Sunday, July 29, 2012

Our Last ASA 103 Sailing Lession...almost.

Yesterday evening was supposed to be our last Basic Coastal Cruising class...the one on the larger J/30.

We arrived at the marina at 5:30pm, met the instructor and the one other student in that class and prepared the boat as some rain clouds were building over the nearby hills.  We went over the differences between the smaller J/22's we had been using and this boat.  It is a larger two cabin boat with a kitchen, V-berth, head, and internal engine.  It is set up as more of a bareboat charter boat and even has conveniences such as a roller furling jib.

 As we left the dock, the clouds looked fairly dark, but we saw no lightening and heard no thunder so we continued.  The wind was a little stiffer than we had for any of our previous lessons, so we set a reef before we raised the main sail.  We had no more than raised it and turned off the engine when the rain started and the wind picked up and was gusting over 30 knots.

In those conditions, there wasn't going to be any chance of us getting to use the fancy jib or familiarize ourselves with any other sailing aspects of the boat so the instructor decided to call it short.  We dropped the main, fired up the engine and headed back to the marina.  Since the other student took the boat out, the instructor asked my wife and I which one of us would like to take it in.  My wife immediately volunteered me for the task.

I have to admit, maneuvering a 30ft boat in a tight marina is quite a bit different than maneuvering a 22 ft one.  They want this boat backed into the slip...and did I mention the slip is at the dead end of rather narrow dock channel?  So, here I am slowly maneuvering the school owner's pride and joy about a foot away from other boats (that made an artificial lee shore) as we make the approach.  But I remember the advice to keep just enough speed to maintain steerageway and be mindful of how the wind will push the boat and was able to successfully maneuver it into it's slip. I even made sure we didn't run the rudder into the dock.  I actually got a compliment from both the instructor and one of the guys on one of the "lee shore" boats we passed on the approach.  Guess I am learning something after all.

Kind of a bummer the class was cut short, but we will get to reschedule the course so we will get to take the boat out again.  Getting to dock the boat and making a good show of it almost made it worth the trip down there for what was otherwise about a 30 minute lesson.  Looking forward to another chance to take the J/30 out for a sail.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

This One is Good

A little while back I ran across a blog that had a very similar story to ours.  A couple with no sailing experience that heads off cruising.  Sound familiar?

I've been going through this blog "from the beginning" and have finally caught up with the current postings.  Thus far it has to be one of the best sites I've found for both information and inspiration related to our plans.  As of today their site states they have been cruising for 718 days and they make posts just about every day (where do they find the time?).

So, if you have some time, check out Mike and Rebecca's story on Zero To Cruising.  And for those that think my wife and I are crazy...we are definitely not alone.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Options, options, and more options.

As mentioned in my last post, we need to decide on the class(es), location for those classes, and the type of boat we want to learn on for the next step after we complete our current course.

So, starting with the last one first, what type of boat.  For lesson purposes the size should be similar to what we intend to own, but a few feet shouldn't be too big of a deal.  The number of hulls, on the other hand, is a bigger question.
Of course, not having any significant experience on either type of boat, we are not sure which way to go here.  Each has advantages and disadvantages.  Ideally, we would like to be able to spend a little time on each in hopes of helping us decide.

As far as location is concerned, we definitely want a course that spends all of it's time on the ocean.  While learning on a reservoir was fine for basic sailing skills, it just isn't realistic for our intended goal.  To get a better feel for living aboard a boat, we want the next course(s) to be multi-day and live-aboard.  For these options, there seems to be two main locations, either Florida or the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

And finally the classes.  Beyond the minor differences between the two competing sailing organizations, there are multiple classes that can be taken from where we are now:
  • Intermediate Coastal Cruising (ASA 104) / Bareboat Cruising (US)
  • Coastal Navigation (ASA and US)
  • Offshore Passage Making (ASA and US)
  • Celestial Navigation (ASA and US)
Various schools offer multiple class options.  Of course, they are usually starting with the two courses we have already taken (101, 103, and 104 combos are common).  If we want to do multiple courses starting with the Intermediate/Bareboat Cruising class, it seems we will be doing a more custom (read: expensive) option.  At a minimum we definitely want to go with the coastal cruising course, and I would think the passage making course would be the next logical choice.  I've got some experience with navigation, so I'm thinking those can be learned at home or online.

Choices in schools seem to range from large schools run by famous sailors to smaller mom & pop operations.  Most are smaller classes between two and six students per boat with the smaller operations typically having the smaller class sizes.  Since it will eventually just be the two of us (and the dogs), I would think the smaller classes would be better.  Of course, more students may present more situations leading to more learning.

Lots of choices...what to do...what to do.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Not All Sailing Instructors Are Created Equal

We should have completed all of our on-the-water lessons for our ASA 103 course by now, but due to a few lessons where the wind failed to show up, we had some items we still needed to accomplish.  We were able to do that, for the most part, on Saturday.

There was another couple with us, and it was their first on-the-water lesson.  We got to talking while waiting for the instructor and found out they were looking at an early retirement of living aboard and cruising the Caribbean too.  Hopefully we'll run into them once we both make it out there.

As for the actual lesson, it mostly focused on what my wife and I needed to get done.  The instructor had us explaining how to raise sails, reef sails, execute the man overboard procedure, heave to, lower sails, and dock.  The winds were variable for most of the class, and the class was cut just a bit short due to weather that was moving in.

The problem I was having during this lesson was understanding what the instructor wanted.  He often asked unclear questions or made unclear statements, and given all the sailing vocabulary one needs to learn, it is important to be as clear as possible on the rest. One of my favorites was asking us what we should do "when a telltale on a sail was busy", tell it to keep up the good work?  I'm sure we would have understood "fluttering" or "streaming back with the wind" or pointing in any given direction...but busy...sorry.  Oh well.  My wife and I know the stuff, so no big deal for us...but I ffelt sorry for the other couple.  I'm sure our explanations wouldn't qualify us as being good teachers...but I don't think the actual instructor was helping the situation either.  So to Mike and Jennifer, if you are out there, I hope things made some sense and sorry if it was overly confusing for your first lesson.  Hopefully the tips on the good teachers we had will pan out well for you guys.

We have one lesson left.  It is on the bigger boat, the J/30 (above), and my understanding is that this is essentially the graduation exercise.  Then we need to decide the next courses, where we are taking them, which boat type (monohull or catamaran) we want to take them on, and what testing we really need to do to reach our goal.