Sailing the seven seas is the very essence of adventure. The breeze is free, the sun is warm, and time is soft.
By: ken jones
|Many people learn to sail by going sailing with
their friends or parents. But how do you get started if you do not know
anybody with a boat? Or perhaps you want to undertake formal training to
acquire a recognised qualification. Many yacht charter companies will
require potential customers to hold a recognised qualification prior to them
chartering a yacht. Sailing in many countries is looked after by national
associations or federations. The RYA (Royal Yachting Association) in the
United Kingdom and in the United States the ASA (American Sailing
Association) to name but two.
These governing bodies have designed a series of courses that enable people to obtain internationally recognised qualifications. The courses are rarely run by the national body itself. Private companies can apply to run the courses to national associations/federations and if approved they can then offer recognised courses to people wanting to learn to sail.
Courses are available both on the water (practical) and shore based (theory) for sailboats, power and motor boats, dinghies as well as supplementary courses such as sea survival and diesel engine maintenance. This article will look only at courses for sailing boats and the structure of courses within the United Kingdom.
The number of people carried on board for the practical courses will vary but normally will not exceed an instructor and 5 students. I completed my own Day Skipper Practical with just one fellow student and the instructor. The higher the student/instructor ratio, the less one to one time everybody gets with the instructor but the cost per person is reduced. It is also preferable, I think, to have a mix of people taking different courses. 5 people taking the Coastal Skipper Practical Course aboard the same boat will have a reduced amount of time in their role as skipper.
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|Getting started - The first course we'll look
at is called Start Yachting, no previous experience is required and over two
days participants will be shown how to steer a yacht, how to handle the
sails, a little ropework and an insight into safety on board. The Competant
Crew course is again aimed at complete beginners, no previous experience is
required. This course last five days and in addition to steering and sail
handling participants will be shown how to keep a lookout and row a dinghy.
The first shorebased course is called Day Skipper Theory. A little on the water experience is desirable. The course requires 40 hours and two written exams are taken at the conclusion. Primarily about the basics of navigation, seamanship and the weather, when completed you should be able to navigate a boat in familiar waters in daylight.
The Day Skipper Practical follows and can be completed in 5 days or over 3 weekends. This can be undertaken in either tidal or non-tidal waters and the certificate issued at completion recognizes the distinction. Experience is required, participants should have spent five days at sea with 4 hours night sailing and have logged 100 miles. The course covers boat handling, seamanship and navigation and pilotage. When finished you should be able to skipper a yacht in familiar waters in daylight.
The Watchleader Practical course, as the name suggests, teaches the responsibilitiesof a watchleader, navigation seamanship, safety and collision avoidance. Experience is required, participants should have have logged 100 miles and spent five days at sea with 4 hours night sailing. After the 5 day course you should be able to take the watch on a sail traing vessel.
The second shorebased course is called Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster Offshore Theory. This course is in part a preperation for the Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Offshore practical examinations. It continues on from the Day Skipper theory course looking again at navigation and meteorology and also considers safety, collision avoidance and passage planning. Some practical experience is necessary and you should understand theory of navigation to the level of the pervious Day Skipper theory course. The course takes 40 hours and concludes with three examination papers. When completed you should understand the theory of navigation required to undertake coastal and offshore passages.
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|The Coastal Skipper Practical Course follows the theory. Again
this can be taken in tidal or non-tidal waters and again the
certificate issued at completion recognizes the distinction. This
course is aimed at skippers wishing to make coastal passages by both
day and night. It assumes you will have spent 15 days at sea with 2
of them as skipper and have 8 night hours. You should have logged
300 miles. You should have practical skills equivilant to the Day
Skipper Theory Course and theoretical navigation to Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster
Offshore Theory. The course lasts 5 days and deals with boat
handling, safety and emergency situations, pilotage by day and night
and passage planning. You will be expected to plan and skipper a
short passage.Upon completion you should be able to skipper a yacht
on coastal passages by day and night.
You can follow this up with the Coastal Skipper Sailing Practical Examination. More experience is required, 30 days at sea with 2 days as skipper and 12 night hours and you should have logged 800 miles. You are also required to hold a First Aid Certificate and a VHF SRC Radio Operator's Certificate. You should undertand theory to the level of the Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster shorebased course. Course content includes boat handling and seamanship, collision avoidance, safety, passage making and navigation, meteorology and ability as skipper. Upon completion you should be capable of skippering a yacht on coastal passages by day and night and with the additional of a commercial endorsement you can skipper commercial vessels under 24 metres in length up to 20 miles from a safe haven. For one person you should expect the exam to take between 6 - 10 hours, if two people are taking the exam this will increase to between 8 -14 hours.
The next level is the Yachtmaster Offshore Sailing
Practical Examination. Canditates are required to have spent 50 days
at sea with 5 days as skipper you should have logged 2,500 miles.
You should have made 5 passages in excess of 60 miles including 2
overnight and 2 as skipper. Again you are required to hold a First
Aid Certificate and a VHF SRC Radio Operator's Certificate. You
should undertand theory to the level of the Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster
shorebased course. You will be expected to demonstrate your ability
as the skipper of an offshore sailing yacht, including questions on
collision avoidance, navigation, pilotage, meteorology and boat
handling. After a sucsessful completion you should be able to
skipper an offshore sailing yacht by day or night. For one person
you should expect the exam to take between 8 - 12 hours, if two
people are taking the exam this will increase to between 10 -18
For information on other courses available please click here.
To find a coures in your area visit our Marine Directory.
About the author: Ken Jones runs two websites. A Spanish Travel Guide which includes a commercial directory with extensive listings for hotels, hostals and pensions, property for rent and sale. And a Sailing Site which features a global marine directory with listings for yacht charter, sailing schools and marine surveyors.
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