Whether you’ve been sailing boats powered by motor or wind, after a few months on the water, you’ll probably confident that you’ve got a firm grasp of the basics.
However, as you may be about to learn, when it comes to sailing, boating and all things nautical, there are always new skills to acquire. Some will open up new opportunities, others will improve your raw sailing competence, and yet others will shore up any critical weaknesses in your skillset and help you stay safe on your journeys.
Here are some common skills that we feel are worth developing as an intermediate or advanced sailor.
If you’ve positioned yourself the captain of your own ship up until now, you probably haven’t considered learning the crewing skills needed to be part of a team that sails a yacht.
If this is you, we’d urge you to reconsider. Learning to crew a multi-person yacht gives you highly valuable experience that counts for a lot: you’ll give yourself a real taste of the basic tasks that drive the ships progress, and you’ll learn all sorts of team-skills that you’d miss out on as a captain or solo sailor.
And if you’ve never ventured outside the comfortable (and admittedly exciting) realm of motorboat piloting, then we definitely recommend crewing – it will open up a whole new nautical world.
A competent crew course is definitely the place to start – it’s the swiftest way to absorb everything you need, usually within two to five days. You’ll get to thoroughly experience different crew positions, and the responsibilities that come with each. The course is often transformative, and many people build a firm affinity with their budding crew mates.
If you’ve taken one of the general RYA courses, you’ll have likely touched on sea survival already, and you should have at least a basic grasp of how to stay alive when things go wrong.
However, survival is never anything to take lightly, and if you can significantly increase your chances in a disaster situation with just a short and relatively inexpensive course, then we hope it’s clear that that the benefits definitely outweigh the costs.
If sailing out at sea is on the agenda, we definitely recommend brushing up on your rough water survival skills – you’ll be more confident on the waves, and you’ll be that much better prepared in the unlikely event of a worst-case disaster scenario.
Navigation skills are absolutely key for any self-respecting sailor. Regardless of your choice of boat, journey or destination, you’ll need to be able to determine your position, plot a course, read weather forecasts and make educated guesses about imminent conditions.
Of course, electronic equipment greatly aids navigation and prediction these days – however, it’s still a skill that is best developed with training and practice.
Navigation courses aren’t overly common, but they do exist. The one to look for is the RYA Essential Navigation and Seamanship course. It lasts two days and covers several aspects of navigation in-depth, from charts and tidal awareness to electronic navigation, interpretation of weather forecasts and route planning.
You can probably identify at least one or more of these three skills above that you could do with brushing up on. And remember, aside from crewing, these skills aren’t really optional – survival and navigation are absolutely essential to the art of safe and successful sailing.
Sailing is a complex skillset, and once you’ve got a grasp of the basics, it takes a little further delving to round out your abilities. Take the time to do so consistently though, and you’ll see steady progress. With any luck, you’ll be able to look back in future and see just how much you’ve developed as a sailor.