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First Sailboat Key West


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Link to gif. Need to get smarter on posting.

Since I know a lot about flying and jack about sailing, I choose an aviation related gif as my newbie gift to the forum. 

Here's the story. My wife and I are 62 and still very mobile. We've inland power boated on the big Missouri River Reservoirs in the Dakota's for years. I'm a 30 year retired military pilot and the wife's a retired nurse. We've always been intrigued with sailing. A few months ago I had an opportunity to rent a 35' long / 12' beam slip at Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West. I did it it on a whim. Here's a link on Google Earth to the marina location. I'm including it because this is where I'm going to learn and thought it might make a difference on what boat to get.

https://earth.google.com/web/@24.57630103,-81.70923344,-0.7511477a,1120.03876156d,35y,-0h,0t,0r

I'm not the sharpest pencil in the drawer but I'm pretty sure I need a "learning boat" for 6 or so months before I move up. Budget isn't the big concern since I ASSume I'll get a bit bigger boat once I figure this out. I'll sell the first boat and likely lose a little and move on. I'd like my starter boat to be able to get to the Sand Key Lighthouse area eventually for some diving and snorkeling. 

We'll stay on the boat for a few weeks in Feb,Mar,Apr,May for starters figure it out from there.  We still tent camp sometimes and living for a few weeks on a small boat is fine. The end goal is to get the skills and experience (and the right boat) to do the Bahamas in the future. I'm a pretty handy mechanic and have been around both outboards and farm diesels for decades. 

Bottom Line: I've got "paralysis from over analysis" and would greatly appreciate any input. This is the only no bullshit sailing site I've found.  I'm ready for the incoming....

Edited by Bmill
Out of bounds gif
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Very cool plan.  Go for it!

https://www.yachtworld.com/yacht/1996-pacific-seacraft-34-8170173/

https://www.yachtworld.com/yacht/2010-seaward-32rk-8085353/

https://www.yachtworld.com/yacht/1990-catalina-30-tall-rig-w-shoal-draft-8166960/

https://www.yachtworld.com/yacht/2009-seaward-26rk-7912091/

https://www.yachtworld.com/yacht/1985-catalina-30-8026145/

 

The Pacific Seacraft and the Seawards you don’t need to ever trade up from.  The Seawards are perfect for the Bahamas.  The smaller Catalina is one of dozens available in the area.

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1 hour ago, sunseeker said:

Catalina 30 something? (There’s several lengths, not sure about beams.)

+1 on the Catalina 30 idea.  The boat is located right in the center of the market/where you want to be.  By definition you are telling us the next one will be different (say perhaps the Pacific Seacraft 34 linked above).  For a variety of reasons, there will be a lot more Catalina 30 buyers out there than Bluewater Cruisers (Such as the P/S 34) when it comes time to cash out.  Good luck, shopping is a fun part of the process and keep us posted and what you decide to get.

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Contrary to what I thought I'd hear, those of you who've chimed in think a 30' boat isn't too big to learn on. Also a quality 30 footer (under the right weather conditions with proper experience) is adequate for a Bahamas trip. I figured I'd need a smaller boat to start with. Well this changes everything. A 30 footer has all the space we'll ever need as we have no plans to make it our permanent home. A few weeks here and there and maybe a month long stretch when winter hits hard. We've got grand kids and elderly family here in Iowa plus we have a small "hobby farm" that we enjoy spending time at.

Time to start burning electrons on my cheap ass laptop looking at 30-32 footers. Thanks for the inputs so far! 

Edited by Bmill
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If it isn’t a year round home, then the 30’ is more than spacious enough for cruising weeks at a time with no problem. Now call that broker and get your boat sold!

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23 minutes ago, Bmill said:

Contrary to what I thought I'd hear, those of you who've chimed in think a 30' boat isn't too big to learn on. Also a quality 30 footer (under the right weather conditions with proper experience) is adequate for a Bahamas trip. I figured I'd need a smaller boat to start with. Well this changes everything. A 30 footer has all the space we'll ever need as we have no plans to make it our permanent home. A few weeks here and there and maybe a month long stretch when winter hits hard. We've got grand kids and elderly family here in Iowa plus we have a small "hobby farm" that we enjoy spending time at.

Time to start burning electrons on my cheap ass laptop looking at 30-32 footers. Thanks for the inputs so far! 

Consider getting a two person moderate sailing dingy with a jib to learn on with your partner.  Key West area has nice warm clear water so it will be really fun to get wet.  Sailing skills will develop quicker and transfer to your 30 footer.  They don't cost much and can be sold quickly.  Your marina probably has a place to keep it.

There are a bunch of pre owned 30ish footers out there that would meet your requirements.  Catalina 30's are not very exciting to look at but they are wholesome boats.  Guy here in Jax sails the crap out of his (several trips to the Bahamas) and has owned it for at least 30 years.

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11 minutes ago, The great unwashed said:

Huge +1 on the dinghy.  Maybe the base where your slip is has a sailing club or rents dinghies?  Absolutely the best and easiest way to learn basic sailing quickly.

There's a Key West Sailing Center which used to be a community non-profit. Never been there myself but I know a bunch of people who have, and seemed like a good start. It's has been a few years though and MUCH has changed in the world during that time!

- DSK

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Looks like that sailing center has lessons too.  If its close I'd start there and then as above; either sail their boats or get a dinghy yourself.  Trailer sail or maybe you can sail out of your slip if its close to good daysailing.  Heck your slip is big enough to dry moor the dinghy on a cheap "swim" float you screw together (and can disassemble) out of lumber.  Here's a guy on CL with some big styrofoam blocks.  Double wrap & tape em up in heavy garbage sacks so they don't pollute the water (they degrade to duck bite size chunks).  In the mean time shop for the right big boat.

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If you and your wife are mobile as you say and don't mind bashing around in a little day sailor for a short while then I would absolutely do this -- whether through a club environment or even taking a  couple of lessons. The feedback on a small boat is immediate and once you develop your feel for you will never lose it. That feel will transfer well to bigger more comfortable boats suitable for your slip size, where you will begin to accommodate for the increased loads on sails/controls and momentum from the bigger displacement.

You could in theory start right at 32 ft and learn it all at once : the art of sailing + keel boat dynamics, but you would be robbing yourself and your wife of one of life's truly pure and immensely satisfying pleasures - that of zipping across the water unfettered on warm small boat with only the wind, your weight, and a little bit of tiller action to help you. 

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"I want to fly across the country and maybe to Mexico. Just see the country etc.  Should I buy a RV-7 or a Cessna 172"

That's your sort of question. Let's take a few smart steps:

0. Read, read, read. Go to Steve Dashew's site and download his free books.  https://setsail.com/free-books/ Start with Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia. It's ~1000 pages and oriented to offshore cruising in bigger boats but a TON of free knowledge. Then read the Weather book and Practical Seamanship. Save the "Surviving the Storm" for evenings in front of a fire... This way when you take a sailing course you'll have some background. Probably a good idea to learn the names of a sailboat parts too BEFORE the course. Otherwise the terminology can feel like a firehose of stupid words coming at you.

1. Learn to sail. Small daysailors (or dinghies depending on your knees). Take lessons. Maybe these guys. https://southernmostsailingschool.com/ who offer lessons on a 26' boat. The ASA 101 and 103 courses, while not cheap, are probably what you need. Because it's a small 2 person operation, they can probably tailor their lessons to your specific goals.

2. Evaluate:  "Do I like to sail"? "Does my wife like to sail?"  "Are my cruising plans compatible with what I've learned so far?"

3. THEN buy a boat. A Catalina 30 or other cheap plain jane cruising boat is fine for cruising the Bahamas or similar and can be a good starter boat (look for one with a 18 HP motor or bigger. Some have smaller engines and are underpowered). The Pacific Seacraft 34, while well built and capable of getting you across an ocean safely is probably 3-4x the cost and less room.

Welcome. 

 

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18 hours ago, Bmill said:

A few months ago I had an opportunity to rent a 35' long / 12' beam slip at Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West. I did it it on a whim. Here's a link on Google Earth to the marina location. I'm including it because this is where I'm

Does the marina have any facilities - bathroom, showers, ice, etc? That makes quite a difference when you are looking at what kind of starter boat will be enjoyable for you.

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The marina has bathrooms, showers, laundry, ice, a little restaurant and a great bar. Shore power and water are included in the slip rental. The previous RV-7 vs 172 analogy is painfully spot on. We're going dinghy sailing. Plane tickets in the very near future. Will post a few pics or a video of a 62 year old novice on one. It should be good for a couple of laughs. Thanks for the sage advice all. I'm undeterred with my objective but I'll break it down to some manageable goals. If I drown in the dinghy, I'm coming back to haunt this forum......

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14 minutes ago, freewheelin said:

Does the marina have any facilities - bathroom, showers, ice, etc? That makes quite a difference when you are looking at what kind of starter boat will be enjoyable for you.

I had a tour once, pretty nice.

You could just buy a boat and take me sailing...

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3 minutes ago, Bmill said:

The marina has bathrooms, showers, laundry, ice, a little restaurant and a great bar. Shore power and water are included in the slip rental. The previous RV-7 vs 172 analogy is painfully spot on. We're going dinghy sailing. Plane tickets in the very near future. Will post a few pics or a video of a 62 year old novice on one. It should be good for a couple of laughs. Thanks for the sage advice all. I'm undeterred with my objective but I'll break it down to some manageable goals. If I drown in the dinghy, I'm coming back to haunt this forum......

That opens things up a lot. There are plenty of ways to go with it. I know lots of people who started on a 30-34ft sailboat and did just fine. But in most cases kept that for years, and those boats tend to be harder to sell. If you want to go truly starter boat, as small and simple as you can stand would be best. Something in the 24-25' range for a couple thousand, with just enough cabin to sleep in, a good cooler, and reliable outboard to keep you out of trouble. Use the bathroom and showers on shore, and take you boat out to play every day. Then, when you are ready to dump the boat you will have a much, much better sense of what you want and what you like. As well as the confidence to sail it. People have mentioned Catalina 30s here, and yes you can explore the Bahamas in them no problem. But you may find the giant swim platform and good refrigeration on a Catalina 320 is worth the extra money to you for example (since you mentioned wanting to snorkel and be in the water). There are hundreds of iterations experience will tell you that. But getting something and getting out on the water on it breaks the paralysis from analysis cycle very quickly.

Fair warning though, you may never have as much fun as you do on the small starter boat. There is something magical about banging around on a simple boat you aren't afraid to break! Oh, and a big bonus is you can buy the 22-25' boats for really cheap without an outboard. And if you invest in a good outboard, typically the HP size will match what you need for a dinghy on your bigger boat, so that investment stays with you.

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If you take lessons some couples prefer to take them separately.  Others feel taking them together is advantageous.  Something to consider.

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Separate lessons is an interesting thought. My bride and I have been married for 30+ years. We get along great but we each have our own way of learning. We'd probably each get more out of lessons by doing them apart from each other. She's a very strong  and self sufficient woman. She had to be as I was often gone months on end.  She'll be completely on board with this. She'll probably look at me and laugh saying, "Did you actually think we'd take these lessons together?" Thanks!

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I might be in the minority here but I'd caution against too much reading.....

Given that you have a background of proficiency in a similarly complex activity I'm going to make an assumption that this will make sense; there are 2 parts to my reading statement, the first is that the sheer volume of material available to read can make it quite overwhelming - also I found a lot of 'instructional' sailing literature actually overcomplicates a lot of the skills and processes. An example of this, bear with me, is the RYA Yachtmaster programme in the UK (commonly acknowledged as one of the benchmarks for overall proficiency in a sailing yacht). I've sailed all my life, grown up in tidal estuaries, had raced and worked on large yachts including traditional pilotage/navigation of a 90ft+ classic ketch using just a lat/long GPS and paper charts. When I finally got around to studying for my YM, I got really anxious as my first readings of the official handbooks made me feel like I was totally out of my depth - it wasn't until I managed to put the various exercises into a relevant context, and then jump onboard a boat with an instructor for a 'warm up' weekend before the exam that I was able to contextualise everything as stuff I had been doing for years. 

The second is more related to our current environment - the internet. On this forum alone I have come across enough posts that were completely well intentioned but could completely fill the Reddit thread r/confidentlyincorrect; this probably doesn't need saying but just in case it does - be very selective about what you trust as actual instructional advice. Don't get me wrong, there are some absolute masters of their crafts on this forum that pass out free information and experience that could have otherwise taken years of experience or thousands of dollars in courses to acquire (see the Cruising forum) but there also some absolute lemons that I truly hope never leave the dock based on the rubbish they pour out of their keyboard (the Americas Cup forum is a cesspit of this). 

To get back on message - my approach would be to take lessons (and I think individual lessons is a great idea) and then GO SAILING. Learn some new skills, go and practice those skills in a safe environment (dinghy/day sailors from a sailing school is a great start), learn a few more skills, combine these with the existing ones and go out and enjoy being on the water. Discover which parts of the whole process you enjoy the most - maybe it's just being underway, feeling the boat underneath you, that brings the most satisfaction. Maybe it's being able to arrive at new destination and explore, with the actual journey being more of formality... This can (and should) have quite a significant influence on what boat you decide to purchase. 

 

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On 1/17/2022 at 6:34 PM, Bmill said:

Link to gif. Need to get smarter on posting.

Since I know a lot about flying and jack about sailing, I choose an aviation related gif as my newbie gift to the forum. 

Here's the story. My wife and I are 62 and still very mobile. We've inland power boated on the big Missouri River Reservoirs in the Dakota's for years. I'm a 30 year retired military pilot and the wife's a retired nurse. We've always been intrigued with sailing. A few months ago I had an opportunity to rent a 35' long / 12' beam slip at Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West. I did it it on a whim. Here's a link on Google Earth to the marina location. I'm including it because this is where I'm going to learn and thought it might make a difference on what boat to get.

https://earth.google.com/web/@24.57630103,-81.70923344,-0.7511477a,1120.03876156d,35y,-0h,0t,0r

I'm not the sharpest pencil in the drawer but I'm pretty sure I need a "learning boat" for 6 or so months before I move up. Budget isn't the big concern since I ASSume I'll get a bit bigger boat once I figure this out. I'll sell the first boat and likely lose a little and move on. I'd like my starter boat to be able to get to the Sand Key Lighthouse area eventually for some diving and snorkeling. 

We'll stay on the boat for a few weeks in Feb,Mar,Apr,May for starters figure it out from there.  We still tent camp sometimes and living for a few weeks on a small boat is fine. The end goal is to get the skills and experience (and the right boat) to do the Bahamas in the future. I'm a pretty handy mechanic and have been around both outboards and farm diesels for decades. 

Bottom Line: I've got "paralysis from over analysis" and would greatly appreciate any input. This is the only no bullshit sailing site I've found.  I'm ready for the incoming....

Welcome aboard, as us old Navy guys would say.  I was a Tomcat backseater back in the day.  Many fond memories of flying from NAS Key West.  Nice score on the slip, they are not easy to come by.  Here's a couple random thoughts for you.

1. While I firmly endorse learning on a smaller boat (dinghy/daysailor), its a bit of a trip out of the marina, and down the channel to open water.  Given that, buying a dinghy doesn't seem the best approach...taking lessons from someone with better access seems the best answer there.

2. While many of us would love blasting around on a Laser down in Key West, and don't mind getting wet, not everyone is like that.  So you wife might enjoy learning on a somewhat bigger boat such as the Colgate 26 suggestion upthread.  Just something to think about.

3.  As there is some motoring involved getting in and out of the marina...buying a boat with a well maintained motor would seem to make some sense.

4. Florida is tough on boats.  Leaving the boat sit for most of the year means either needing to budget time when you first get there getting the boat in shape to live on/sail, or paying someone (who has base access) to be able to do it for you.  Hot and humid equals mildew/mold below, and lots of sun means lots of UV damage to exposed lines, canvas, etc.  

5. Then there is Hurricanes.  What's the plan if you are away from the boat when a Hurricane comes thru?  What does the Marina require of owners as far as securing boats, hauling boats, etc.  If you don't get there, and the boat breaks free and causes damage, you could be liable.  Also most bases limit bases access to "essential personal only" during and in aftermath of a Hurricane, so there is the chance of the boat being damaged, and you not being able to get to it for some period of time.

NONE of those are reasons not to do this, just things to plan for/have mitigation plans in place.

A Catalina 30 (or other similar boat) seems like a great place to start.  After a couple years of sailing that around, you'll know if that one does the trick, or you need more boat, or less boat!

Crash

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Great points Crash, will factor into the decision matrix. In my previous life I was an A-7 then F-16 driver. My old college buddy, who I've lost track of, was a -14 backseater. His name was Mike Whetstone. Maybe you ran across him back in the day. He's probably pushing 60 by now. Thanks again for advice from "ground zero"

Dirt

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Dirt,

Name sorts sounds familiar?  What year did you guys graduate?  Our air wing (CVW-3) did the last deployment of the Navy A-7s during Desert Storm…

Good luck with the boat search!  Sailing a couple 4 months out of the year from Key West would make a really sucky way to be retired!:P

Crash

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  • 2 weeks later...

Flying down to look at this canoe. Thoughts? Figure I can figure out sailing, see if we like it, get the "lay of the land", and if all works out can sell it at a minimal loss. It comes with a very nice trailer too. New 9.9 Suzuki 4 stroke outboard. 1994 Seaward 25.

00J0J_cg6AZ1GFLdGz_07K0ak_1200x900.jpg00101_lTLpGPXajpuz_07K0ak_1200x900.jpg00G0G_jv6DDsWokxzz_07K0ak_600x450.jpg

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On 1/20/2022 at 3:39 PM, Crash said:

I was a Tomcat backseater back in the day.  Many fond memories of flying from NAS Key West.

I would stop on US 1 south in the late 90’s and watched the Tomcats doing touch and go practice. The amount of condensation that poured off your wingtips was impressive!!!

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I also enjoyed eating lunch next to my work van at the NAS Virginia Beach in the late 80’s at the near end of the runway. I would take the 1/2 hour I had to watch the A10’s drop in for extremely low speed landings(IMO). The pilots recognized and wave to me as they passed by and I recognized their individual jets. One turned out to be an old neighbor from NJ that my sister had dated He remembered me after I mentioned my routine when we were at a family reunion! Did many sorties in the First Iraq War.

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2 hours ago, Bmill said:

Flying down to look at this canoe. Thoughts? Figure I can figure out sailing, see if we like it, get the "lay of the land", and if all works out can sell it at a minimal loss. It comes with a very nice trailer too. New 9.9 Suzuki 4 stroke outboard. 1994 Seaward 25.

00J0J_cg6AZ1GFLdGz_07K0ak_1200x900.jpg00101_lTLpGPXajpuz_07K0ak_1200x900.jpg00G0G_jv6DDsWokxzz_07K0ak_600x450.jpg

Nice enough little boat. Very practical for the area. Kinda pokey but you'll like the shallow draft and the trailerability.

- DSK

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I read the topic post and thought, this person should buy an 80's or 90's Catalina 30 and join the Key West Community Sailing Center to learn stuff only little boats can teach you. I see I'm late on both thoughts.

I assume "62 and mobile" means capsizing is still a fun learning experience and not an exhausting trauma.

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