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Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 11:10 am
by Gary&Dawn
Well we thought, we love boats, we want a yacht. Did some research and decided our first starter boat should be a bilge keel Westerly. Next thing we signed up to WOA. We've searched the market, looked at several boats and have now narrowed the choice down to a couple of Centaurs. One is local but somewhat overpriced, the other us further afield, and if it's as good as is owner claims, could very well be THE boat. We're travelling across country in a weeks time to go and view, it's all very exciting!

But, and there is a very big but, we can't find anyone to teach us how to sail the yacht we want to purchase. We've contacted a number if schools along the south coast, particularly schools who offer tailor made courses. Just what we want, however some schools don't respond, whilst others want to sell us very expensive packages to teach us to sail huge great yachts that we could only ever afford if we won the lottery. Coupled with radio training ( a must we do realise) and also with their recommendations that we also undertake first aid, we're looking at the pricey sum of nearly £1500, just to get us started. We do know we need tuition, and we do recognise that the most important piece of safety equipment is ourselves, but at this rate we won't be able to afford to buy the boat in the first place. And how to get experience?? We've signed up for local buddy schemes, but so far no takers - it seems no- one wants inexperienced sailors on board. Our local yacht club will consider accepting us as members if we're proposed, but we don't know anyone to propose us.

So, we know the boat, we know mooring prices in the local harbour, but try as we might we cannot get into the local sailing community, we can't get sailing experience, and we can't get the tuition we want at a price we can afford.

Anyone for tennis? :roll:

Re: Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 11:40 am
by Jolly Roger
Do not panic. You are trying to do everything at once.

Joining a club is important, but do not worry about a proposer or seconder, that is only a formality. Once a member I feel sure you will find someone to assist in teaching you the basics, then it will be a question of continual learning. Check out thr RYA web site ( as they have plenty of helpful information for beginners and inexpensive guides on learning sailing, VHF radio, etc.

As soon as you recive your WOA membership pack, check out the Boatline Members for the Centaur. These are owners who have extensive knowledge of a paeticular class. There may be one nearby who might take you out for a sale. That will teach you quickly the very basics for a minimal cost, usually a few beers. Alternatively post a thread asking for someone to help you on the forum and possibly the Practical Boat Owners forum ... -to-Reader. Both of these should work. If you can wait a few weeks as I am currently out of the water, then I would be happy to take you out on my Fulmar based at Chatham, Kent to teach you a lot more than the basics (I started sailing in 1965).

Do not rush out as buy the first boat you see. Try and look at a number before making your mind up. Looking at a number of boats, remember they are about 40 years old, will show up plenty of differences. As I advised before, buy the best example you can afford to buy as it will save you money in the long term. Must not have the original engine and should have recent replacement electronics, upholstry, headlinings, sails, standing and running rigging, etc.

Do keep asking questions and I feel sure you will realise you are joining a very friendly community of Westerly owners. Do not forget you can join local area meets and that will help you no end.

Re: Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 4:49 pm
by BillGr
All of the above is very good advice from Jolly Roger.

Yacht clubs are an infinite source of support and wisdom; the proposer / seconder thing is for most just a formality. If you introduce yourself and suggest an interest, they'll find members to propose and second your application; and if not, they're probably not the sort of club you'd want to join.

The RYA courses you should be looking at are the Day Skipper theory and practical. Depends on where you do them, but they are two separate courses and can get a bit pricey, especially if two of you want to do them. Some sailing schools run a "Start Yachting" course which is both shorter and cheaper, and might be the way to go (eg. ... rtyachting)

The RYA cruising syllabus is worth doing, but you might want to try and get some actual experience first to make absolutely certain this is something you want to do. You could also consider learning to sail in a dinghy. The RYA Level 1&2 dinghy course is significantly cheaper, shorter and more accessible than the Day Skipper, and almost everything you learn about sailing a dinghy translates to the bigger stuff.

Well, almost. I find the masses amount of practice I've had with capsize recovery in a dinghy isn't so useful with our Westerly!

Tennis is a terrible game. Sailing is definitely the way to go, the sort of past time that will actually take you places ;)

Re: Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 10:06 pm
by Uncle Albert
Welcome to the WOA, the world of the friendly owners.
If as you say you are travelling across the country and find yourself in Essex give me a shout I'll take you out on a Centaur for a couple of hours on the tide, (weather and tides permitting of course)

Uncle Albert. (You will understand why if you meet me!!!)

Re: Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 3:18 pm
by Nigel Birch
I'd be happy to take you out on our Konsort which is a similar boat to a Centaur. The boat is moored at Topsham on the Exe estuary and we have great cruising ground on our doorstep. PM me if it sounds of interest.

all the best


Re: Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 9:40 pm
by TyroSailor
I can probably help. I've recently bought a Centaur, and although it's not working at the moment I'd be more than happy to take you out and teach you, in my boat and/or yours, when it exists. I have lots of free time. Where are you?

PM me.

Re: Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2015 7:43 pm
by Chris&Kat
Hi, we used to live and sail from Shoreham by sea. We were members of Sussex yacht club and there were plenty of people there who were always happy to take out aspiring new sailors as crew. They have regular new members nights, which a few skippers used as recruitment evenings.... C & K

Re: Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 9:50 am
by keith_young
I know this is a slightly old thread but noting from the other thread that you're in Seaford, there's a Westerly Owners Association rally at Sovereign Harbour August 13th-16th: probably a sure-fire way to meet some westerly owners.

You don't mention which club you were intending to join but not all between Eastbourne and Shoreham will be equally suited to your needs. Sussex has been mentioned, I was chatting to some other WOA members who speak highly of Newhaven, but Brighton Marina Yacht Club is racing-focused (i.e. no RYA courses, talks, tools for loan etc.) so might not be ideal for new centaur owners.

If there's two of you and you take the plunge and buy a boat, hiring a freelance instructor can be cost effective. Freelancers get paid shockingly little by sea schools. Hire them directly to teach you exactly what you want to know in the context of your own boat and I think you'll find that for a price the instructor is more than happy with you can have completely tailored instruction on your own boat for less than the cost of a generic course for the two of you.

Your problem of course if finding someone to recommend a decent instructor in the area without going through a sea school. As a last resort, Yachting Monthly's Scuttlebutt forum is less westerly-specific than here but much higher volume so possibly a good place to ask generic yachting questions: ... cuttlebutt

Re: Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Tue Oct 03, 2017 1:17 pm
by salgarfi
Hello All,

I appreciate that this is a very old thread, but my wife and I are in an exactly similar situation to Gary & Dawn when they started this thread, so if they see this, or if anyone knows them, how did you/they get on in finding lessons or an instructor to teach them to sale.

By the way, and I guess I should have done this already, but my wife and I are keen to get a Centaur, and I've recently joined the forum so I hope that we can get hints and guidance from you all. I hope I've commited no faux pas by wading into a thread before introducing myself - so it's a big HELLO from the two of us!

Thanks All,

Re: Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Tue Oct 03, 2017 3:27 pm
by BillGr
salgarfi wrote:
Tue Oct 03, 2017 1:17 pm
I hope I've commited no faux pas by wading into a thread before introducing myself - so it's a big HELLO from the two of us!
I can't imagine any harm has been done at all from wading in, hello and welcome Sal :)

I wonder how the original poster got on? I still maintain that tennis is a terrible game!

What part of the country are you in Sal? Maybe somebody will pick up on this and offer to take you out for a sail?

Dad and I looked for a Centaur when we first decided to move up from dinghy sailing about three years ago. Ended up with a Griffon, which was Westerly's intended successor for the Centaur. Three years on and a couple of thousand sea miles or so later I'm still totally in love with her, which I think you can take as an endorsement to her forerunner the Centaur as much as it is a plug for the Griffon.

Re: Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Tue Oct 03, 2017 3:58 pm
by salgarfi
We're in Wales near Aberystwyth. The local training centre in New Quay can't guarantee keel boat training (lack of access to a suitable boat) so we plan to join the Aber Teifi Boating Club (Cardigan) by Christmas time, for the New Year. There are also good moorings there in the estuary. Since many people are taking their boats out of the water now, we realise that we've got to wait more or less until Easter to get a chance to go out on the water.

Re: Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Tue Oct 03, 2017 4:59 pm
by salgarfi
Now.., I responded to this BillGr, but somehow it didn't get posted, so if in the end it does, excuse me for the double posting.

Anyway, we live near Aberystwyth, and since moorings are like hen's teeth in Aber, and the Marina is tres expensive, we're looking at joining the Aber Teifi Boating Club down in Cardigan, where there also happens to be low cost estuary moorings. I've posted in this thread since my wife and I have approached a few learning centres and got poor responses. Even the New Quay centre (which is relatively nearby) says that they do keel boat lessons but they don't have, at present, a boat to offer them on. Also, if both of us go for lessons, then the cost would be substantial. So, as I've said, we're in the same position as the original posters.


Re: Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Tue Oct 03, 2017 5:26 pm
by BillGr
I already had a lot of dinghy sailing experience so the move up to a big boat (well, sort of - a Griffon is really just a big dinghy) was initially just an evolution that we did without any specific keel boat training. I remember it being quite daunting nonetheless, especially as our own chosen sailing area is just around the corner from you in the Bristol Channel.

I think if I did it all again, I'd still learn to sail a dinghy first, albeit that's easy to say as I'm a still relatively nimble 40ish year old that doesn't mind the odd tipping in when things go wrong, and have a sailing club on a lake twenty minutes down the road from my house. My wife takes an entirely different view, and won't step aboard anything that has the slightest chance of my tipping it over with her in it.

The Day Skipper felt like a bit of an investment. Did the theory on the cheap over a succession of interminably endless evening sessions at my sailing club. Always thought if I did that again, I'd sign up for a more concise, weekend commercially provided course, but apparently not. I've just signed back up for another 16 evenings of Coastal Yachtmaster theory at the club, starting this evening. I have mixed feelings :lol:

The Day Skipper practical the following summer we treated like a week's holiday and did in a boat out of a training centre down in Falmouth. Would really recommend it or similar. All things considered, it wasn't any more expensive for the three of us (myself, dad & my eldest son) than it would've been to have had a week away in a rented cottage somewhere.

You're going down the right route joining a boat club. A good club, and the contacts and opportunities mixing with a bunch of fellow enthusiasts can bring, is like gold dust.

Re: Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 1:33 pm
by salgarfi
We, like the OPs, are complete novices and I'm 65 going on 66 while my wife's 60. We think that getting help through the club would be the best option for us followed by one of us (probably me?) doing the day skipper course/courses. We also like what someone else has suggested, and that's to find an instructor who could give us bespoke lessons. I'm hoping the club could help with that, or serve that purpose. Of course, this raises the question as to whether or not it's sensible to hold off on getting a boat, and first seek tuition in whichever form is cost effective, or go out and buy the boat with little or no experience, and then seek tuition based around it. Of course, with winter approaching most of these decisions can be put off until the early Spring, but we really ought to start getting stuck in by then, and hopefully get a boat by the end of the Summer(?). We'll see.....

Re: Struggling to Learn how to sail!

Posted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 5:13 pm
by BillGr
My gut feeling would be that as long as you pick the right one, you can't really go wrong with finding a Centaur or Griffon and then learning to sail her.

Although if you are completely new to boating, I would be inclined to blag a ride in one (or a similar yacht) first, either through joining a club or contacts like this forum, just to be sure it is something you want to do. On the subject of joining a club, it occurs to me that if I didn't have a boat right now, joining one is exactly what I'd do as the best route towards getting afloat. A smile, availability and a little bit of enthusiasm goes a long way towards that end.