Is A Comet A Good Starter Boat? - SailNet Community

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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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  #1  
Old 06-24-2006
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Is A Comet A Good Starter Boat?

My wife and I want to purchase a small sailboat to learn how to sail. I have been considering a 1940's 16' Comet sailboat. Is this a suitable boat to learn how to sail? Is it stable? We also would love to take the boat out into the bays in Maine. Is there anything different about a fresh-water boat vs a salt-water boat. I'm assuming the environment is harsher in salt-water and any hardware may need to be made of a metal that can resist corrosion??? I'm looking for a perferablly wooden sailboat that I can easily trailer. The Comet that I'm looking at is in good condition and is reasonably priced (<1K). Any input would be appreciated.
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Old 06-26-2006
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Nothing wrong with a Comet in relatively sheltered waters and fairly light to moderate winds, at least to learn on. It's an old design, fairly lightweight, flat-bottomed, with a large mainsail and a good amount of sail area for its weight. Translation: for an old design, it's pretty fast and responsive, but you could get overpowered when the wind gets over 15 knots until you get more experience, hike out to windward, learn how to luff and "feather" into the wind to keep the boat on its feet.

The good part: it's a responsive, nice-sailing boat which, in around 10 knots of breeze, would be a delight to learn on.

But it's hard to reduce sail if it breezes up, don't think you can reef the main, you'd drop it and sail in with the jib I guess, as long as you weren't trying to get to windward. It's a racing boat from the 40's, centerboard not keel, so a bit faster and less forgiving than the lower-performance boats. Not self-bailing either, so if you capsized you'd fill up and need assistance.

Follow your heart--if you love the boat (not that many wood boats left these days) and pick your weather and sea conditions, you can learn to sail just fine.


I'm assuming hull and sails (dacron, you hope, not antique cotton) are in decent shape despite the low price.
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Old 06-27-2006
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I would go for ballast

I have sailed the coast of Maine and have sailed Comets. In my humble opinion, they are not a good match. Like Nolatom said, good on sheltered water in light to moderate winds. One day, on a 'light to moderate' wind, sailing to Bar Harbor, I came as close to a knockdown as I ever have in a ballasted boat (water ballasted Macgregor 26). Sudden winds rolling off Mt Desert Island took me by surprise.

The Comet is great for inland lakes and lazy rivers. Even then, it's a little tender for beginners. If you spill your wife overboard, you might never hold a tiller again.

I would either buy the Comet and stay sheltered or look for a trailer sailor that has a metal centerboard or water ballast to help compensate for beginner errors. I used to have a 21' Macgregor with a steel swing keel of about 200lbs (if I recall correctly) and a 4hp outboard. I sailed the Keys, the Great Lakes and even short hops into the Atlantic off the coast of the Carolinas and it stood up to squalls, 4ft seas and 50ft powerboat wakes.

Good luck, be safe.

Max
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Old 06-27-2006
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While I basically agree with a lot of the points raised above, I actually think that the Comet may be a better beginner boat than some of the bigger swing keel or water ballasted boats, which do not sail all that well and actually are more likely to get into serious trouble than the Comet, if the Comet is used with reasonable care. As a 14 year old, I sailed out of Harpswell Sound in the 1960's with a completely open 10 footer that was less stable than a Comet. A boat like the Comet should be fine on the Lakes and Sounds of Maine and should be a great platform to learn sail and boat handling.

Unfortunately, Comets of the era in question were not self-rescuing and in many cases also lacked even proper floatation. I would suggest that you expect to invest in adaquate buoyancy bags (like they use in Optimists for example). I would also suggest that you consider a more modern design that is 'self-rescuing' such as a Designer's Choice.

Another option would be a small keel boat which you should be able to find pretty easily up there.

Good luck,
Jeff
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Old 06-28-2006
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Thanks the advice!

Thanks for the input from everyone. My wife and I decided to hold off on a purchase and see what other similiar size/type of sailboats are out there. I briefly looked at a couple of new boats online, and their prices are out of my range. I'm keeping an eye out on ebay and research any boats that seem interesting. Hopefully if we buy a boat/trailer out of state, there won't be any issues getting the right tags and registration information that would be needed back here in PA. I saw a decent boat for sale but it's in Canada. I'm assuming taht I would be taxed to death trying to bring something like that into the states. Has anyone here dealt with this, or purchasing out of state?

Thanks again!

Mike
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