shutterstock_124804285Just twenty years ago, information about sailing could be found in one of two places: the mind of a salty, experienced mariner, or in books and novels. Both have great information to give, but both waste incredible amounts of time, either finding and meeting with said knowledgeable captains, or flipping through the pages of a book to find one sentence of information.

The internet has opened the floodgates for unlimited information access. Never before has it been easier to find anything from how to tie a monkey-fist to engine maintenance guides with the help of sailing and other nautical websites. Forums in particular combine the two primitive sources of information (personal and printed knowledge) to make a comprehensive learning and social environment on the web.

Anything that you ask a forum is answered by experts and other like-minded people who have been in similar situations before. Expert advice, searchable information, and a welcoming, supportive environment all make for an ideal forum to tap into the knowledge others have, and help out others with questions whose answers are familiar to you.

Those qualities are why Cruisers Forum (CF) is the absolute best sailing forum.

(Note: For Professional Mariners, (very) large motor boat owners and ship sailors there is only one choice…. the highly recommended and wildly popular gCaptain Forum)

The forum was built by sailors, for sailors, and it is regulated and maintained by sailors.

The administrators of CF are all experienced sailors, some of whom moderate the forum from aboard their boats with long-range WiFi antennas. The admins’ experience covers all sides of the sailing spectrum: some are Masters on Maersk ships, and others are life-long cruisers, all aimed at enhancing the forum user’s knowledge. They offer the most up-to-date and insightful information on everything sailing. On top of that, they all have a wealth of personal sailing experiences, stories and pictures that are very useful to someone who doesn’t know where to start, or needs inspiration.

Here is a list of a few of the topics that CF has on its forum:

Scuttlebutt: cruising news, destinations, costs of cruising and equipment, best nautical books, and more

The fleet: information on types of boats, general sailing forum, and more

The aquatic life: provisioning, seamanship , navigation, health, rules of the road, making a living with a boat, living aboard, and more

Captain & crew: women on boats, cruising with pets, children aboard, and training and licensing

Systems: construction and maintenance, product reviews, electronics, electrical systems, engines, boar gear and equipment, dinghies, and more

Business and commerce: classified ads, crew wanted or available, and commercial posts

From classified ads selling boats, to crew-for-hire listings, to budget outlines for extended cruises, Cruisers Forum offers the would-be boater everything he or she needs to get off land and on to a boat. Over 84,000 members are registered to the site, more than any other sailing forum on the web. They have a “World Cruising and Sailing Wiki,” and a mobile application on iOS and Android that has been getting great reviews in the short time it has been available.

Tom Lochhaas, author of Treacherous Waters and Suddenly Overboard: True Stories of Sailors in Fatal Trouble, raved about the CF application in his About.com Sailing article: “Cruisers Forum is a terrific example of crowdsourcing at its best. Ask a question or search past posts and you’re almost certain to find the answer you’re looking for.” TheTeakRail’s founder, John Konrad, has been a member of Cruisers Forum for years and raves about the site. “I refer to the site often when I’m looking to buy new gear for my boat and it’s never disappointed me with it’s wide berth of information.” says Konrad.

Though Cruisers Forum is our pick for the best forum, there are a few other sailing forums online that can be compared to CF.

One such site is Sailnet.com. Run by the people behind Marine.com and Speedwake.com, this site boasts over 48,000 active members. They have many of the same forum topics as Cruisers Forum, and they even have a designated section for the women mariners among us.

What really put the site down is the number of advertisements within the forum and main page. Ads are what drive revenue- and ultimately keep the free information available- but the site almost seems like an annoying popup ad. Another drawback to Sailnet is that they sell products through their website. When administrators are also trying to push sales, there is a chance that information could be skewed towards the products available on the site.

Another quality sailing forum is Sailing Anarchy. They have a more modern site design, and it appears that they have a slightly younger target audience. The younger audience brings a few problems, though. For example, there are many more people on Sailing Anarchy that are more out for entertainment but has good information for sailors interested in racing yachts.

The section of Cruisers Forum that separates it from other forums online is its “World Cruising and Sailing Wiki”. This site works just like Wikipedia, only the information is solely about the topics we as sailors find relevant. From the homepage:

The World Cruising and Sailing Wiki has been established so that all cruisers around the world can have free access to as much information on cruising around the world as possible with information on Countries, Immigration and Customs procedures, world ports, navigation and approaches, marinas, anchorages ocean passages, maritime warnings, and boating tips: A FREE, ONLINE WORLD CRUISING GUIDE!

After exploring the entires, it was obvious that the information compiled in the Wiki is very far-reaching. They have a guide for just about everywhere you could imagine sailing, even Trans-Pac and Trans-Atlantic passages.

Cruisers Forum should be your first and last stop if you have a question or need guidance with buying, fixing, selling or sailing your boat. With the most members of any sailing forum, and a World Cruising and Sailing Wiki page, CF has all the information you need to shove off and get out on the water.

P.S. Stay Tuned for a full TTR review of the best forums for motor boaters and professional mariners.

HINT: TheHullTruth (Motor Boating) and gCaptain (for Professional Mariners) forums are currently leading the pack in our research.

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