Late starter advice please...

Neuroma

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Hi all,

I would like to benefit from the experience of members, I am very keen to start sailing, and I am based in Bristol. Long term goals are to competantly single/shorthand cruise around Europe, and possibly further afield too.

However:
  1. Very little sailing experience, and none at sea.
  2. Somewhat concerned over conditions in the channel, and my lack of experience/knowledge.
  3. Some balance/mobility issues, that mean:
    1. I won't be going on the foredeck at sea unless unavoidable, and with a harness/lifeline.
    2. Access to a Yacht needs to be relatively straightforward, although dinghy-yacht transition should be fine with a few adjustments.
  4. Somewhat overwhelmed by choices of clubs/boats/training etc.
    1. Although I prefer hands on experience to formal training courses, but will do whatever is required.
    2. Leaning towards heavy, long keelers between 22-30ft (Westerly 22, Cutlass 27 etc.)
Positives:
  1. Very motivated.
  2. Recently retired, so time isn't an issue.
  3. Good skills with mechanics & electrics, and something I enjoy, so will enjoy maintainance. Clubs with haul out & hard storage would be great.
What I would like some guidance over:
  1. How would you recommend I get up to speed most effectively?
  2. Any recommendations of clubs within an hour or so of Bristol.
Thanks
 

mattonthesea

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The first thing in finding out out anything about sailing in general is to show commitment. Sorry if I'm a bit cynical about this but but there are hundreds of requests for information about going sailing around the world etcetera. Most of them come to nothing.

You can show commitment in in a couple of ways, one is to buy your own boat although that is a scary and potentially risky path if you are unsure of yourself. The second is to go along to a local club and help out. It's a quid-pro-quo situation: what do they get out of you for what you get out of being shown how to go sailing etc? In this way you can find out what's involved in owning a boat, what sort of boat would suit you you and what your limitations are.another way of doing this would be to go on a competent crew or day skipper course. The advantage of this route is that instructors no lots of different ways of doing things where as as both owners quite often do it their way. A mixture of the two is probably a good way. It would also mean that you get to experience less extreme title conditions that the Bristol channel offers. They are both significant learning curves.

Hope that helps.:)
 

oldmanofthehills

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First of all if disabled or restricted mobility, it is important that simple access to the boat is made easy. Portishead Marina a possibility but it is a hard port to start learning from as the only quick trips are risng tide to Severn Bridge and back and judgement needed to make sure the return does not overshoot the lock and head unstoppably down channel - got that tee shirt . (Join PCC if there however)

More usefully Cardiff YC or Cardiff BYC can offer mooring and pontoon access within the quiet water of the Cardiff Barrage Lagoon . Some boats never seem to get out of the barrage locks and just trundle back and forth to Mermaid quay etc, but I think you aspire to more than that.

Bristol is an odd place sailing wise which is why so many of us Bristolians have boats on the Exe or Plymouth or Cardiff, as better to drive 2 hours than muck around getting to say Uphill and then struggling with traffic lugging kit to beach then mucking around with moorings and so on

Suggest you get on competent crew practical course or eren day skipper course, after explaining your requirements to instructor
 

38mess

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As above.
Seriously think about starting on the south coast, I did most of my sailing out of Cardiff and Newport. When I say sailing I mean sheltering from bad weather, bad tides, eating up my valuable weekend or holiday. I moved to West Wales 25 years ago and never regretted it. I started off by joining a club and finding out which skippers were worth sailing with, some panic at the slightest change in weather and put you off. Some you will learn off. Good luck.
 

TwoHooter

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Hi Neuroma, here's my contribution.

Don't worry about mobility issues at this stage. For inspiration see Natasha's website: Natsha Lambert – Disabled sailor and adventurer You will find out what your limitations are when you have had some practical experience.

My wife and I started in 2014. Our first boat was a yacht and I remember how daunting it all seemed at first and how many decisions we had to make about what to do. We made one big mistake, we bought our first boat too soon. I wish we had got more practical experience before buying a boat. We only kept the first boat for a year, then sold it and bought the one we have now. Truly, we did not now what we wanted until we had got the experience. You can't choose a boat successfully by reading about them and looking at pictures or videos.

I agree with the advice about training. I suggest that your first priority is to get some hands-on experience including time at sea on a proper training course. I suggest you book a 5 or 6 day course where you live on board and do both day and night sailing including at least one passage. Talk to local RYA training organisations and see what they can offer. If you can't find what you want locally the Solent area is a good alternative with several good providers in Chichester, Portsmouth and around Southampton.

Definitely join a local club (although I must admit we never have done that). If you have practical mechanical and electrical skills you might find you are in great demand, but be cautious about becoming an unpaid dogsbody. Also marine mechanical & electrical equipment is different in many ways from most other branches of the subjects. For example, do you know how to check anodes and specify correct replacements (zinc, aluminium, magnesium), maintain wet exhaust cooling systems, test galvanic isolators and neutral bonding on boats with inverters... and so on?

When you set the budget for buying a boat, I suggest you include the cost of having an RYA instructor on board with you for a one week cruise - it's called "Own Boat Training". We learnt more from the week we spent cruising between different ports with our instructor than anything else we have ever done.

I can't recommend local courses and clubs because although I live in the Forest of Dean and we kept our boat in Penarth and Portishead for a while it has been berthed on the south coast for the last few years, currently Plymouth which is a truly great base for day sails and coastal cruising. I quite like the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary but my wife does not because the water isn't water it's liquid mud, the tides are very restrictive, and there's very few places to go (but we both love Padstow so it's not all bad).

If you do continue to think about buying a long keel yacht make sure it's one that can actually be steered in a marina without bashing into other boats (I have a reason for saying this).

Please let us know how you get on. There have been a few novices pop up here in the past but usually we never hear from them again.
 

oldmanofthehills

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I have to disagree with Two Hooter here. Mobility issues are important and thus needs consideration to resolve. As an ageing skipper with navigator with no sense of balance we are considering what might be needed as years go on. But the biggest issue is getting on and off the boat hence we might even need marina not swinging mooring. Beyond that boats can be adapted to enable everything except anchoring to be from cockpit.

The Cutlass 27 is a long keeler and as I know such boats take practice to steer astern but the Westerlies are bilge or fin. If I was staying within Bristol channel I would go for bilge everytime because all the non gated harbours except Barry are drying until one get to Milford. One can lean long and fin keelers against drying harbour walls but that is a skill in itself. However if in Plymouth or Milford then all keels are fine

My first YC was Lydney, but I was young and restricted in choice and would not start from there if I took up sailing now. Lovely club with fierce waters.
 

Gwylan

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I transitioned from dinghy to "yacht" and took on the Bristol Channel.
It let's me think that I can cut it.

Do your pilotage with care and don't cut corners.
Do your tide calculations carefully.

Be realistic about your typical boat speed over the ground. We have seen less than 0 and over 10 knots.

On a typical day and time you can be sure that there will be 2 metres more or less water an hour later.
That can make route planning quite dynamic.

Resign yourself generally that you will only make progress in the direction of the tide.
Meaningful ports of refuge are few and far between. That's ones you can actually get into at all points of the tide.

A typical tidal rise of 12 metres means that 4 or 5 to 1 could need a lot of chain on your anchor to anchor safely.

Think seriously about a bilge keel boat. You can always pretend you wanted to and have a brew whilst waiting for the rising tide.

Have a look on the charts for when some areas were last surveyed. You could be surprised. Sand banks move.
Possibly electronic vharts and local knowledge will be more use.

Oh and enjoy it. You can go for days without hearing a call for a "radio check"
 

ChromeDome

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Boating is about dreaming: Exploring the world, wonderful sunsets, romantic moments, great food, love, quality of life.

While chasing the dream and keeping a bit of connection to reality, always remember that
You can't choose a boat successfully by reading about them and looking at pictures or videos.
 

tatali0n

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Welcome to the obsession, Neuromoa :)

Definitely think about getting in touch with Portishead Cruising Club (Portishead Cruising Club) Their clubhouse is currently in Pill (they used to meet there socially every Wednesday evening pre-pandemic, no idea if that's still the case) but most of their members have their boats based in Portishead Marina. A really friendly, helpful bunch of folks.

I started with dinghies myself a little under twenty years ago, sailing at Frampton-on-Severn Sailing Club (FOSSC – Sailing club) up the road from you, and they're another bunch of folks you might like to get in touch with, depending on which side of Bristol you're based. I might get shouted down as a heretic by some :LOL: but I'd really recommend learning to sail a dinghy first before moving onto something bigger. Frampton only run their dinghy courses once a year and they're for members only, but other sailing clubs around and about are less restrictive (my current club in South Cerney, for example).

Once you've done the RYA level 2, then think about doing your day skipper at some point. But the courses are only gateways. The real trick to getting up to speed is time on the water, whether it's in a big boat or a dinghy. Joining a sailing club and keeping a dinghy on a lake is much less investment and commitment than buying your own yacht at the outset.

Dad and I bought our Westerly Griffon just over seven years ago; we kept her on the Bristol Channel for the first three years or so, Portishead and then Penarth, but then put her on the back of a truck and took her down to Plymouth where we based ourselves for a while. Lovely place to be, but a long drive to get there and back. The distance was really brought home by the lockdowns of 2020 and 21, so when things opened back up last summer we sailed her back around and home to Portishead.

Always treat it with respect, but don't be too daunted by the Bristol Channel. It's a rugged, wild and beautiful place to sail and the tide can be as much your friend as it is your opponent.
 

Neuroma

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Thanks, I have done a little dinghy sailing recently, but did find the boats I used difficult to get into, and more importantly out. I had considered getting something like a Wayfarer, but wasn't sure if the would be a good solution, the thought of getting into something more substantial is a lot more attractive, but only from an access point of view. However, I love the idea of sailing in dinghies, it seems more direct somehow.
 

TwoHooter

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I have to disagree with Two Hooter here. Mobility issues are important and thus needs consideration to resolve.
I'm not saying mobility is unimportant and I'm not saying impaired mobility doesn't need consideration.
What I was trying to say is that Neuroma won't know how much of a problem he has until he has climbed on and off a few boats, and gone to sea. You can over-think these things. No substitute for real world experience (and training).
If you decide to be a sailor you never stop learning and books (and nowadays forums!) are a great resource.
But to get started you must get on a boat and go to sea.

By the way I agree about bilge keels for the Bristol area. Our first yacht was a bilge keeler and we never regretted that. Spent nights on the mud in Chichester Harbour, the Swale, in the Blackwater and at Snape. Here's a thing. When the broker introduced the boat to us he mentioned it had bilge keels, and we nodded sagely, but we did not have a clue what he was talking about. We'd never heard of the things. Barely knew what a keel was, let alone a bilge keel. Eight months later we sailed ourselves safely from Chichester to Suffolk and back, exploring creeks and swatches along the way. Marvellous.
EDIT also appreciated the bilge keels when we ran aground, at Iken Cliffs on the Alde, and had to wait for the tide to catch us up.
 

Sneds

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If in the Bristol Channel definitely o for a bilge keeper as everywhere drys out, apart from Bristol, Portishead, Watchet and Cardiff
Unless you go a long way ie Swansea, Milford and Padstow
Defo do a practical sailing course, staying on board if poss or Cardiff Bay Yacht Club can help you in the sheltered waters ofCardiff Bay
Portishead Cruising Club are very hospitable and have a nice bar in Pill
Good luck and let us know how you get on
Cheers
 

oldmanofthehills

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Thanks, I have done a little dinghy sailing recently, but did find the boats I used difficult to get into, and more importantly out. I had considered getting something like a Wayfarer, but wasn't sure if the would be a good solution, the thought of getting into something more substantial is a lot more attractive, but only from an access point of view. However, I love the idea of sailing in dinghies, it seems more direct somehow.
Dinghies are more direct but they are also less stable and less forgiving. Having started on dinghies in my teens I was advised that I would find a yacht easy as everything is slower giving one more time to react. Berthing needs more consideration but indeed yachts are easier.
 

Corribee Boy

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Have you checked out CLADS, at the Chew Valley Lake? - you might prefer not to put yourself into that category but if you wanted to try it, you would be able to gain more dinghy experience on some stable boats!
 

mattonthesea

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Dinghies are more direct but they are also less stable and less forgiving. Having started on dinghies in my teens I was advised that I would find a yacht easy as everything is slower giving one more time to react. Berthing needs more consideration but indeed yachts are easier.
But that is why dinghies are much better for learning to sail ?. They give instant feedback, even if that is a wet experience, so you know what you've done. The only way I've ever managed to teach best course to windward on a yacht requires a calm sea, a light wind and a blindfold for the helm; and sea room in that direction.
I accept this could easily be a reflection on me but I have spent many times thinking to myself: can you not see the luff lifting; or feel the boat uprighting, the wind straight on your face and slowing down?

On a dinghy you just stop!
 

tatali0n

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I had considered getting something like a Wayfarer, but wasn't sure if the would be a good solution, the thought of getting into something more substantial is a lot more attractive, but only from an access point of view. However, I love the idea of sailing in dinghies, it seems more direct somehow.

Wayfarers are lovely, stable boats that will, quite literally, take you anywhere. We use them for teaching at my club in South Cerney. The main issue you'd have with one I suspect would be launching and retrieving it. They're not light.

Direct is a very good way to describe it. I find when I'm sailing a yacht it's more about managing systems to keep things going the way you want them to. Whereas with a dinghy you have a direct, immediate connection to the wind and water. Then again, I've been places and seen things in a yacht that I just couldn't do in a dinghy. Or at least not as easily. As some people have shown, there isn't much you can't do in a dinghy if you really decide you want to :LOL:

I suspect you'll find the more you do it, the easier your access issues become. My Dad (who is in his mid 70's) is far from the most mobile or agile, but if anything, he's much more so now than when we first got our Westerly.

Another thing to consider is looking for a sailing club that supports Sailability (Frampton, for example). They have boats specifically designed for disabled sailors, and are almost always looking for more able bodied people of all levels of experience and ability to help out.
 

bitbaltic

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If the long term plan is to go single handed cruising around Europe then one of the worst places to start would be in a small heavy long keeler at the top of the Bristol Channel.

if you’re really motivated then you’ll prefer to buy a boat and maybe do a couple of yachting courses to get started. That’s what I did and it’s the fastest way into cruising on your own terms. But I’d look at the biggest and most up to date boat you can afford and put it as far south or west of Bristol that you can put up with.

an idea of budget would help define the various paths that have been suggested.
 

01_Anna

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  • (...)
    1. Very little sailing experience, and none at sea.
    2. Somewhat concerned over conditions in the channel, and my lack of experience/knowledge.
    3. Some balance/mobility issues, that mean:
      1. I won't be going on the foredeck at sea unless unavoidable, and with a harness/lifeline.
      2. (...)
    [*][*]What I would like some guidance over:
    1. How would you recommend I get up to speed most effectively?
    2. Any recommendations of clubs within an hour or so of Bristol.
    [*][*]

    [*]

    [*]Thanks
I would like to address the mobility issue:

I have somewhat limited mobility, due to the very serious accident twelve years ago (injured back, and endoprosthesis in leg). While it limits what I can and cannot do on the boat, it is actually possible to adjust the set up of the boat, to (almost) eliminate any need to leave the cockpit, while sailing.
The lines could be brought back to the cockpit, the mooring lines set up etc. etc.
Based on my own experience, I think, for you the most important would be -where the boat is moored (type of pontoon, I would avoid mooring buoys for instace); and then boat itself.
Essentially any boat with low freeboard,thus easly to get on/off, which is stable (well balanced) will be suitable for you.
My own, is the opposite of bilge keeler recommended for Bristol channel, but it gives us a lot of fun, and we sail it here.
But before thinking of getting your own, my suggestion would be to try and sail with a few other persons.
Training wise, I think the simplest would be doing a week long Competent crew course -which would give you experience, as well as a knowledge.
After that you might decide if Day skipper is the way to go forward.
If you get at the other side of the channel, PM me, I will gladly take you sailing, we do go most weekends-tides/weather permitting. :)
 

01_Anna

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I don't know why the last part of my message got separate- if moderators could remove this message please? I tried to delete it , but it did not work.
 
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