the adventures of a girl, her dog, and two cats.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

don't count newbies out

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 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.


  1. In all of my businesses that I have run over the years, there was one common thread; Every New Person hired was encouraged to tell me what I was doing wrong. Why? Simple, I long ago - as a newbie myself, discovered that I could easily see things that did not make sense and when I would ask someone why they did it this way or that way, their answers were usually...because. That's it. No rhyme or reason.

    Because of that, I realized that tired eyes have a hard time seeing a better way, simpler way or just a different way that could help make you stand out as different from the competition.

    And to your point, I too was overwhelmed at the negativity on some of the boards (forums). I've been a member on some forums (non sailing) for 10 years or better while others I grow tired of all the chatter. I have learned that moderators are very valuable as to how a board is perceived and how or who sticks around.

    I don't even bother to ask about different boats anymore because if its not THEIR boa, then its garbage and should be sunk to the bottom for a man made reef.

  2. The forums drive me CRAZY sometimes. Individuals who are mean to newbies are just showing their own insecurities. The negativity can be overwhelming. But as you said: I generally choose NOT to participate in the drama. I like the threads where you are asking for others' experiences about a certain destination or asking for help with a very particular issue - those tend not to get out of hand....

  3. denis@thebrazenarticle.comFebruary 25, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    Agreed, there are some folks on the boards so much around the clock they'd be superhuman to also find time to reef, hand or steer.
    Many of the same players seem fixated on the "dangers of sailing" - suggesting various helmets, many many rules and disgust at anyone who will dare to leave the dock untethered and un PFD'd.
    How about the crowd ( generally sailing on Oklahoma lakes it seems) worried about Somali pirates and the caliber and rate of fire necessary to repel boarders?
    Gotta take the boards sparingly and never too seriously.
    As for blogs - do you follow At the moment Liz is between landfalls, if you are not aware of her adventures you'll have a delightful time catching up.


Thanks for reading! Have you had a similar experience you'd like to share? Have a link to an interesting blog fellow readers and I might enjoy? Just want to say hello? Post your comments below. I'm a smart, resourceful girl doing things her own way, so I just ask that folks keep the unsolicited advice to themselves.