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The author of "The Long Way", conveys in this book all the know-how he acquired: on the water, in meeting with other sailors, during long passages and his many years in various islands. The first part of the book details how to prepare for an extensive cruise; the type of boat, rigging and anchors. The second part covers passage making: the weather, navigation, watchkeeping, heavy weather and his own tips. In the third part Moitessier takes us to the various islands he visited.
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Bernard Moitessier was one of the greatest ocean voyagers. He became a legend in his own time. Born in 1925 in Indochina, he gained much of his sailing knowledge from the fishermen of the Gulf of Siam. A gifted writer, he wrote four books describing his seagoing adventures, including the major autobiographical work Tamata and the Alliance.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Together with what you learn in books, don't hesitate to get your feet wet by sailing a small dinghy such as an Optimist. You'll learn a tremendous amount. You may think, "Me, in an Optimist? That's a kid's boat! People will make fun of me!" To that I would say, "Beware of pride!"
A few years ago in Tahiti, my friends Ren and Jocelyne had acquired a 27-foot sloop. He was 33 and a real athlete; he did martial arts, parachute-jumping, body surfing, and some diving, among other things. At 25, Jocelyne wasn't the least bit interested in sports, but she had good common sense. Neither had ever done any sailing, except for a trip to Moorea with a bunch of friends aboard a 60-foot ketch, and they asked me to show them the ropes. The Arue yacht club agreed to lend us a Caravelle, a big, dry-sailing centerboard boat that at first glance seemed ideal. But when we got to the yacht club, we were greeted by a swarm of 10- to 12-year old children who were about to go out on Optimists. We watched as they cleared the harbor area. One of the kids, though obviously at a loss, managed to get out of the channel despite the crowding and jeers of his friends. An hour later, the children returned like a swarm of bees. And we saw something eye-opening: the hapless kid of an hour before had been transformed. He was doing just as well as the others, yelling "starboard" at any challengers, deftly handling the crosswinds in the narrow channel before raising his centerboard and sailing up the ramp.
We helped him stow his gear and asked, "How long have you been sailing an Optimist?" Answer: "This is my first time." In a blinding flash, we were struck by the obvious, so Ren, Jocelyne, and I immediately set sail, each aboard one of those marvelous dinghies. Close reach, reach, beam reach, coming about, jibing, backing with reverse rudder. We checked to see how well the boats hove to with the sail sheeted in and the tiller down at 45 degrees. The wind rose and we watched for gusts, learning to anticipate shifts as a Force 4 wind raised little whitecaps on the lagoon. Ren and Jocelyne were beginning to take charge of their boats. Just for the heck of it, we started racing. It was terrific fun: we were in seventh heaven!
When we headed back a couple of hours later, nobody could have said which of us had sailed the most miles in his life. It was extraordinary: in a single outing, Ren and Jocelyne had grasped the essentials because each was responsible for everything, from beginning to end.
When you're sailing alone, you pay for the slightest mistake or lapse of attention. But an Optimist is a forgiving boat, and it gives you fair warning; you really have to work to turn one over. A 14-foot 420, on the other hand, is a temperamental racing dinghy that I feel is much too fast and unpredictable for a beginner. If nothing else is available, sailing a 420 is obviously a lot better that sitting on the yacht club terrace. But as soon as the wind rises a notch, a 420 will dump you without giving you the time to understand why or how. So I don't think it's the best way to quickly learn to sail well.
As for learning in a group aboard a Caravelle, a number of things can make this inconvenient and a waste of time. You have a skipper at the helm--who may or may not be a good teacher-- and a crew, the people who do the work. The two most eager students usually grab the jib sheets and the others become "moveable ballast": they aren't very motivated, and their attention wanders as soon as they start getting bored or cold. Meanwhile the two people at the sheets start thinking it's high time they took a turn at the tiller. But you don't get the tiller just like that; you have to earn it, you have to deserve it. "Trim your jib a little better," says the skipper. "No, not like that! Are you asleep, or what? How did I ever get such a crew? And you want to take the helm too?"
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