Building skills with Celeste


Where have 11 months gone since my last update posting?

…I can tell you I have done some tallship sailing on Elissa, a three-masted, iron-hulled sailing ship built in 1877 in Aberdeen, Scotland now in the care of the Galveston Historic Foundation. I’ve also done lots of sailing on my own boat, quite a few refit projects, and her first haul out – but, more about that later.

Since its raining today, lets take a break and continue with step 3 in the 4-part series of the process undertaken to get this sailboat journey underway.

As a refresher, those 4 parts are:

1) Understand your Dream,
2) Limit your Search,
3) Consider your Skills, and
4) Seek Alternative Purchase Options.

Today, I want to address Consider your Skills. Quite frankly, I had nothing more than old fashion rowing boat experience from fishing on a lake, a bit of canoeing and one day on a kayak. Not quite enough to be mildly knowledgeable at the time.

Before purchasing a boat I decided to get some sailing experience. So I jumped an airplane to Vancouver, British Columbia for a weekend of fun and an introductory day-sail on the English Bay with the Marla at We had a good experience on a calm bay and a knowledgeable captain who provided examples and let our little group do all the line-handling. I was hooked. – no turning back!

celeste-4On Celeste a 31′ Dufour, we learned to lower the dinghy from the fore deck and proper attachment to the stern. Marla, our captain and instructor, gave us a briefing of the bay using nautical charts, some dock line-handling skills and we were motoring out of the marina from Granville Island in no time. Check out this short video of the experience.

The day was filled with learning to properly hoist the sails, setting the jib, trimming sails, and being helmsman. At lunchtime we learned to heave-to and enjoy the picturesque bay. Given the wind direction we learned to sail into the wind avoiding “in irons”. Returning, we did some downwind sailing, lowered sail, and motored back into port. Marla docked while we crew handled the lines and performed a proper tie off using the cleat hitch we were taught.

Overall, a good introduction and quite complete addressing many of the topics more fully learned in the ASA 101 Basic Keelboat Sailing – my next port on the journey learning new skills.

The point is, that first day sail was a real confidence builder. But it also highlights the various knowledge areas were deeper skill development would be necessary. Most importantly, it solidified that my dream to circumnavigate was something that could be made a reality.

So why does this story matter?

The bottom line: it is important to know your skills AND you ability to obtain them.  Any boat chosen must work within this limitation.

I purposefully did not lay a plan for a 50′ or greater boat. With my limited skill set, that size boat would be too big. I am avoiding a boat with a mizzen mast. It adds another level of complexity to single-handed sailing. A catamaran sounds great and provides so much more room and quality of living space. But it also comes with a wider, larger boat to handle in small slip spaces where I have very limited experience. After all, docking is like landing an airplane. It is one of the most risky aspects of sailing.

Another day I hope to share my experiences tallship sailing.  This experience taught me line handling, knots, sails and maneuvering, maintenance, and more importantly….the need for discipline in sailing to avoid risks and plan ahead.

Through all this skill building, I made the commitment and located a sailboat to pursue my crazy circumvention dreams. Stay tuned.


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