I've only been living aboard and on a sailboat for a handful of months. But one keen observation I've made is that folks in both the "real world" and in online forums can be pretty fairly judged by how they treat newbies. And even it it isn't fair, I'm judging them, period. Strangers have welcomed me into their lives and onto their boats, generously shared their tips and tricks. Many of my newfound liveaboard friends will be dear friends for life, I have no doubt. But if you treat "newbies" like the dirt you so despise, if your immediate reaction to their dreams of being on the sea is to look down your nose and say "you really need to take sailing lessons," you won't be getting any rum shots on my boat, but I might make you walk the plank. Everyone was a newbie at some point. Just because someone has been doing something for twenty or forty years doesn't mean they haven't been doing it wrong. Just because I'm a newbie doesn't mean I don't actually know more or have a better way of doing something.
Not too long ago I "killed" my profiles on Cruisers Forum, SailNet, and SailBoatOwners.com. I grudgingly revived the ones on CF and SN and do have some good friends there. I've had many blog readers come from those forums and I deeply appreciate the positive feedback on my blog that I've received from those folks. The forums have some useful information and some good people, but are often overwhelmed by self-righteous schmucks who spend so much time online it's hard to imagine they ever get their boats out on the water. They are snarky and unhelpful and clearly legends in their own minds. It is simpler for me to walk down the street to Davis' Pub, full of sailors, power boaters, liveaboards, and boat mechanics. I can achieve the same effect as posting a question in a forum by working my way down the bar asking for suggestions on my current project or challenge. There, I can tell if someone is an idiot, a jerk, wise, helpful, or too drunk to be handing out advice. The good folks generously share their experiences, both failures and successes. Rather than paranoid cautions of how ignorant you are and how dangerous the sea is, they readily admit that no one ever masters sailing and that if someone claims to they are full of shit. The good folks realize that plenty of folks teach themselves, no boat is ever ready, and sailors less experienced and with fewer wits about them have circumnavigated and lived to tell about it. It just isn't rocket science.
My advice to the newbies out there: buy some books; study up; use your noodle; use some common sense. Even if you're a newbie, you know more than a lot of self-appointed experts online and you bring your own unique experience, skills, and perspective. A little fresh air blowing through the sailing forums might do them good, but I'm too busy living my life. I do check the forums again, and try to post helpful comments where I have something to contribute. I'd like to bitch-slap some of the snarks, but they just aren't worth the drama. I already know of several sailors I'm likely to run across as I cruise but whom I wouldn't be willing to break bread with or invite for sundowners. The sea is a very dangerous place and I've seen from years of boating in Miami how quickly weather can turn, how quickly people can lose their lives. That is why I think having good "boating karma" is especially important. When I have the choice to lend a hand or to cut someone down, I'd rather be helpful than hurtful, and hopefully when my boat is being tossed about on a turbulent sea, Poseidon will show me the same kindness.