It was about 10 years ago when on holiday in St Lucia that I went on a day trip to St Vincent and the Grenadines and got to sail aboard a 60 foot catamaran. It was marvellous to sail between the islands and lunch at Tobago Keys, a beautiful turquoise blue lagoon in which you are able to swim with the turtles.
With an array of yachts moored up in each of the coves, I was struck by what a wonderful place it was, as well as by how breath-taking and enjoyable sailing can be. I came to the realisation that this was for me!!! I decided then that upon returning from holiday I simply had to undertake the training needed to skipper my own yacht.
Understandably the training required is quite extensive to assume responsibility for a large yacht and those on board. This is achieved with having to pass both a theory and practical exam to demonstrate a minimum competency for the Royal Yacht Association (RYA) – Day Skipper certificate.
I undertook the theory course at Canary Wharf in London, by attending one night a week for 12 weeks and with a small group of like-minded students we mastered the basics of seamanship, the essentials of coastal navigation and pilotage, chart work, plotting a course to steer, weather forecasting and meteorology, tides, collision regulations and emergency and safety procedures (including distress calls, use of flares, safety harnesses, lifejackets and life-rafts). We were all successful in passing the exam!!
That was only half the story as now we had to undertake a practical course and again an exam – this time spending five days on board a yacht in the Solent with four others and an instructor. Sailing in the Solent is considered to be a real test of seamanship as the strong tides; shipping and navigation make for a real challenge. During the week we were additionally tested in our preparation for sea, deck work, understanding the rules of the road (so as not to collide with other boats), maintenance and repair work, engines, victualing, emergency situations, yacht handling whilst under sail & power, passage planning and night cruising.
Successful again in the end of course test and whilst considered sufficiently competent to charter a yacht, I now needed more experience – which I will share with you next time!!
Richard Reeves is the founder of Essential Sailing – with a reputation for offering luxury boutique sailing, culture & cuisine holidays in the French & Italian Riviera. https://essentialsailing.com/