Stus-List Learning to sail in a small boat

Randy Stafford randy.stafford at
Wed Aug 30 19:06:01 EDT 2017

I’ve had learning experiences on boats of many sizes.  I capsized a Hobie 16, then sideslipped into a mega-yacht with it, all on the same afternoon in Maho Bay, St. John.  Single-handing a Coronado 15 in 20 kts a couple years back, I capsized and couldn’t right it by myself.  A microburst knocked down the J/22 I was sailing several years ago on Chatfield Reservoir.  For ASA-104 I sailed a Bavaria 46 from Long Beach to Catalina, and slewed around in a 38-foot catamaran on the way back.  In 2013 I roller-coastered through 15’ waves and 37-kt winds crossing the Bequia Channel in a Jenneau 45, burying the bow in every trough.  In my limited experience sailing for about the last decade, I think every boat can teach you something about how boats handle, comparatively.

My main complaint about dinghy sailing is that it is a lot of work before and after the actual sailing part.  At minimum you have to launch and rig the dinghy, then unrig and recover it, and possibly also tow it to / from its storage place.  Maybe I’m lazy, but I prefer a keelboat in a slip - a lot less work every time you sail it.

That said, here’s a picture from a bowsprit-mounted GoPro of my daughter and I sailing a Topaz dinghy in 25mph winds last month:  We didn’t capsize that night but we kept a rail wet the whole time :)

Randy Stafford
S/V Grenadine
C&C 30-1 #7
Ken Caryl, CO

> On Aug 30, 2017, at 3:36 PM, Mark G via CnC-List <cnc-list at> wrote:
> I didn't start sailing til my early 30's.  I started out in Tech dinghies, cat-rigged 12 footers.  Dinghies are a great way to learn.  Things happen fast in a dinghy.  And since you're the ballast, you really learn to balance the boat.  But they require a certain level of fitness and athleticism - particularly when you flip them and you have to right them in the water and climb back in.  I then moved to 14 foot FJ's, a little more performance oriented but basically more of the same.  Then to a J24, which is a completely different experience: you're in a cockpit, you have a foredeck, etc.  Honestly, if I hadn't graduated to the J24, I might have stopped sailing.  Little bit of time in an Etchells 22 around that time as well.  From there I knew I didn't want to race so I moved into more cruising-oriented lessons.  Boats were a 22 foot Soling, then a Pearson 26, an Albin 28, a J29, a Pearson 31, a Pearson 303 and a Cal 33.  So I've taken starter lessons in both a 12 footer and a 22 footer.  For an adult, I think you're much better off starting in a 22 foot keelboat than a 12 foot dinghy.
> My first and only boat has been the C&C 25 Mk1.  I initially looked at everything made in any kind of quantity between 21 feet and 28 feet.  I settled on the 24-26 foot size.  I wanted something you could overnight in, without the complexity of a diesel.  I continued to look hard at everything made in any kind of quantity in that size range.  I loved boat donation auctions - a chance to see a lot of boats at once without an owner or a broker breathing down your neck.  And the best way to identify a well-maintained boat is to see some poor ones.  After seeing my first C&C 25, I settled on that make / model.  Looked at a few examples, then bought one.  Inexpensive, good condition, my only regret being I didn't buy a boat with more upgrades.  I've since converted to jiffy reefing, put on a furler, a boom vang, a stern rail, an adjustable traveler, a backstay adjuster.  This stuff in total far exceeds what I paid for the boat.
> If you sail in any kind of wind, a newbie sailor needs to know how to depower the boat and needs the gadgets on the boat that allow him to do so.  Newbie sailors tend to sail with friends and family who know nothing about sailing and won't be much help when things get exciting.  If the newbie sailor can't depower the boat from the cockpit with minimal assistance from "crew" (guests), they'll be terrorized and probably won't come back.
> Mark 
> C&C 25
> Dartmouth, MA
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