I wanted to take a few minutes to share the experience my wife and I had with our recent Liveaboard
training class in the BVIs. We actually went from talking about learning
to sail to doing it last year when we bought our first boat (Catalina 22) and began sailing around the lakes in Central Texas
. We quickly learning
that without some formal training to build common vocabulary and baseline knowledge, sailing could be a stressful experience, not our goal, so took a local ASA
101 one weekend which improved our knowledge level and as a result our enjoyment level of our weekend sails
We then took the opportunity to crew a few times on larger boats to get some ocean experience and see if we where interested in the next step. We really enjoyed the ocean sailing we did but it really drove home the differences between sailing on a lake and saltwater. So we decided it was time to buy our second boat (mid-30s something) but before we pulled the trigger we wanted more experience and a chance to spend a week or so on a boat and ensure we where cruising compatible.
So, after some research
we booked a week with the Rob Swain Sailing school
in Nanny Cay Tortola for their liveaboard
cruising course (ASA 103/104). Before heading out we did all the reading and did everything we could to get ourselves ready for the experience. We showed up to the office early Monday morning, met our instructor Rory (who was excellent by the way). We went throguh the boat briefing and provisioning
process and then untied the lines and began our week long circumnavigation
of Tortola. Each day started around 8:00 with someone cooking
breakfast ( we rotated) and then actual course work began around 9. We found Rory to be extremely knowledgeable and very patient. He pushed us to get better with each task we tackled and actually took the time to teach the things that I think many others take for granted like proper winch
technique, raising anchor
alone while completely preventing any strain on the windlass
in the process, and grilled us throughout the day on textbook and nav rules as we went. OK guys we're going to need to head
to the left of that island, what point of sail will we be on to accomplish that, what adjustments are you going to make to the sails
and why? Due to his background in racing
we also spent a great deal of time on sail trim. Ok before you ease that jib
sheet, think about what we need to do with the cars to keep the right level of twist in the jib
, that kind of stuff.
Most days we'd be done sailing around 3, drop the anchor
or pick up the mooring
ball with my wife or I helming and Rory directing silently via hand signals alone, until we both had the system down. Then it's time for a little more discussion on engine maintenance
, Navigational theory. It sounds tiring and it was, but I can't imagine a better way to build confidence and knowledge in such a short time. In many ways this was less vacation
and more sailing bootcamp, but we loved it. I mean there was still time to fire up the grill
and enjoy a few sundowners before retiring each night, and the scenery and conditions where excellent.
As the week progressed he then began to teach us techniques for short handing our own boat. Think through the process of this upcoming tack, reef or gibe. What jobs can be accomplished easily from the helm
with a little prep from the line handler, how to communicate that process. "OK today we need to get from here to here, you guys plan the route
sail the boat and pretend like I'm not here". Of course he was and offered pointers and guidance along the way. Could you make that easier by doing X, what that winch
technique, no need to ease that main sheet...the boats perfectly happy with this level of heel
So while I get that some purists would rather see everyone take months or more between classes
to really focus on the techniques in between, we found this intense week to be very rewarding and an excellent use of our time. Sure it would have been cheaper to do it at home, but the constant wind
and crystal clear blue water
(along with constant 15-25 knot
winds and an occasional squall, made for an incredible experience. So while we now both are technically bare boat skipper
certified, we're treating it as a license
to go out and start learning in our own boat confident in the fact that we know enough to get by. Sure my butt still puckers at high degrees of healing, and sure I still have a very hard timing finding the grove from a balance perspective and keeping us in it when on the helm
, but that's just a matter of practice and we're both ready and willing to start building it.
Now to find the perfect mid-30 ft cruiser in the 40k range to get started...should be pretty simple right?