Competent Crew RYA Course
The first part of our ‘Learning to Sail’ journey would be to sign up for a RYA (Royal Yachting Association) course. We already had some experience about life on board a yacht having lived on board a yacht for 5 weeks in Barcelona and gone sailing on her on three or four occasions. However we were still complete novices.
The competent crew course is an introduction to sailing where students learn basic seamanship, helmsmanship and safety. It is a five day course which can usually be taken all at once or spread out over three weekends. As the name suggests by the end you should be a competent member of the crew!
To give us a head start we invested in a couple of books – ‘Sailing Essentials‘ by Steve Sleight and ‘The RYA Day Skipper Handbook Sail‘ The first book is an excellent choice for someone who has never sailed or who has very limited knowledge. It covers a host of topics such as choosing suitable clothing, boat safety equipment, emergency procedures, parts of a boat, sailing terminology, points of sail, tacking, gybing, berthing, anchoring and use of tenders. It also talks about living and cooking on board, passage planning, pilotage, tides, navigation lights, weather, repairs, maintenance, knot work and ropes. The book is very well written, clear and easy to understand with step by step instructions and good images and photos. The second book is more detailed towards the day skipper part of the RYA syllabus but as it is an official RYA book it’s also a great place to start. It too covers boat handling, pilotage, boatwork and navigation but probably explains these a little more in depth than the other book.
We also purchased a couple of off cuts of rope at the local chandlery so that we could practice our knot, after all there are 8 to learn!
A Competent Crew Course with a Difference!
So as explained above the competent crew course is 5 days long and during that time you can expect to sail around the local waters near the sailing school and possibly, if weather permits, a slightly longer passage. Well we had decided to go with something a bit different…..
Moonfleet Sailing, based in Poole, were offering a Channel Islands & France Cruise of 7 days during which we could complete our competent crew training….YES….we would be sailing across the channel!
The sail would see us depart from Poole, cross the channel to Alderney before heading onto Guernsey, Sark, back up to Cherbourg then back across the channel to Poole. We jumped at the chance!
At £445 each it’s not particularly cheap but you must remember that this is 7 days sailing, 7 days of learning and 7 days holiday. We paid our deposit and received our itinerary and packing list, which listed amongst other things passport, sea sickness tablets, sleeping bag, sunglasses, woolly hat, soft shoes and of course ‘your favourite tipple’ – optional 🙂
Can we do this?
Excitement now turned to fear. What if we couldn’t remember all the terms? What if we didn’t get on with our crew members? What if we didn’t like the food? and more importantly, What if we hated it?
The itinerary now looked more challenging. Our initial sail down to Alderney was expected to take 10 to 12 hours, crossing one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. We then had another 5-6 hours down to Guernsey. Coming back we would be sailing through the notorious Alderney Race and the 60 mile passage from Cherbourg back to Poole would happen overnight. Had we taken on too much?
Only time would tell. We had about 6 weeks to prepare. We read the books over and over again, watched countless YouTube videos, tied everything with a bowline, reef knot or a round turn and two half hitches, bought deck shoes, jumpers, hats, gloves and now that time had come, it was time to go!….
Let’s learn to sail!
Read our next blog piece Learning to Sail – Sailing to the Channel Islands to see how we got on.