How to Get Started

Hi: My name is Mike, and I am thinking about buying a boat and sailing Central America. I have several questions:

Is it better to offer myself as a crew member willing to work for room and board or is it better to go solo? How do I find out about navigating, sailing, which places are safe or unsafe? What is a good size boat to travel on if I was to make a ocean crossing?

I know these are somewhat vague questions, but if you could guide me in the right direction, I would be most appreciative. Thanks, Mike

Hi Mike: Boy, you have some tough questions. We’ve written a bunch of books on this subject, and what we can answer in the e-mail is limited. But here are a few suggestions:

1. It is always better to get some cruising experience before you buy a boat. And if you already own a boat, it is better to go cruising before you spend a bunch of time and money fixing it up. Having some real world experience will help you make the correct decisions.

2. The seamanship skills you need can come in a variety of ways. There are many courses given in adult education programs around the country, there are sailing clubs you can join, schools which teach basic to advanced sailing skills, and crewing for other folks. In addition, there are lots of books (ours included) which will help you get started.

We think the best way to learn basic sailing is to purchase an inexpensive sailing dinghy, and get out there and do it. What you learn in the dinghy will stand you in good stead with bigger cruising boats, when the time comes to sail those.

The more experience you have, the more options that will open up to crew with other folks.

3. Size is not nearly as important as the design and construction of the boat. But even more important are the skills of the skipper and crew. There have been lots of safe voyages made in well found 25-footers! On the other hand, all things being equal, bigger is usually more comfortable.

Good luck with your dream! Steve Dashew

Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)

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