I was recently contacted by Luisana Suegart, Associate Editor of Brickell Magazine about a article that she is writing about retiring on a sailboat . These were 3 of her questions;
1. How long does that process of learning how to sail take?
After 30 plus years of sailing I am still learning new things. On a small boat in calm waters with an easy day of instruction you can learn the basic principles of sailing. Being comfortable standing a watch at 2 AM on a 50′ sailboat with miles of ocean around you, the lights of a ship heading toward you in the distance and a thunderstorm off your port bow may take a little longer.
That said, with a week or two of live aboard classes you probably would be ready to strike off on your own to do some coastal cruising (daytime cruising in local and regional waters in moderate winds and sea conditions). After a couple of months of sailing in a place like the Keys with a variety of calm-water to open-ocean sailing areas and safe harbors with plenty of marine stores and mechanics nearby, it may be time to head to the Bahamas for the winter season. From there a trip to the Panama Canal may be feasible.
There is no need to be in a hurry, however. The longer we have been cruising the slower we go. Spending time savoring different cultures, meeting new people, and gently sailing after having waited for the perfect weather window are all part of learning about sailing.
2. What can someone expect from taking sailing classes?
There are many styles of sailing. Choosing the right type of class and instructor to suit your interests is important. There are three broad areas and they all have something different to offer the cruising sailor.
Keelboat classes focus on how to safely and comfortably operate a bigger sailboat. In addition to the basics of sailing you learn about navigation, anchoring, docking and the systems that make life comfortable for long- term voyaging. This is not about having the boat heeled (leaning sideways) 20 degrees and waves breaking over you!
Small boat sailing is the best way to learn how the wind effects the boat. The imediate response of a small boat when you make a change makes it easy to understand how sailboats work. Getting wet when the boat tips over might be considered annoying.
Racing sailors are concerned with techniques that will increase speed under sail. Competitive spirits will enjoy this. Comfort, learning about mechanical systems not related to sailing and boat handling under power may not be as important as how to make the boat go fast.
3. What kind of person should you be if you are willing to pursue sailing?
Sailing is enjoyed by many personality types because it becomes different things to different people. These are some of the things that interest us.
I enjoy being out in nature, gently gliding along with the power of the wind; tweaking the sails to make the boat go half a knot faster; watching the stars while under way at 2:00 AM totally surrounded by the ocean; arriving at a new destination, dropping the anchor and watching the sunset; how easy it is to meet new friends; sharing my passion for sailing with everyone I meet; making improvements on the boat or just fixing something that broke; finding a remote anchorage, jumping in the water and catching a couple of lobster for dinner. I could probably think of a few more if you pressed me…
Margie enjoys moving quietly through the water, traveling at a slow pace and being more in touch with nature because of the silence in sailing. She likes the independence that sailing gives the traveler and the closeness that is fostered between you and your partner because you rely on each other. At the same time you gain more confidence in yourself. She likes the challenges that long-term sailing presents such as how to live life simply and efficiently in a small space.