Sailing boat advice

After seeing the results of my Auk build, my wife would like me to build a boat for sailing. We have been on sailboats with friends several times, but we don't know how to sail. I looked at the CLC designs in an attempt to find a boat with enough room for comfort, manageable weight and length, and stable enough for novices. It looks like the skerry may be a good boat for our purpose. We would still need instruction in sailing, but I think I could get us in the skerry without wrecking the kit. Any advise on whether the skerry is a logical choice, and where to get enough instruction to have fun in a sailboat without getting in trouble.  Thank you.

7 replies:

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RE: Sailing boat advice

The Skerry is a wonderful choice for a novice sailor. It's plenty big for 2, there's something for the crew to do (adjust the snotter tension as the wind changes and keep lookout) and it can be very easily sailed solo.

The boom is high enough so that cracked heads are not a problem, the push-pull tiller keeps the cockpit clear of flying wood and with a single sail and single sheet there's no tangle of lines that have to be learned by those new to sailing.

The hull shape can stay dry in rougher water than most beginner boats and it will handle conditions that would send many other boats back to shore. Mind you, don't try this until you've learned what you're supposed to do.

It's a forgiving boat, easy to sail and when you get some experience you'll be able to get some good performance out of it. It's also the prettiest sailboat in CLC's stable, in my opinion. If I hadn't already been mostly finished building a similar boat when the Skerry came out, I would own one now. As it is, I bought the plans, just in case.

As far as learning to sail, there's the way I did it 35 years ago - get in a boat, spend 2 hours trying to sail into the wind (much to the amusement of the audience) and then suddenly have it all click into place. If you can stand the ridicule, it actually works.

Or, you could get on the internet, or go to the library and get a book likeThe Annapolis Book of Seamanship, read through it and then get in the boat and do what the book says. Alternatively, get those friends of yours to let you crew for them and learn by doing on their boat.

Have fun,



RE: Sailing boat advice

Good. I'm always glad to hear of people who want to get started in sailing because it's been my favorite thing to do for about the last 50 years. 

I'm finishing a couple kayaks now, and for my next CLC build, I'm considering the Take-Apart Passagemaker or the Skerry. I'd want the Lug rig with either one, for ultimate simplicity. But the Sloop rig offers a jib sheet that might help keep a crew member more involved. I also considered the Northeaster Dory, which is nice and roomy, but I'm just not as crazy about its looks.

There are several great things about these boats. First of all, you get a really attractive lapstrake hull, without all the extra time and effort that is usually required to build one. Another thing is their light weight. Two people can easily move them around, and lift them on and off car roof racks. A solo sailor might be happier launching from a trailer, but it's usually possible to find a willing hand at a launch ramp, which can get you around the expense and hassles of storing a trailer. 

The thing I really like about the Take-Apart Passagemaker is that the two sections could be stored standing upright in a garage, or even in an apartment, taking up minimal space. Having that ability for the future might just seal the deal for me. And it still has a carrying capacity of 650 pounds -- 200 pounds more than the Skerry, despite being more than 3 feet shorter! That is pretty amazing ...

One thing about these boats, though, makes them less than ideal for beginners learning to sail, I think. An important part of the process is learning how to self-rescue from a capsize, which is an inevitable part of small boat sailing. A boat like a Sunfish is an ideal boat in that respect, because they are so easy to right, reboard, and continue sailing with almost no water in the cockpit. The CLC sailboats we are talking about here are open boats that will be essentially swamped with water after they are righted after a capsize. It would then be easy to reboard them, but far from easy to bail them out. In rough water conditions it might not be possible at all. I would not like to see a youngster or inexperience adult venture too far from help, without having a self-rescue plan in place that has been well proven in practice. This is not meant to scare you off. It's just one aspect of these types of boats that I think needs to be remembered.

Old Yeller 

RE: Sailing boat advice

I can't give any specific advie regarding the CLC sailboats beause I have never sailed any of them, but I can give some general advise.

First off, do not buy a sailboat until after you have had a few lessons.  You won't know for sure that you will enjoy it until after you have done it a few times.


Next, find somebody qualified to give you lessons.  Ideally the lessons should be in a similar sized boat to what you are thinking about buying (building).  Many areas have sailing clubs that will give lessons.  Although it is possible to teach yourself, I strongly recommend against that approach.  Many who try that approach have a bad experience early on and never go sailing again. 


If you decide that you like it, buy yourself a cheap dingy to practice with. I am a big fan of boats like the Laser because they provide instant feedback.  You do things right and the boat takes off.  You do something wrong and you go swimming.  Although many of the CLC boats would be suitable to learn on, it may be a good idea to use something that is more disposable.  When you are first learning you will make mistakes and break things.  Besides, a disposable dingy will give you something to practice with while you are building that floating coffee table.


When you are deciding which boat to buy, consider where you will sail it, number of people you will take, and where you will sail it, and how you will store/transport it.  The best boat for two to daysail on a small inland lake will not be the best boat for week long coastal camping trip in the Keys.    

RE: Sailing boat advice

Duuane, you already got some excellent advice above!

As a certified US Sailing instructor I do believe that proper instruction will be your quickest approach to learning to sail and becoming confident and proficient in the various skills needed to sail in safety to you, your crew, your boat and other boaters.

I also agree that you probably won't want to test your inexperience at the dock with a sparkling new Skerry. 

Daysailing for two can be accomplished on the Passagemaker Dinghy, the Skerry and NE Dory equally well. Each of these boats have their own strengths. The Skerry would be a great choice as an all-around small sailing boat with excellent sailing characteristics.

The passagemaker will be slower than the Skerry but can haul three with ease. The NE Dory would be the fastest as well as the most suitable for longer distance cruising for two. The Skerry is successfully being used by a single-handed long-distance cruiser - albeit with significant modifications.

I agree with the suggestion to consider the lug rig version which is available on all three models.

The comments regarding self-rescue are worthy of serious consideration.  IN the hands of an experienced helmsman, these boats are capable to stand up to some serious wind. Even so, you need to understand and be able to perform the appropriate self-rescue drill.

My suggestion:

Learn the basics of sailing first.

Then arrange with CLC to try out their boats at one of their demo days. The OkoumeFest (in May) is the best opportunity. Or else you may be able to find someone with a Skerry in your area.


RE: Sailing boat advice

Thanks for the replies. One of the friends that we had been on a sailboat with, worked as a second job, but first love at a U.S. sailing ... sailing school in Buffalo NY. We had never discussed the possibility of lessons for us, because at the time it just wasn't in our viewfinder, and due to "life" we have not had other than passing contact in the past few years. 

I had not given thought to the differences in a "flat" bottom boat and a keel boat, nor the distinct possibility of a need for a self rescue after swamping the boat, which based on the replies and other info I have since found, tells me that it's not an "if" question, it's a "when" question when it comes to dumping the boat. 

I know the information and the right questions were out there, but, I wasn't able to funnel it all down in my mind to find the right first questions to ask myself ...or others... and the right starting point. I will continue to read, ask questions and become as informed as I can, before I make a decision about building a sailing boat. A build is most definitely in my future, what style, and what boat are the only questions at this point.

thanks again for the detailed replies. That kind of detail in a reply tells me that I needed to ask myself and others many more questions.


RE: Sailing boat advice


I hope you don't reject small unballasted boats out of hand because of the capsize issue. I have raced and cruised all kinds of boats between 7'-7" and 37'-0", and have always felt that the small boats are more fun. They provide the most intimate sailing experience because your eyes are so close to the water, and you can sense every subtle response the boat makes in that dynamic environment.

Capsizing a small boat should not be something to fear. Practicing self-rescue helps you relax as a sailor, and if the water is warm, it can even be fun. Recovery should be something you feel comfortable about. As you gain experience the likelihood of capsize decreases markedly. Even quite wild conditions can be handled safely by using good judgement, and sailing conservatively.

I hope you enjoy all the experiences you encounter on the road to becoming a sailor. Good luck!

Old Yeller  

RE: Sailing boat advice

Yeller.. I haven't rejected or given up on the idea of an umballisted boat. I plan on educating myself through reading and asking, before I decide on which boat to build, and even more so, before I put anything on the water. When I was younger I found the learning and discovering  process to be tedious and unnecessary. Fortunately I got past that kind of thinking, and now in my mid 50's I know, not only was I wrong about that, but, the learning, exploring, and discovery process is almost the most fun and rewarding part of the process. I won't have anything new on the water this year, but I will be educated enough to make a decision, and have something in my basement that will be at some stage of construction before the end of the good weather... Duuane

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