Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Decision!

After looking at and talking with a bunch of sailing schools for our 3rd class (ASA 104), and suffering from a little analysis paralysis, we've finally made a decision.  Having spent all of our time thus far sailing on reservoirs in Colorado, our goal was to spend some time on the ocean and living aboard the boat in the process.  The school we chose was the Tracey School of Sailing Instruction.

Most of the schools we found had choices of single courses or "fast track" courses that combined the two classes we had already taken with the course we wanted to take.  While single classes would work for us, the fast track courses seemed like a waste of time and money.

The Tracy option is technically a single course but we believe they will provide us with a more unique opportunity.  The school operates in two locations during different parts of the year and they take their Maine Cat when they move locations.  So twice a year instead of their normal sailing classes, they divide their trip between New Jersey and Bradenton, Florida, into four live-aboard classes.  Yes, we'll actually get to travel some distance in the course of the course.  In addition, instead of just the 104 course, we will also be doing the 114 (Catamaran) course.  We think this should give us a better breadth of experience than the courses that essentially stay in the same location.

The Tracey School appears to be a smaller school.  My wife and I always like to support smaller businesses when we can.  We've found that smaller businesses seem to understand customer service far better than larger ones, so hopefully this will be the case here as well.

We are SOOOOOOOOO looking forward to this trip...we just need to finish planning it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A First

I'm sure there will be a number of firsts as we make our way toward this goal (and we have already had several) but yesterday was definitely an important one.  This past weekend was the first time we took a sailboat out by ourselves.

It started out like a lot of our lessons, lacking any significant amount of wind.  That was probably best as we had a couple mis-steps, fortunately they were pretty minor.  We took most of our lessons at one particular reservoir, so of course the only available boats were at the other reservoir...and it is a bit trickier to get out of those slips.  After some maneuvering issues (somewhat equivalent to the 3 point turn in a car when it takes about 12 points) we were out of the marina and ready to raise the sails.  Oops...we forgot to rig the main halyard before we left dock.  Oh well, easy enough to correct that as well.

Of course, once we got the sails up there wasn't enough wind to fill them.  The interesting thing is that the water is apparently choppy on this reservoir even when there is no does this happen (the power boats I guess).  So we bobbed around for a little while, then decided to fire the engine back up and see if we could find a little wind elsewhere on the reservoir.  After a few attempts we found a very light breeze starting so we sailed...very slowly.  Good practice in light wind sailing anyway.

Fortunately the winds did pick up slowly so the last half of our 4-hour rental provided some decent sailing experience.  The winds were a bit variable in intensity and direction, but it was fun with full sails up.

Docking was uneventful, we returned the boat safely back to it's slip.

It is definitely a bit different only having the two of us on the boat.  Typically on the lessons we had at least three, so there was someone to handle the bow dock line, the stern line, and a third at the tiller.  While underway having someone work the jib, another on the main, and again a third on the tiller.  With only two of us, tasks are definitely more interesting, but very manageable.  Not sure how people do some of this stuff solo, at least on a crowded reservoir.

I guess we are now sailors...with a lot left to learn.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Last ASA 103 Class...Attempt Two

A couple days ago we again made the trek to the reservoir for our last ASA 103 course...again.  Instead of too much wind, if anything it looked like we were in for another light wind day.

My wife and I were the only two scheduled for our second attempt at the "graduation cruise".  The owner was there and decided we needed another person, so he grabbed a student from one of the regular classes.  As it turned out, I think this was a mistake.

Everything on this sail was pretty straight forward, just a little larger scale.  Since I docked the boat last time, I took the boat out of the marina this time.  While the boat is a fair amount larger, it doesn't really feel that much larger than the other boats.  We raised the main and unfurled the Genoa (I like the roller furling headsail) and were able to catch just enough wind to sail.  We did some basic maneuvers and a couple of man overboard drills.  A little more room on this boat made it a bit more comfortable with three students and an instructor than is typically the case on the smaller boats.  The lesson ended with my wife bringing the boat back to the slip.

The problem was that the other student the owner had grabbed was only on his 3rd lesson of the ASA 101 course...and he hadn't been on a boat for over a couple months.  So, instead of helping the situation, he was actually more of an obstacle.  The instructor had to spend a majority of the time explaining the basics to this student and the student didn't seem to be "getting it" at all.  This made it a little frustrating all the way around.  I felt sorry for this student as he was getting a LOT of information thrown at him quickly and I think this frustrated him.  Having the instructor spend the majority of his time with this student frustrated my wife and I as we had hoped to learn more about larger boat handling.  I think having students of such different levels of experience also frustrated the instructor.

All in all I think the lesson was worthwhile.  We did get to sail a larger boat, see how it maneuvers in a marina, and got to experience a couple of new mechanisms.  I do think the experience would have been better had the owner left the classes as they were.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

I Just Couldn't...

Well, if any post does it, this one might just get some comments.  Most of the people we've discussed our plan with thus far have been supportive, and more than a couple have said they wished they could do something like this.  My usual response is "why not do it?"

It has been interesting to hear the responses.  I've been able to group them into three basic responses and want to take a look at them.

"I can't afford it."  Live-aboard boats can be had for relatively low cost.  Certainly much lower than the typical house.  While maintenance may be higher per square foot of livable space, the total amount of space is lower so the overall cost can be lower.  In addition there is less space to furnish, so you save on the cost of furnishings.  Certainly, just as there are houses of all sizes and costs, there are boats of the affordability does depend on the choices made.  Affordable choices are out there.  When we were in the Florida Keys last, the live-aboards were often referred to as the low-rent district.  I recall seeing a story a little while back about folks in several spots in California moving onto boats at marinas as a cost saving measure (here is one example).

"I have a family."  There are a number of families that live aboard boats.  There are a couple of examples here and here.  If you are cruising, things like homeschooling may need to be addressed.  But I think it would be far more educational for kids to actually visit other places and experience other cultures instead of just reading about it in a book.  While this isn't a particular concern of ours, there is a fair amount of evidence to prove that this isn't a roadblock if you don't want it to be one.

"I have obligations."  I think this actually means, "I have bills to pay" and I think that is closer to the real reason most people fear this sort of change.  American society has trained us from birth that we need to have the biggest and the most and to be the ultimate consumers. Large homes with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. New cars every few years. Have you seen the 80 inch 3-D television.  And who could live without a new cell phone every year or two.  All of this comes with a cost, and we take out loans and run up credit card bills trying to buy this "American happiness".  These are our obligations...and we really don't need most of it.

This is the real catch: you have to be willing to give up the idea of collecting a lot of "things".  Do that, and the need to work 50 hours a week for 50 weeks a year to pay for those "things" disappears too.  I'll be the first to admit, I was (am?) that way too.  We own a house big enough that we don't really even use half of it.  We own more vehicles than members of our household and a big damn TV too.  But, not that long long ago I realized I was spending a lot of my lifetime earning the wages to buy these things. I believe I can give a lot of it up in trade for a simpler lifestyle and a lot more free time.

He who dies with the most toys does not win...he who dies with the most experiences does.  The real question is how do you want to spend the majority of your life?