Aannsha’s Blog #17 – Plotting a course to Day Skipper

Competent Crew: Mareike (Instructor), Dan, Barry, Aannsha

The Competent Crew course flew by and at the end of five days, Barry, Dan the other sailing student and I were given our certificates. I know we all felt elated and relieved. I chuckled to myself that yet again, I’d achieved a goal despite my massive self-doubts and briefly wondered when I would learn that I’m actually more competent than I realise!

After Dan left, Baz and I were joined by two new students – Ryan and Colm – for the Day Skipper course which consisted of four days in class followed by five days of practical live-aboard sailing.

Once again whenever I thought about the possible challenges ahead, faint murky undercurrents of anxiety threatened to ruffle the otherwise calm surface of my growing confidence, but I mentally floated on the buoyancy I had gained from passing the Competent Crew course and decided to see just how much of a Day Skipper I could muster up from within. To help with this, I reviewed my achievements from the Competent Crew course and had to admit I had a few encouraging abilities and enjoyments:

  1. I didn’t get seasick – even in big seas with Force 7 gusts of wind. That was a good start and a big plus for a live-aboard sailor!

  2. Learning knots came almost second nature to me, and it didn’t take long to get my head around tying new ones;

  3. Once I realised that a yacht could actually heel as much as 120 degrees before capsizing, and that at most we were heeling by about only 30 degrees, I felt safe and enjoyed the experience of moving with the wind on the water;

  4. When I was at the helm, I found that I could feel the movement of the water currents under the boat and the boat’s responsiveness, almost as if it was an extension of my own body.

  5. I was able to steer on course and also on a wind heading;

  6. Nine times out of ten, I could capture a bollard with a lasso;

  7. I loved standing on deck at the mast while I was putting up a motor sailing cone – looking down at the sea far below me, feeling the wind on my face and watching the wake of the yacht trail out behind us.

  8. And probably the most bizarre of all, I discovered that I enjoyed performing precarious manoeuvres such as going to the boom to put in a reef in bouncy seas with occasional Force 7 gusts of wind. Putting in a reef effectively reduces the size of the sail and is used to prevent the boat from heeling over too much when the wind picks up. Leaning hard into a slightly swaying boom, feeding a thin reefing line through a tiny cringle (hole), catching the line on the other side of the sail with the other hand that is also holding onto the boom and then tying a reef knot – and repeating this another couple of times - required me to bring everything I had to that one task, with no room for error. Not only did I feel proud when I’d accomplished this task (with Dan who was pulling the sail down at the mast), but arriving back in the safety of the cockpit I realised that I actually felt exhilarated! This enjoyment of meeting danger head on with only my abilities and a safety harness preventing me from pitching into roiling seas is still something that surprises me!

It has to be said here though that after the first time I put in a reef I commented to Baz that when there were just the two of us sailing shorthanded, it would probably make more sense to have a yacht with a furling main, as it would pose less of a risk with there being only the two of us on board. But we wouldn’t be short of exhilarating manoeuvres that need to be done without reefing the mainsail!

Barry and Aannsha studying hard at back of class!

Bringing all of these growing competencies to the Day Skipper course was encouraging and I discovered that I thoroughly enjoyed getting my head around the complexities delivered in the four day theory side of the course. This included learning the essentials of navigating, including chart work, understanding symbols and abbreviations, plotting our pos