We have had a few queries from readers of our blog in relation to our previous sailing experience, so thought it may be worthy of a post.
Before we sailed in the Med, we had sailed as a family for nearly 3 years in Pittwater, a beautiful natural harbor set behind Sydney’s northern beaches. We spent most weekends exploring the many beaches and inlets and learned to live as a family on a boat. In addition to our weekends we spent at least 2 weeks a year living on board our Beneteau Oceanis 321, Sankara. She was a great boat, perfect for a family. She was also simple to sail and to maintain and she taught us a lot about sailing.
In addition to cruising around Pittwater, we also ventured up and down the coast a few times. I had previously sailed across to New Caledonia and had chartered a few yachts in the Med and I grew up on boats, so I knew my way around a yacht and was comfortable with most things, but it was fair to say I was inexperienced as a skipper.
Heather on the other hand had done relatively little sailing, but had spent lots of time on yachts. So for me to improve my skills and Heather to learn, we both opted to do a sailing course. We undertook a distance learning RYA Yachtmaster qualification and RYA Day/Coastal Skipper practical qualification. After that we took our VHF and HF Radio Operators licenses.
Doing the course together was good fun and help to reinforced the learning experience. One problem I discovered was that even though sailing was “my thing” Heather being a math’s whizz was way better than me in the navigation and calculations – to the point that she could undertake the secondary tidal calculations in her head while it took me a good 10 mins and a whole bunch of sketches to work out the answer….my male ego got in the way and I got a little frustrated more than once !
So, although our sailing trips were generally short, we were out in a lot of different conditions. Sailing in the winter was great, crisp blue sky’s and 10-15 knots being the norm. However, we found sailing in the summer quite challenging with much stronger breezes and thunderstorms and the occasional southerly bluster to contend with. We learnt to reef sails early and quickly, we learnt to balance the helm, we learnt to use a cruising chute, we learnt how to maintain an engine and how to anchor proficiently. We also practiced other skills such as heaving to and man over board drills, and sailing back on to our mooring bouy on a regular basis (just incase our engine failed) and, over time we got pretty good and delt with most situations, including dragging anchor at 2:30 in the morning in a very small anchorage with over 30 knots of wind blowing…dealing with situations like this gave us confidence.
My advice to anyone wanting to set sail is to follow Lyn and Larry Pardey’s advice, go simple, go small and go now. Like most practical things, they are experienced based. and sailing is no exception…you learn so much more being on the water experimenting than you can ever gleen from books…. Go simple or go small, no matter what you do make sure you go now!