Ask A Question.. I Dare You.
Updated: Mar 9, 2021
If you are into sailing, learning about sailing, dreaming about learning to sail, whatever, you may have run across a few of the Facebook groups or other sailing forums that are pretty popular. I certainly have. As readers of my stuff here on Sail Junky may know, I am starting my journey in sailing. I have sailed in the past, taken lessons, and researched my ass off. I have purchased a boat, and I'm getting her ready to take her on many adventures.
In my research, I have read many books, focused on some really great YouTube content: Sailing Uma, Sailing Florence, Sailing Soulianis, Project Atticus (which I'm having a bit of a one-sided quarrel with but that's another article), Sailing Pivo, and others. I'm also getting coaching and captains consulting. But it's Facebook where I have also spent a lot of time digging through the many conversations on sailing.
I have had many good conversations there, and have made the acquaintances of quite a few people that I'm enjoying getting to know peripherally. But there are certain groups that.. Holy Mother Of God.. when someone asks a question even remotely ignorant of the knowledge of the most seasoned sailor.. they just get mauled.
Here is the very first response I got when I asked a simple question in the 'New To Sailing' Facebook group while researching for another article. It's a problem.
IMAGINE IT WASN'T ONLINE
I imagine the online chat or forum was actually a lounge somewhere, an actual meeting space of some sort. There are all different types of people in this space. New sailors, seasoned sailors, people that are interested in getting into sailing. Over in the corner are a few people talking. One of the people speaks up and asks a question:
"I've never sailed before but I'm so enamored with the idea of it. Do you think a 40 foot sailboat would be too much for me to handle as a new sailor?"
One person in the group says, "Well I think you might want to really think about this a bit more. Maybe get some more experience before jumping in that deep."
Another person says, "I bought my first boat like that. It was a great learning experience. Go For it."
The next person says, "That is a stupid question. What's wrong with you? If you ask a question like that you obviously have no business on the water."
So.. I imagine I'm standing there.. I would lose my shit on that last person. So would most reasonable people. Someone asks a question and the response is to ridicule them?! The truth is this is not likely to happen face to face.
The issue is bad enough that it inspired Danielle Kerchmar of the Sailing Pivo YouTube channel to start a new Facebook group called Sailing for Beginners. It's a lovely group that welcomes all questions, isn't full of uptight assholes, and really speaks to the same mission of community/sharing/respect as Sail Junky magazine.
The issue isn't isolated to Facebook. A sailor I respect sent me this link to a conversation on Cruisers Forum. The person asked a question about purchasing a rather large catamaran; their first boat. Now, I get that the question was ripe for some serious coaching and guidance from the group, and many of the responses were delicate.. but some where downright arrogant and unhelpful. As I read the responses I imagined the conversation happening in a marina lounge somewhere. I would certainly hope that those unhelpful responses would be different in person, unless that person truly doesn't care that they come across as a full blown asshole.
I know that trolls have lived online since the first days of the internet, but there is a community of some really cool people who already know how to sail, or have never sailed. The ability for those two types of people to get together, to ask or answer questions.. however rudimentary or naive they may be. That's the lounge I want to be in.
SET THE DOGMA
Now, I will admit that I've personally asked a question about docking single-handed in All Things Sailing and 99% of the responses I got (over 300 responses) were good and helpful info. So 99% is good.
I believe that it's the community that must set the dogma.. "Assholes aren't welcome in the lounge. Go be a troll elsewhere." So I will continue to converse in the various groups and have good conversations with good people. I also commit to promoting that dogma (assholes unwelcome) where I see others being negative. It's not helpful.
And I also hope to run into you at Sailing For Beginners. They already have that dogma firmly in place.
Mike D. is the founder of Sail Junky Magazine. Striving to find more purpose in life, Mike writes and shares about his journey to rediscover his passion for living a fulfilled life, especially through the medium of sailing. email@example.com