"So, there you are. The map of the oceans unfolded before you at the kitchen table, distant deserted islands scattered everywhere, whispering promises of adventure, solitude and freedom. Now what? You love the idea of cruising, yet you´ve perhaps never even set a foot aboard a large sailboat, less even set your own sails.
Watching the vagabonds of the oceans, one understands that there is one thing that they all have in common. At some point they made the decision, gave up some of the ordinary and went out to find what was calling to them at the horizon.
Many, many acquired their sailing experience right on the ocean. One summer season at home perhaps, then learning the rest on the way to the big one. Not millionaires, often not even sailors.
Just ordinary people, longing - not necessarily for the sailing itself - but for the freedom, the adventure and the awes of doing just what you want, when you want to do it, while exploring some of the most distant and enchanting parts of our world.
This site is not about the Americas Cup or the Whitbread or even the round the world small boat races. It is about you. If you are one of those souls searching for the freedom of the waters. It is to encourage you to do it. To go. Fill that void in your heart. It´s easier than you think. Here is how.
There is beginnings to everything and you don´t have to be a proven sailor to make your dream come true. It takes practice to learn the winds and that practice is best acquired on the water. Get a small sailboat; put her in your nearest lake or coastal water and go. Large sails are different to handle but what you need to get to know first is the wind. Play with the boat, recognize the wind, and adjust your sails for all best angles. A couple of month's spare time sailing in the summer should do it.
Get a friend with a sailboat to teach you the tricks if you can. Next, trade in the small sailboat for your real boat. You´ll probably want another season on that one to make her ready for the voyage. That will give you ample time to practice your sailing skills close to the shore.
The route down to the point of crossing finally, whether that is the Canary Islands from Europe or Bermuda from the US, will give you the last hand on sailing education aboard your boat before the crossing. It usually takes around 2-3 months and will gradually bring you out on bigger waters.
The crossing itself will probably be pretty mainstream, with tailwinds and easy sail setups, most often just a Genua. Sudden squalls make it too many hassles working mainsails anyway.
Your first boat
Almost all of the world’s great sailors started out dinghy sailing. And so should you. There are a number of strong arguments for this.
First, you learn to make mistakes. Flipping over, running into a pier or another boat, blowing out a sail and falling into the water. With a dinghy you can get bold and do all this stuff without getting hurt.
The experience you will gain will be invaluable when
you get your blue water cruiser. Even though you most probably will not fall in the water or flip over on the Atlantic - it will be very comforting to know what it actually feels like doing it.
Secondly, you need to get a true feeling for the wind, the sea, the boat and the forces that makes all this interact into a nice voyage. In a dinghy you will instantly get an intuitive felling for it, while on a larger boat you could sail for years and still not really understand what´s going on.
And thirdly dinghy sailing is fun!
Almost any dinghy is OK, but here are some guidelines:
She should be plastic and unsinkable (double bottom)
She should have two sails or more jib, main and perhaps a spinnaker
She should have a centerboard
She should probably be between 400 and 500 cm long
She can be very old and cheap ($400 to $1000)
A great way to find your dinghy is to visit the local dinghy-racing club. The young competitors have to get new boats every other year to stay competitive. Thus, the second hand market is all buyers. Get a boat that have been used for competition, skip the bargaining (the kids need the money anyway) and ask for free sailing lessons instead!
Check if you can join some local sailing competitions. You will most probably finish last,but you will learn more in a weekend than most sailors learn in a summer. You might feel somewhat embarrassed being twice the age of the other competitors, but tell them that you are training for an Atlantic crossing and they will cheer you on.Your competitors are also great material for your Atlantic crew in a couple of years.
The next section of this article is about raising the funds to make your dream come true. The article continues with all the info you need to get out there to the land of adventure. Read it here.