Putting Theory into Practice – Learning to Sail!
After completing our RYA Day Skipper Theory the previous week it was now time to put what we had learnt into practice with the Day Skipper Practical.
Sticking with Moonfleet Sailing, who we had completed our Competent Crew and theory with, we would be embarking on a 5 day sail around the Solent in the UK. The course is designed to teach you to “Take Command” of a small yacht safely and confidently. Along with navigating the yacht we would be responsible for the safety and well being of a crew and would be planning our own passages, taking into consideration the weather, tides and so on.
Poole to Lymington
We had arrived the previous night in order for an early departure on the Monday morning. There were 4 of us on board along with our ‘Captain’ Noel. Two of us were completing our Day Skipper whilst the other two were completing their Competent Crew. We would be sailing up to Lymington and the purpose of the first day was to get familiar with the boat and each other.
After leaving Poole Harbour we practiced our ‘Man Overboard’ drills a number of times, one of which resulted in the line of the fender being used getting caught on the rudder. Luckily we managed to sail off it although there was a brief moment when we all thought we would be getting rescued within the first hour!
We then made our way along the coast passing Hurst Castle and into the Solent. This phase of the trip allowed each of us to take the helm. We headed over towards Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight where there are a number of mooring buoys just outside of the harbour entrance. Here, those of us completing our Day Skipper, practiced picking up mooring buoys whilst under sail. Afterwards we made our way across the Solent to Lymington where we moored up for the night at the town quay.
We were told that we would be responsible for planning the passages from this point onwards, albeit with a destination in mind by our captain! So after dinner we dug out the charts and almanac and started planning!
Lymington to the Hamble River, via Newtown Creek and Portsmouth
We had a big day ahead of us! After a shower and some breakfast we departed the town quay and headed to some pontoons belonging to the local marina. Here we had the chance to practice our mooring skills before it was our chance to ‘Take Command’! Our destination for our first stop was Newtown Creek on the Isle of Wight. After leaving Lymington we made the decision to stay close to the coast of England as the tide here wasn’t as strong before turning to Starboard and crossing the Solent to enter the Creek. Here we anchored for a spot of lunch but had to be vary cautious of the tide as we were at risk of becoming grounded if we didn’t leave on time. In fact we did actually drag anchor a bit which caused us to become ‘a little stuck’! Luckily Noel, who has had over 40 years experience, advised the men on board to all stand on the starboard side and the boat leaned enough to release her from the sand.
From Newtown Creek we started our journey to Portsmouth. With the wind coming from behind we got to experience for the first time some downwind sailing. However keeping the sails filled was harder said than done…..’A flappy sail is an unhappy sail’ our captain would say whenever the sails would start to flap!
But soon we were picking up our transit into Portsmouth, the War Memorial on Southsea would line up with a block of flats behind at 049°, where we would then turn to port into the Small Boat Channel and into Portsmouth Harbour.
Our destination was some mooring buoys outside of Royal Clarence Marina. Portsmouth Harbour is extremely busy with commercial shipping, cross channel ferries, warships, high speed ferries and small craft all operating in the area. It is mandatory for all craft under 20m to use the small boat channel which runs just outside the western edge of the main channel. After successfully navigating through the main entrance and past the main areas of Gosport on the left and Portsmouth on the right we picked up our mooring buoy and enjoyed some well deserved dinner.
But our day was not over yet for we would be embarking on a night sail up to the River Hamble in Southampton! So just before 8pm we slipped our mooring and departed Portsmouth Harbour. Once out of the small boat channel we turned to starboard and made our way along the coast. We enjoyed a beautiful evening sail. It was late September but the weather was warm and winds were light. As darkness fell the stars came out and as we navigated our way with charts and radar we wondered our seamen of times gone by navigated purely by the stars! Our transit into the River Hamble would be marked by sector lights, when the light is green we have entered the starboard edge of the channel, when it changes to white we are in the middle of the safe channel and when it changes to red we have entered the port edge of the channel and gone too far. As we progress up the river we call ahead to Hamble Point Marina via VHF who advise us where to moor up. On arrival at midnight we all enjoy a quick night cap before retiring to bed exhausted!
Off to the Isle of Wight
The sun was shinning and it was a beautiful start to our Wednesday. Once again we would be in command of the yacht, but closely watched by Noel! After backing out of our pontoon we made our way out of the river and back into the Solent. The winds had picked up today and we enjoyed a blustery sail towards Yarmouth, tacking our way down along the Solent before mooring alongside in Yarmouth Harbour. That evening we all enjoyed a meal out in a local pub before getting a reasonably early night ahead of our sail ‘back home’
Storm Sail Ready!
So as you may guess monitoring the weather is a key component for any passage planning and the forecast the previous night had warned of stronger winds coming in. Unfortunately it was still the same on Thursday morning! We were expecting a west to south westerly wind of 6 to 7 with rain at first and occasionally poor visibility at first. In preparation of a rougher sail today we attached our storm sail whilst at the dock and ensured that all crew had their harnesses ready. At 10.30am we departed Yarmouth and headed back out into the Solent. We were expecting the conditions to worsen as we exited the Solent at Hurst Castle and made our way into Christchurch Bay, where the clouds looked darker and the seas looked rougher. But it all changed! The clouds cleared, the sun came out and the storm sail was put away. It just goes to show how quickly the weather can change, even when it’s different to what is forecasted!
We then enjoyed a lovely sail back to Poole and despite beating into the wind for most of it, we all thoroughly loved it. Thinking we were going to have a really rough crossing and it not coming to fruition possibly helped boost spirits even more!
On arrival into Poole Harbour we picked up a mooring buoy at Brownsea Island. Our destination for our last night was Goathorn Point in Poole Harbour but we were a little early so were waiting for higher water. It turns out the moorning buoy at Brownsea is owned by the National Trust and they don’t like you using them so we were asked to leave! Luckily by then we were clear to proceed to Goathorn.
We picked up our mooring buoy and enjoyed a well earned glass of wine whilst watching a stunning sunset. After dinner we all crashed out at the ungodly hour of 8.30pm!
Back to Base
We were greeted by a beautiful sunrise for our last morning onboard Ultra. After breakfast we slipped our mooring buoy at 8.00am to ensure we could get through the 9.30am bridge into Holes Bay, and back to the marina. It was an idyllic sail back towards Poole, passing the Barfleur channel ferry as she departed the harbour and various outgoing vessels. As we passed Poole town quay a rainbow appeared forming an arch over Ultra and when we arrived back at Cobbs Quay Marina we made our way to the fuel pontoon to refuel. Back on her berth Ultra was scrubbed and cleaned all ready for her next adventure!
Congratulations You’ve Passed!
After 130 nautical miles we get the news that we had passed and receive our photo certificates, which means we can now apply for an ICC (International Certificate of Competence) which is a certificate to show evidence of competence when sailing abroad. Likewise our new friends on board also receive the news that they have passed their Competent Crew course.
Again we had the sad task of saying our goodbyes. Sailing certainly brings people together. We all hail from different backgrounds, have different lives, are different ages but once out there, in the sea, nothing else seems to matter. Time stands still, we disconnect from our phones and all talk. We rely on one another and you suddenly become very ‘protective’ of your crew around you. So hence that’s why saying goodbye is hard. But who knows, we may all sail again together one day…..
VIDEO: RYA Day Skipper Practical Around The Solent
So we managed to compile a short video of our Day Skipper course. Please check it out below and please subscribe to our You Tube channel for more…..
Want to learn to sail? Then check out these sites: