Several months ago in this blog we looked at the kinds of books and information that are needed to sail around the world. In Part I, we looked at Planning Basics. This was followed by a discussion of Charts, Cruising Guides and Pilots, and then Part III was Reference Books. Those blog posts assumed a certain level of practical knowledge, an ability to cruise long distances safely and successfully. Every year, especially at the boat show, we hear from clients who have relatively little or no sailing experience, and would like to know where, how and what skills they need to learn to sail around the world safely. This blog series is titled “From Zero to Yachtmaster”, and will provide a roadmap for learning the skills you need to sail around the world safely.
What is Necessary/Important?
Strictly speaking, there are only some basic legal requirements for anybody to have sailing certifications, at least for most nations. Some jurisdiction in the US, and in Europe require you to have a form of basic operator’s license to allow you into their ports. In Canada, it’s necessary to have the Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card. For Italy, Greece and Turkey, skippers are required to have the International Certificate of Competence, which is approximately equivalent to the RYA’s Day Skipper qualification and can be obtained that way. For US jurisdictions, United States Coast Guard requirements and information can be found here. These certificates are like a drivers license, they allow you to have a boat in environment (and jurisdiction). But they do not strictly prepare you for long-range cruising.
So Why Take Classes?
It is not strictly legally necessary to complete higher-level qualifications such as a Yachtmaster course in order to own or charter a boat. Having such qualifications may reduce the insurance costs involved in chartering or owning a boat. However, the more important reason for taking classes is that the maritime environment can be extremely dangerous, and it sailors and cruisers must ensure that they have the competencies they need in order to do so safely. Taking courses and achieving certifications is one way to ensure that you have the skills you need to sail and cruise safely, whether it is in the Great Lakes, the Caribbean, or around the world.
Competencies for Cruisers
This is the basics of how to sail – and cruise safely. How a boat moves through the water, how it handles, how to maneuver. How forces act on a boat, and how it reacts.
Foul Weather Sailing
In foul weather, the environment is unpredictable and dangerous. Foul Weather sailing is about knowing how to prepare and how to react to foul weather.
Navigation and Chartwork
Knowing where to go is only part of the task, being able to track your progress and know exactly where you are is also very important. While GPS and modern technology can help you get where you want to go safely, knowing how to read and use charts is a critical skill.
Collision Regulations/Buoyage and Lights
The water is a complicated environment. Collisions regulations, buoyage and lights standards are the ‘rules of the road’. Who has right of way, who can go where, what signals means. These are critical for being in the environment safely.
Passage Planning/Skippering the passage
Even before you leave, it is important to plan ahead. Where are you going? What resources do you need to do this safely? What supplies do you need? What can you buy or find on the way? This is also about leading a crew, and actively skippering during a trip.
Emergencies at Sea & Safety
The ‘Cruel Sea’ implies humanity where none exists. The water, whether rivers, lakes, oceans, or any other type of water, is a place of unimaginable forces and pressures. This is made more complicated by weather, the presence of other boats and ships, and other factors. When things go wrong, it is very important to know what to do- and also, what not to do.
In the next blog, we’ll look at several different systems for classes and certifications, and discuss their advantages and disadvantages.