Here is an answer to a Quora question (if you don’t know it, it is a site where people with experience in different subjects offer, buy and trade advice. (Some with unsurpassed credentials).
Here is the question:
Click through or read Capt Scott’s answer below:
I did what the first three sailors suggested; Sail, sail, sail and learn from those you sail with. That is part of what you need, but be aware cruising and racing are two different animals. I witnessed a large (and avoidable) accident where a bunch of racer anchored in a new port at the end of a particular race. During the night they got caught up on each other’s anchor lines. Then in the morning, a few sailors made some very poor decisions that caused boats to be damaged. On the flip side, many cruisers do not know how to efficiently make their boats go.
I went from a racing background to a cruising background and at that time took some ASA courses. Boy did I have some bad habits. Why? Because I had learned from sailors who had taught themselves. That is not to say they do not have some great tips and insights, but as a group, a well-rounded approach is often lacking. My suggestion is to start by taking American Sailing Association (ASA) courses. They have levels starting from beginner up to crossing oceans and celestial navigation. It is more focused, giving quicker results as you handle all aspects of the boat relevant to each level. Without that it could take three racing seasons before you are allowed on the helm.
Funny, I just got a call from a prospective student which reminded me… Taking lessons is all I said above BUT, Do Not go home after receiving your certification and not go back out on the water for two months. Go out ASAP (a week or two). It will reinforce and more deeply ingrain the new world you have just recently absorbed.
Best of luck, fair winds and always…. Respect mother nature. Cheers, Capt Scott