekly Series Sharing Our Thoughts and Questions as Beginner Sailors and Future Cruisers.  NKOTB or Experienced Cruiser ... Tell Us Your Thoughts!

When Ken and I decided to buy a sailboat, sell everything and cruise the Caribbean, it wasn't for the "love of sailing".  In fact, until we purchased Nirvana, we'd never sailed before!  We'd been on a catamaran a time or two for a "booze cruise" while on vacation, but since that was a blur it doesn't really count.  We both grew up around power boats, so neither one of us was new to being around water or boating.  We figured sailing couldn't be that much different ... piece of cake! 

Well, now that we own a sailboat and have been on the lake a few times I'd say that sailing is quite different than a power boat.  Although I wouldn't say sailing is difficult (I may eat those words), it does have its own terminology and a whole new set of rules to the game!  No longer can we just push the throttle down and haul ass out of a sticky situation.  Then there's the sails, halyards, rigging and all sorts of things that go along with a sailboat.

I remember sailing our boat for one of the first times and feeling the power of the wind as it filled our sails and moved us along the water.  Even though I'd imagined the experience of sailing, I wasn't really prepared for the sensation of "heeling" (leaning into the water as the wind pushes the sails) and I quickly gained a new respect for the wind. While I actually enjoy heeling (to a certain degree), I now realize just how powerful the wind is and how crucial it is to know your sailboat and remain in control.

It's now been over a year and half since we purchased our Catalina 30 and most of last summer was spent in the boatyard, giving our sailboat a new look and a new name.  We plan to "set sail" in about a year and a half, and we can see our year ahead being consumed with working, selling our belongings, and then preparing Nirvana for cruising.  Although we look forward to some sailing excursions this year, we don't see a lot of time for practicing sailing maneuvers.  Therefore, this week's question as a NKOTB is ... how much sailing experience is required to go cruising?  We're hoping "not a lot"!

We realize that we have many skills yet to learn, such as ... reefing, using our spinnaker (not sure if we're going to spare precious space on board for this), sailing "wing-on-wing", picking up a mooring ball, heaving-to", and being able to sail our boat more efficiently.  Then there's navigation and plotting a course!  But, as so many cruisers say ... don't waste time.  So, once we've sold everything and prepared Nirvana adequately (not completely) for cruising, we're outta here!  While we hope to learn some of the above skills in the next year, we're not hanging around if not.  After all, why hang around sailing in the lake when we can improve our skills as we sail the Gulf coast towards Florida and the Bahamas?!

We will learn the basics of how to read a chart and plot a course before we leave, but with modern technology we'll also be relying on a chartplotter and a gps to keep us on course.  We'll also have an auto-pilot, cause we hear the praises of other cruisers and do not want to be standing behind the wheel all the time!  I suspect that the older generation of cruisers view our new generation as unskilled and too reliant on electronics.  I believe that there's something to be said for being able to navigate by the stars and a compass, and I have great respect for those sailors that did just that.  However, we won't be in that number!

It does appear to us that the definition of a cruiser has evolved over the past decade, and we won't be the first cruisers to learn as we go.  Time is too short to waste!  While there are always horror stories with anything, we've watched (on the internet) many people set sail this past year and they're all still alive and well!  I think some basic common sense goes a long way!  So, what do you think?

Note:  Here are the previous posts from this series.  Check them out and feel free to give us your advice!
Hasta luego ... until then.  Mid-Life Cruising!

10 comments:

Pat Daspit said...

Cheryl, while I don't have any advice to offer (never been sailing in my whole life), I do wish to make a comment......I love your new series!!! It's just another example of how creative you are as an entrepreneur and as a writer!

Love it !!!

Sandee said...

Boating is a lifelong learning curve. It just is. You'll so fine.

Have a terrific weekend. :)

Neophyte Cruiser said...

My vote for bare-bones cruising pre-requisites would be a familiarity with basic navigation skills (DR, electronic and charting)and an appreciation and understanding of safe small boat handling. Building on these, can be done after you've begun cruising. The learning curve is never-ending, so if you wait until you know everything, you'll never leave. Good sailing on the good yacht Nirvana.

Anonymous said...

I like your thinking, as I am also keen to get out there cruising. While I have done alot of ocean racing, I have never stayed on a boat longer than a couple of weeks, so I know there will be much for me to learn about full time cruising. I intend to learn as I go, there will be many people out there to help guide me along the way (fingers crossed).
It would be worth learning some of those sailing skills in calm waters. Like practice putting in and shaking out a reef many times. Know the sequence so that you can do it without thinking. At night time on an uncomforatble sea, it may take longer to do, but the sequence will be the same.
I agree with Pat, "I love your new series"
Duff

Tate said...

I keep thinking about all of the skills we want to work on too. The final thought that always emerges is.... Not Summer. Seems we always have 2 seasons. 1) Summer 2) Not Summer.

I can't imagine trying to go out and run through sail configurations in this heat. In the Fall though we'll be out there doing it! I have strange thoughts of doing figure 8s around crab pot buoys. You know, kinda like when you learned to drive in the big empty parking lots.

Anonymous said...

Love the series.... I am a Catalina 30 owner too. I have been sailing for over 35 yrs, love it. Terminology is easy, I am teaching my teenagers now. We have a song for it.

Running rigging is ropes, they run on the deck in sheets, and up the mast as halyard.

Standing rigging makes the mast stay up, shrouds, fore and aft stays.

Heave to makes us stop, reef-in or to drink a drop

Plot a course were off to sail...

Leslie J. Payne said...

Hi Cheryl & Ken,
My husband and I are anchored out in Block Island, RI, on our Island Packett waiting out so-far two days of storms. Searched for other cruisers and found you. :0) my husband lived aboard for 3-years, cruising the coast for 2-1/2 of those years, also Bahamas. We married 7-years ago and have cruised north to Maine every other summer. While it's true, don't wait, it is also true the less experience, the more excitement you'll have. (Excitement can mean many things.) The people and experiences are wonderful! Check out my blog for a few stories from this summer. You have a lovely website. Wishing you all the best!

Drew Frye said...

All I can say is WOW. You're bold and persistant, a powerful combination.

1. Yeah, there's a lot to learn. Sailing takes a season to learn, cruising takes much longer. It would have been good to learn on a small boat (http://sail-delmarva.blogspot.com/2010/04/merits-of-learning-to-sail-on-small.html), but move on. Beware of thunderstorms and sailing progresivly stronger weather. If tacking or any other action is trouble, take an hour and reherse it over and over; just like school, it's the fastes way to learn.

2. Take the chute. A boat without a chute is not sailing and the folks on board are not sailors. And it's really fun in lighter wind, the difference between drifting (or motoring) and sailing.

3. Sure, you can learn the rest on the way. You'll be coast hoping and there will be no need to brave storms... but watch the thunderstorms!

Anonymous said...

Nice blog and informative newbie sailing series. I once lived aboard a 30 footer and my 2cents is to sail and camp out overnight on the boat whenever possible. You will make a better transition to liveaboard life (or find out it's not as great as you thought much sooner.) Don't wait for perfect weather just spend a continuous 48hrs out on the boat (away from the dock) as often as you can. Very true that you never stop learning about sailing - the key is to make the time to do it. Keep it up and have fun.

Ken n Cheryl said...

Great advice, and we can't wait to take the boat out for 48 hours away from the dock! Hopefully in October when it's a little cooler. The statement the less experience, the more excitement .. we don't need too much of this kind of excitement! Love all of your very good points!

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