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Old 10-17-2008, 05:17 PM   #1
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The "Sun Chaser" saga and others bring me to a point that has been bothering me for awhile.

How do you get passage making experience without actually doing a crossing. No amount of coastal sailing will prepare you for what can and does happen out there. The pucker factor in bad conditions is far greater given equal conditions, when you are 1000 miles from the nearest piece of land than when you are half a day's sailing to the nearest shoreline.

Many of you folks have been commercial sailors for a large part of your life and thus have spent many moons being thrashed around in all sorts of conditions. The average sailor spends a large portion either "day sailing" or doing coastal sailing in conditions that are not usually half bad.

Most sailors given the choice would go sailing in 15 to 30 knots unless preparing for some voyage and depending on where in the world you are you may never face survival conditions. Case in point I am in Jacksonville Florida where they put out small craft advisories and or small craft warnings when the seas get to 3 or 4 ft, yet in South Africa (Port Elizabeth where I grew up) 6 ft seas are considered the norm and when the Sou-Easter blows she can get to 15 ft in the bay and in a hurry. I guess I have been fortunate that I have had the opportunity to experience 25 to 30 ft seas within a half days sailing, but not everyone lives in or near the roaring 40's. (Though I must admit I did NOT consider myself fortunate while experiencing the horrible conditions)

Many sailors that live in San Francisco (I only know this area) sail the bay for decades, race and are really seasoned but are not prepared for an ocean crossing. I spoke to an old salt that had been sailing for over 50 years in SFO and had never been outside of the Golden Gate and I consider him a master sailor.

I do not consider myself an accomplished sailor by any means and in my younger days (30 years ago) I ran a 23ft fishing boat off the coast of SA for about 5 years, I have spent many a night on the ocean and have been caught in what I would call big seas (20 to 30 ft). What I did learn however is that you learn something every day, you learn to read the conditions, gain the utmost respect for the sea as there is absolutely no room for error out there, however I digress.

So after all my time on the water on sailboats, fishing vessels and such I do not feel that I sufficient experience to make a crossing. I will probably feel this way until I have actually done that crossing, not that this will stop me doing so as I am an adventureous soul, still, how do you get the experience unless you have done it and not everyone can do a crossing prior undertaking one on their own.

Thoughts ideas and opinions are always welcomed...
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Old 10-19-2008, 08:47 AM   #2
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Very good question and, as I mentioned in my most recent post in the "Sun Chaser" saga, the only way to gain experience is through experience. This you can do in the company of others who have that experience or you can do it yourself by gradually raising the bar.

From what you wrote, I am sure you do have the experience to cross oceans ina well found yacht but, and I am not suggesting this to be the case with you, sometimes experience is not enough. A modecum of self-confidence is also needed but, on the other hand, too much self-confidence and too little experience are poor bedfellows.

The fact also remains that most ocean passages done by yachts are in areas where the worst weather to be expected would be called no more than moderate weather "in die Kaap". It is horses for courses. Bad weather for an Icelander is something completey different to bad weather for a Fiji-islander.

If you have experience from the Eastern Cape, where I once had a really bad accident on a 14,000 ton cago liner which fell in one of the famous "holes in the water", then you can cope with anything that will be thrown at you in the trade wind belts, with the possible exception of a revolving tropical storm but you avoid those by staying out of those areas at the wrong time of year.

In the end though, sailing is little different from parachuting, ski-jumping or flying: sometime you have to go solo, get out there and take the big step and the responsibility that goes with it. Just learn to walk before you run.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 10-19-2008, 04:01 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nausikaa View Post
A modecum of self-confidence is also needed ...

Bad weather for an Icelander is something completey different to bad weather for a Fiji-islander.

If you have experience from the Eastern Cape..

In the end though, sailing is little different from parachuting, ski-jumping or flying: sometime you have to go solo,

Aye // Stephen
Hey Steven, you hit the nail on the head, as far as self confidence goes I have tons of it. I am one of those people who can just about do anything and can fix anything. I term was used I could whittle out a shopping mall out of a tree with a penknife. I have sailed fished, raced motorcycles, jumped out of planes, bungee jumped (not one of my smarter moves). The thing is taking risks for me no matter how calculated has always just involved me, now taking the risk with someone else on board no matter how prepared you are, this a decision that I do not take lightly. I would hate to have to explain why I made it back and someone else did not. Certainly the other crew enter the situation knowingly but being a responsible skipper it would weigh heavily on my mind.

Certainly bad weather is a relative term and that is the point I was attempting to make, each of these folks no matter where they sail from will have various levels of what they would term bad weather experience.

Yup the Eastern Cape waters can be pretty nasty as you have seen and found out for yourself. I did make it a point not to go out when the weather predictions were not good and really tried to avoid the Sou-easter, but weather reporting back then left a lot to be desired. However, the Sou-easter if light to moderate provided some great sailing conditions.

You talk about skydiving well that is a leap of faith especially when you did not pack your own chute, there is no turning back once you have made that step out out the plane, talk about a rush ...

I think what I am attempting to say is that I believe that most everyone, with notable exeptions believes that they are experienced enough to undertake their crossing, only to kind out somewhat too late that they are either not qualified or do not have the mental fortitude to handle what ole Neptune throws at them. It is just too easy to reach for the mike and cry for help only to find the vessel floating and in good condition once the seas have subsided.

BTW: the guys on SeymorII (is that the name) did a FANTASTIC job of managing the situation, as a result they are back safe and sound.

Having not sailed for many a year I am looking at refresher courses and certainly Multihull training, however what I am finding is that the training companies are really in the money business not the sailing business and from what I have seen you do not get the training you truly would need.

My thought is prior to picking up my Leopard 40 a year from now (after the Annapolis Boat show next year) that I would fly out to SA at my own expense and crew for a skipper that is doing a delivery to the USA for either a Leopard or an Admiral Catamaran.

As you say there is no experience like experience itself ...
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Old 10-20-2008, 05:35 PM   #4
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I was told if I could sail San Francisco Bay I could sail anywhere.....NOT TRUE....As you said the ocean is something different, and it is HUGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!When I left S.F. Bay alone for Mexico I was in for a STEEP learning curve.

You can offer to crew for people which already have experience. There is the ARC, BAJA HAHA, deliveries, and even Fast Cat , AFRICANCATS.COM, is at times willing to take on crew from S.A.

Where in Jax are you? I am in O.P. & G.C.S's.....NEIGHBORS

There isn't much differnce in sailing a cat as compared to a mono. Reading the water, so you know when to reef is the biggest thing. I jumped from a 30ft mono onto a 46ft cat in St. Maarten, and with no experience sailed her easily to Daytona. I now have about 10k miles just going in, and out of the Bahamas......PM me if you wish....i2f
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Old 10-20-2008, 06:36 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagine2frolic View Post
You can offer to crew for people which already have experience. There is the ARC, BAJA HAHA, deliveries, and even Fast Cat , AFRICANCATS.COM, is at times willing to take on crew from S.A.

Where in Jax are you? I am in O.P. & G.C.S's.....NEIGHBORS
Thanks ief,

I have a family friend in SA who owns a yacht manufacturing company (Admiral Yachts) grew up with David and have known him for as long as he has been alive, so I will be talking to him about crewing a Cat next year , probaly bring a boat back for the 2009 Annapolis boat show.

We must just about live next door to each other, I in OP but in Oakleaf plantation not far from G.C.S
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