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Thread: Recommendations for sailboat for novice sailors

  1. #16
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    Exactly. There will be some frustration involved to start with. It's better for that not to be at the same time that the family is along with you.

  2. #17
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    I got what Tom was saying but I have a different experience. There are many ways to learn to sail so why get locked into one point of view? I’ve been sailing since I was a teenager and never owned a Laser. The cold waters of Nova Scotia made Lasers less appealing to me and a non-starter to my non-swimmer dad lol! I learned on a small daysailer that could be sailed alone or with young family. I have friends that are skilled sailors that learned on the family keelboat.
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with learning on a Laser but there are other ways if that doesn’t meet some of the OPs other requirements or goals.
    FWIW, I also sailed professionally as a young man to pay my University tuition.

  3. #18
    If your objective is to have fun sailing with your family, do NOT start by building a boat!

    Instead watch for a deal on a used boat, in seaworthy condition, and basically ready to sail. Have it inspected by a professional. Could be as small as a Lido 14. But a Catalina 27 (or 30) would be better suited to a family of 4. Though you might find certain boats in the 22' range that might be OK. Get a fiberglass boat--forget "bargain" wooden boats, unless you want a career in boat restoration, instead of sailing.

    Forget about excuses like Corona virus. Get professional instruction. And take the free USCG boating safety course.

    edit/note: I am a professional boat builder who specializes in customizing and refitting yachts. Have ocean raced sailboats for many years; done deliveries from Florida to the Panama Canal and Washington to Cabo San Lucas; and lived aboard more than 1/2 my life.
    Last edited by andy bessette; 06-06-2020 at 11:13 AM.
    "Anything seems possible when you don't know what you're doing."

  4. #19
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    I wasn't saying that the Laser is the only way to learn to sail, just that it's the best way, if you can handle it.

    I was a small sailboat dealer in the 1980's, and not including Windsurfing lessons we taught, I've taught hundreds of people how to sail. Few of them were in a Laser. I didn't have the dealership for Laser's, but probably sold more Hobie Cat boats, including their line of Holder monohulls, than anyone in the mid Atlantic. I found out the first year, that if the person getting the boat did not feel comfortable sailing it, the boat would be back on the market shortly, and continue to go through different hands.

    Most of my Laser racing experience was in the decade before I became a Hobie dealer. Tell the Laser sailors there that I still have a sewn, Elvstrom sail, and wooden rudder.

    Andrew has the ideal situation, with a club nearby, and an active Laser group. All the best sailors I know spent time in a Laser, and that includes multiple National, and World Champions in a lot of other classes, and even America's Cup. It's definitely not for everyone, but foolish to pass on the opportunity close at hand.

    There will always be a market for a used Laser, so if you get a decent one, and take care of it, there will probably be no money lost. Don't buy one that's been trailered with the bottom of the boat resting on rollers, or pads, or anything else. That can delaminate the hull from the core, which makes the boat soft, and slow. I know because I tried to race one of those to start with, not knowing any better. They need to be carried either upside down, or supported only under the gunwales. I built a rack that would go in the back of a pickup, that carried the hull upside down, with spar storage under the rack. I still have that second boat, as well as the third one now, as well as several others, including the Hobie 21 we raced on the Prosail circuit in the '80's.

    Don't get fooled into thinking you need a $600 watch to race a sailboat. A cheap one with countdown timer will work fine. Money won't buy you a better finishing position.

  5. #20
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    There are other boats that sail very similarly to a Laser, from a Force 5, to a Holder 12. No other design ever quite caught on, for various reasons, like the Laser did. All these boats are best sailed with the mainsheet in one hand, and the tiller in the other. You may see a cleat for the main on some Lasers, but back when I was racing them, nobody had a mainsheet cleat.

    Wind is almost never constant, in either direction, or speed, so to keep from having to put extra pressure on the tiller, which is slow in any boat, you have to continually adjust the mainsheet. The Laser is so powerful for it's weight that this becomes second nature, and if you cleated in main in a lot of conditions, you're going over a Lot more often.

    Going downwind, you grab the mainsheet directly from the boom, and don't get, or need any help from a mainsheet ratchet block. A ratchet block, when turned on, allows you to pull the sheet in easily, but the sheeve doesn't turn the other direction, so you have some extra friction to keep from having to hold the whole load. In light air, the ratchet is turned off. That's the help you get in holding the main going upwind. Downwind, you never need the ratchet.

    Body weight position, and hull trim are also contributing factors. Once you get to a certain skill level, you go out without a rudder assembly on the boat, and practice sailing on all points of sail, and tack, and jibe using only body weight postion, hull trim, and sail trim.

    All this is just in the natural nature of sailing this boat. Once you develop the feel for sailing the boat with balance, and co-ordination between the controls, it can be applied to any boat, of any size. Not only is this more efficient, and faster, but if you get in sporty conditions, you will have a better feel for sailing the boat, rather than only being in control by how hard you can pull on the tiller, which can quickly become more than you can handle.

    More efficient, and faster may not matter that often when one is just cruising, but that ability will pay off in safety at some point. I've lost count of how many people sailing I've rescued on this lake that were in serious trouble, and some of those times were when I was out practicing on the Laser. They were in over their heads when they left shore, and some would not have made it back.

  6. #21
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    Tom King knows a lot more about sailing than I do. I do say don't overlook a Sunfish if you find a good one, they will do well with one adult and one child. It sounds to me like your kids are more interested in sailing than boat building. Once you have a pair of sail boats that can handle one adult and one child each, and the kids are bored; that is the time to bring up building a pram maybe to see what the interest is. Boat building is a entirely separate hobby from boat using. If they want to sail, sail, if they want to build, build; it will be quality time with the kids either way.

  7. #22
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    For what it is, the Sunfish is a great design. It's more stable, and less powerful than the Laser, so for the slightly less athletic, it's a good choice.

    When I said I'd taught hundreds of people how to sail, I forgot completely about the hundred and a few I taught at Boy Scout summer camp in the Sunfish, because that's the type of boat they had, and the boys were not completely grown yet. The Sunfish is a good step between an Optimist, and the Laser.

    Regardless of how comfortable in the water the child is, they always have a fear of capsize. For that reason, it didn't take me long to figure out that the first thing we needed to do was to go out, capsize on purpose, and learn to right the boat. About half the boys had a deathly fear of what would happen during a capsize, but that was quickly put behind us, after going over, and then their minds were clearer to take in what I needed to teach them about how to sail.

    The biggest trouble with a Sunfish, as far as learning to sail, is the Lateen rig. On one tack, the mainsail wraps against the mast, so not only does the boat have a different feel on each tack, but the angle to windward is different on each tack. This harms the ability to get a feel for which direction exactly you're going to be going, after you tack. For those reading who don't understand the basics of sailing, a tack is a change of the sail from one side to the other going upwind, and a gybe is the same going downwind. For several reasons in differences in design, the Sunfish does not tie you directly to the feel of the wind like the Laser does. Starboard tack is when the wind is coming from the Starboard (right) side of the boat, and Port the wind is coming from the Port (left) side. In racing, a boat on Starboard tack has right of way over a boat on Port tack.

    I know this forum is about boat building, and not sailing, but I feel like anyone planning to sail, needs to learn how first. I enjoy working wood, and I enjoy sailing, but I have no desire to build a boat. I enjoy sailing too many different types, and have no time that I want to put into maintaining a wooden boat.
    Last edited by Tom M King; 06-09-2020 at 11:29 AM.

  8. #23
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    Since the numbers of views of this thread keep going up, there must be some interest, so I'll continue on learning to sail a bit.

    I don't use a wind indicator, and recommend not to use one. I'll get into why. Since I've been teaching people to sail, we've never used a wind indicator. By "wind indicator", I'm talking about some device that points in the direction the wind is coming from. Actually, it's Apparent Wind, which is a vector that includes a factor from the boats speed.

    I used one when I first started sailing a Laser, like everyone else I knew. I got hit by a strong gust I didn't see, and the resultant crash lost the indicator that was held around the mast by Velcro. That was the last time I had one on a boat I own. I think that was 1974, or 5.

    Skipping forward a bit, when racing the Hobie 21 in the Prosail series, there were qualiflying races on Friday, and the top 20 raced for prize money on the weekend. The 20 boats left for the show on the weekend, we put on the beach inside a fenced in area. Walking around in there, there was not one wind indicator on a single one of those boats. There were people we raced then that went on to be top people in America's Cup, like Pete Melvin, and Ed Baird, as well as all sorts of other Olympic, and Champion sailors.

    The reason I recommend against using the indicator, is that you need to get to the point where you can sail the boat without keeping your eyes on the boat. The incdicator shows you what the apparent wind direction is right now, but more important is the one coming that you don't see because you're looking at the boat. You can see puffs, and wind shifts coming on the water. In racing, which is really a game of efficiency more than simply boat speed, going in the right direction, even if only by slight changes, is much more efficient than going really fast in the wrong direction.

    Learn to feel the boat in the groove upwind. There are infinite adjustments to the sails that you can make, for the most power, but those come naturally after a while too. The helm needs to be balanced, which requires best sail shape, but also correct trim, and correct hull trim.

    It's all way too complicated to figure out each factor individually in changing time, and conditions, so what is most important is developing that feel.

    I also play golf, and always get a chuckle when anyone throws grass up in the air to see which way the wind is blowing, and how strong. Really?? It becomes second nature with time at the helm of a sailboat.

    It might not seem so important to watch the water ahead when just out cruising, but how many times have you seen a boat get heeled over severely all of a sudden? Most of the time, it's because the skipper wasn't paying attention to the water ahead.

    Even if I'm racing someone elses big boat, with all sorts of electronics, I don't pay any attention to what the computer is telling me. I remember one race on my BIL's boat, several boats back, on some fat 25 foot cruising boat. We were racing PHRF races, and the bigger boats all started 5 minutes ahead of us. There was a new weather system moving in, and the conditions were very shifty, like over 45 degrees, back and forth, with short times between the shifts. The wind had been lighter when the bigger boats started, so they didn't get the benefit of the full five minutes difference to get gone.

    Most of them had started on Starboard tack. I started the boat on the committee boat end, and immediately tacked to Port into a lift for Port tack. We were almost laying the mark, and some of the big boats that had started ahead of us were coming back on Starboard. My BIL said, "They're crossing us, they're crossing us>" I said it looked like it might be the last time. I tacked just before the wind shifted each time, and took full advantage of the next lift. Our little Siedelman 25 rounded the windward mark ahead of every other boat. I had been watching, and using the shifts, turning into the next shift right before it got to us. I told my BIL that it looked like everyone else had been sailing the headers, and we had been sailing the lifts. We had been.

    We got passed by a couple of Olson 40's on the downwind legs of that race, but my BIL's boat did end up winning that Fall series for whatever class he was in.

    I have many sailing stories, including just sailing, as in Maui to Oahu one afternoon, and many racing stories in all sorts of craft, from boards, to big boats.

    If we're racing in some class that we don't know the other people, I'll walk around and look at the other boats. I see which ones I need to make sure I cover. Those are the ones without a wind indicator on the boat.

    I could go on, and on about different scenarios, but will let this go for now. I'll check back to see if there are any questions, and if anyone is interested in me continuing this. In the meantime, when you go sailing, leave the wind indicator at home.

  9. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom M King View Post
    ...I don't use a wind indicator, and recommend not to use one...
    Come on! Wind indicators are among the most important, useful and most used "instruments" on a sailboat. The classic masthead Windex is universally accepted, installed and used on virtually every sailboat larger than a pram. Additionally pieces of yarn or ribbon are attached to virtually every racing sail to aid sail trimming.

    It is very important to know relative wind angle.
    "Anything seems possible when you don't know what you're doing."

  10. #25
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    I agree with sail telltales, but not on the wind indicator. I have no doubt that most feel like they're very important, but don't think you read what I wrote. I'm saying you'll be a better sailor if you learn to not be dependent on them.

  11. #26
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    We are way beyond the OP’s original questions. However...Having a wind indicator ( Windex or electronic) does not preclude a sailor from looking at the water around him to look for wind shifts, tidal rips, flotsam or traffic. In fact I believe you should be constantly scanning as you sail. Apparent wind angle is a piece of information that gets checked and helps build situational awareness just like the depth sounder or colour of the water.
    It’s true that new sailors often fixate on the Windex to the exclusion of the waters around them just like a new driver sometimes stares at the speedometer rather than looking at the road. I wouldn’t suggest removing the speedometer either.

  12. #27
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    Talking about learning to sail, simple is better. I'm saying it's better to not become dependent on an indicator to tell you where the wind is coming from.

    I'll give another example of a particular race. I was skippering a friends Shuck 35 (might have spelled that wrong, but something close to that) in some other Fall series out from Annapolis. I think his boat was rated in the middle of the pack that we were racing.

    The wind was light, and dying. I wasn't familiar much with the different wind patterns where we were, but had plenty of experience with these conditions. We're going towards the windward mark. I held our course every time the wind started going down. All the other boats, and I mean every one of them, went off chasing the apparent wind, that in those conditions, is really more dependent on the inertia of the boat. That put them in the wrong position every time the wind came back.

    Since I had held our course, we were ready for the wind when it came back. I have no idea what the wind indicator was showing during any of that time, because I wasn't paying any attention to it.

    We walked right through that whole fleet, some of which were faster rated boats than ours. They had all let themselves be fooled by their wind indicators, and we rounded the mark with a good lead over everybody.

    The thread started about a boat to learn how to sail in. I'm saying start simple. Driving a car is not quite as much about developing a feel for the conditions, as sailing a boat safely is. Most that take it up, give it up.

    I will add that the only time I ever use an indicator is on a big boat when going dead down, in extremely light conditions. That's just one of the many details that needs to be left out of the conversation when talking about learning to sail to start with.

    If anyone wants for me to take you out, in your boat, whether you know how to sail, or not, you're welcome to come here, and I'll go out with you. We have a ramp, and a nice beach to launch from.

  13. #28
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    I'll be back later to discuss how to sail upwind, and downwind. Too busy for a day or so to sit down, and write.

  14. #29
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    Sailing upwind, and downwind require slightly different "methods". Without going into terminology, let's call sailing upwind meaning to get to a destination point that is upwind from where you are. Sailing downwind should be self-explanatory.

    To sail upwind, you pull the sail all the way in, and keep the boat going in the direction that makes the best way you can into the wind.

    To sail downwind, you aim the boat where you want to go, and trim the sail/sails accordingly.

    Now, "pulling the sail all the way in (sheeting in)", and "trim the sails accordingly" include infinite variations, but we don't worry about those to start with.

    For sailing upwind " the direction that makes the best way you can into the wind" is a fairly narrow groove. We call this "in the groove".

    When I'm teaching someone to sail, the first thing I do is to get the boat in the upwind groove, and explain what's going on. I'll sail a little too high, and show that the sails may be a little backwinded towards the front, and that the boat slows down. Then I'll sail a little too low, and show that the telltales on the side of the sail away from the wind will stop flowing straight back, and that the boat is also slowing down.

    Then I keep the boat in the groove, go too high a little, and too low a little, and ask them to explain what's happening.

    This doesn't take long, and the next step is to get them to take the helm. I can teach almost any kid how to keep the boat in the groove in about 30 seconds, and most adults only a little longer.

    Once they can keep the boat in the groove, I take control back, and we go through several tacks. I show them the direction we'll be going next, and get them to understand that. For most boats, we can assume best angle you can get into the wind is about 45 degrees. That makes the direction on the opposite tack 90 degrees to the direction we're sailing. This is not a hard concept for anyone to take in, especially if we are sailing within sight of land, and get them to guess which reference point on land we'll be sailing towards after we tack.

    Once they get the hang of that, I'll let the student take the helm, and tack the boat.

    It's most important to be able to get the craft to windward. Going downwind is easy. You just aim the boat where you want to go, and set the sails accordingly.

    When we taught Windsurfing, being able to get upwind is most important, or we're going to end up having to go after them. A sailboard goes downwind if you don't do anything.

    The vast majority of races are won, and lost, on the upwind legs.

    I have not gone into much theory, or sailing terms, but Google should find all that you want to read on the subject.

    Earler, I said I could teach a child how to sail a boat quicker, than I can typically teach an adult. They kids I've taught didn't know anything about sailing to start with, and after we had gotten past the fear of capsize to start with, before we ever went sailing, their minds were clear to take in what I was going to show them next.

    I always felt like adults try to make it too complicated. They're trying to think about too many things at the same time. All that can come later. Sailing is a very complicated endeavor, but all the myriad of details can come as you need them.

    I'm still saying to add the wind indicator later, when you find a need for one. Of the many people that my Wife, and I have taught, including Windsurfing Instructors on how to teach back when that was a big thing, we have never once used a wind indicator for any part of it.

    It's easy to become dependent on one, especially the ones that have the arms that are supposed to tell you the best angles to sail upwind. I would even venture to say that the majority of sailors are dependent on them. Those are the easiest ones to beat in a race.

    If you can get someone to show you what I've been talking about in this post, in a boat, it will get you Way ahead to start with, rather than trying to figure it out on your own. Of all of the people I've rescued, here on the lake, not one of those had much of an idea what they were doing, even though most had read about it.

    Different boats have big differences in what is the best angle to sail to windward, and even for the same boat in different conditions. This is especially true in catamarans, but that's a whole other story, or which I have many first hand examples.

    edited to add: The Laser class website has lots of good articles. Here is an example: https://www.laserinternational.org/b...-on-the-water/
    Last edited by Tom M King; 06-16-2020 at 7:07 PM.

  15. #30
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    The first half of this video has some good footage of why a Laser will make a good helmsman out of you. It also shows that, in heavier air at least, my question about athleticism was important. Sailing in lighter air is much less demanding, but still rewards a good hand on the tiller.

    You don't start out in conditions like this. Start in light wind, and work your way up.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVsx5i6bG98

    Here is a good video of Laser sailing in light winds.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FIwoUxt1Ec
    Last edited by Tom M King; 06-19-2020 at 8:43 PM.

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