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How to Choose Your Sailboat

Oct 31, 2007
To join the fraternity of sailing enthusiasts and enjoy the new era of sailboat living, your first step is to select a boat. Unfortunately, there's no one sailboat that's perfect for all uses. If there were, there would be no need for the bewildering variety of sailboats that are available. A choice that the prospective sailor should consider, therefore, is between a faster craft, designed primarily for speed, and a somewhat slower boat intended for cruising and loafing around a bay or lake.

Racing is the more limited of the two uses, and calls for a greater degree of skill and a good set of reflexes on the part of the skipper. Sailing purely for pleasure and relaxation, on the other hand, requires only a reasonable mastery of the basics, and places less demand on the skipper's reflexes and ability to make snap decisions. (Lest that business of reflexes bother you, it should be said that sailing even sailboat racing doesn't require the split-second reacting time of driving a car on today's highways.)
Also among the factors to consider are the location in which you are going to do your sailing and how much you can afford to spend for the initial cost and for maintenance.

To give you some idea of the range of sailboats available to persons primarily interested in sailing for fun, the following three popular models will typify the range: the Kitten, the Seven Eleven and the Sprite.

The Kitten, a 10-foot sailboard, is an excellent boat for beginners to learn sailing with.

It's lively and sporty and a lot of fun to sail. It can't be swamped and is unsinkable; thus it builds up the confidence of some novices who believe sailing is difficult. Actually, the Kitten will lead the beginner to experimentation more readily than the more conventional type of boat, and he will learn sooner the relationship of wind to sail.

This combination of painless instruction and exhilarating fun has made this type of sailing craft very popular and has converted many a newcomer to the sport of sailing. The boat can be easily carried by one person and the entire rig can be kept in the basement, attic, or garage when not in use.

The Seven Eleven is another good first have-fun-on-the-water boat. This craft (7 feet, 11 inches long by 4 feet 2 inches wide) is light in weight (89 pounds) and can be easily car-topped or put in back of a station wagon and hauled upon the dock or beach. Its two-piece mast assembles quickly, and the whole boat can be stored in a basement, a garage, or an attic. In addition to being low in cost, the Seven Eleven handles easily and is remarkably safe and stable.

This boat was designed for two purposes. The fact that it tows well makes it excellent for a yacht tender, and because of its size it can be stowed easily on board. The Seven Eleven also makes a delightful cruising boat for the youngsters when visiting a new harbor. In addition, the boat was designed to fit the needs of those people looking for a first boat for the small fry, because it can be used as a rowboat, as a sailboat, and, with an outboard, as a power boat.

The Sprite represents unusual value because it's the only boat of its kind with such a wonderful combination of features: lively sailing ability, stability and safety, and convertible rig. This craft gives the beginner a wide range of sailboat 'feeling'.

It can be rigged with a single sail as a catboat, or with a mainsail and jib as a sloop; and it also flies a small spinnaker to provide training in the important and exciting technique of downwind sailing. Stability and safety have been generously provided in this boat. There are flotation tanks at bow and stern, and it will easily float its crew when swamped.

There are other boats to choose from, but these are very good boats to consider initially.
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