How much does sailing on protected waters resemble coastal sailing?
August 13, 2014 12:32 PM   Subscribe

How useful is it to practice sailing on a lake, if what one wants to learn is sailing on the ocean?

I want to learn how to sail. Specifically, I want to learn how to pilot sailboats, that are big enough to for two people to live on board, while attempting a Great Loop. That trip, mind you, is not something I plan to attempt in the near's more of a long-term aspirational goal. Now, I have already investigated a number of sailing schools and found one that offers a series of courses that seem suitable to me, and have actually gotten signed up for the first course. But, here is my issue: the school is in Florida, we live in Nebraska, and we are unlikely to be able to do any additional courses for at least a year. And Nebraska, you'll note, is landlocked; even our lakes and rivers are for the most part poorly suited to boating.

So my question is, how much good will it do to practice by sailing on lakes, if the skill that one is trying to practice is costal cruising and passagemaking? Will a plan of attending courses once a year for 5 or 6 years, supplemented by regular sailing on a lake, enable one to learn how to sail for real?
posted by Ipsifendus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: As someone who has sailed on lakes and also on the ocean, it's very useful. You learn all sorts of things about the mechanics of sailing in a much more controlled environment. It's like learning to drive; you start in a parking lot, then on trafficless residential streets, etc. etc. etc. until you finally build up to highway driving.
posted by KathrynT at 12:39 PM on August 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Lake sailing will be great practice for the mechanics of sailing, aboslutely. What you won't learn is navigation, how to read a chart, rules of the road, tides and currents (and their affect on your ability to make way). Reading charts, navigating, rules of the road...that stuff you can read in books, so that's great. But you'll need some time to get used to sailing with tides and currents -- as well as the planning needed to maximize their utility for your intended course. The upside to all your lake-based time is that you won't need to learn how to sail while wrapping your head around this other stuff.
posted by undercoverhuwaaah at 1:07 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's sort of like learning to drive on country roads then transferring that skill to city streets. The core concepts of driving are the same: gas pedal, braking, turning, maintaining the vehicle.

If you want to sail, then hours in a boat - any sailboat - are hugely helpful particularly if you're inexperienced aboard a boat.
posted by 26.2 at 1:18 PM on August 13, 2014

Best answer: I learned to sail on Wisconsin lakes and once had an instructor who taught most of the year off the Florida coast. He told me that people who learn on smaller lakes are particularly great at adapting to wind, which changes much more frequently on smaller water systems than on open water. Like undercover says, you'll need to learn how to deal with tides and currents eventually. But, you'll be much better prepared to absorb that info after getting the kinks out in Nebraska (or wherever).
posted by smittosmith at 1:25 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: All great answers, so far.

I'd add that small day-sailor boats of the type that you would typically see on small lakes (12~18footers) can be a lot more fast-paced than bigger boats. The boat is light, so wind gusts can really make a lot of change in a very short amount of time. The bigger the boat, the more things kind of slow down and aren't quite as hectic.. Learning in the small hectic boat with little risk involved (they are easily righted if you tip it over) is a great place to start!
posted by mbatch at 4:11 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: +1 for the above.

During your 4 or 5 year apprentice ship, find time to read books like The Annapolis Book Of Seamanship cover to cover. Also, keep an ear open for chances to join a charter in a big boat.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:48 PM on August 13, 2014

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