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One of the driving reasons for embarking on this adventure was to find a way to incorporate more sailing into our lives. We described this early on as the impetus for this change.
Given our decision to become liveaboard cruisers this year, Andrew and I toyed with a few ideas about increasing our sailing experience beforehand. These included:
- Join a sailing club so we can test out different boats, including catamarans.
- Sign up Andrew for some ASA courses.
- I have more qualifications and keelboat experience than Andrew, and I didn’t want the responsibility of being captain 100% of the time.
- The idea was I would tag along while he went through the courses and then we would both get up to speed and become co-captains.
- Charter daysails to get some more experience in an unstructured setting.
We weighed the pros and cons. Ultimately, we decided against joining a sailing club because we knew the type of boat we’d want to buy wouldn’t be in their fleet. We also didn’t sign up Andrew for the ASA courses, as he comes up the learning curve faster when he learns by doing, rather than learn by rules or rote.
I excel at textbook learning, memorization and regurigation. However, any knowledge is lost when you don’t continue to practice. I prefer repetition and practice until it becomes muscle memory.
Unfortunately for us both, we haven’t had consistent exposure to sailing in a few years. In the next few posts, we will take you through how we got started in sailing.
Shortly after my 40th birthday which I celebrated in Spain, I decided to take up sailing. Nostalgia mists over me when I hear halyards clanging against masts on windy days in a marina.
So, after doing some research online, I signed up for the Basic Keelboat class at Bluewater Sailing where I learned to sail from Ash and Elliot. The 4-day class takes place over two weekends with both classroom and on-the-water experience.
ASA 101 Basic Keelboat - Nov 2011
Valkyrie Catalina 30
On Saturday, the first day of the Basic Keelboat class, the weather was overcast and windy, with clear visibility. We spent the morning ashore outside the Bluewater Sailing offices and learned the parts of the boat, parts of the sail, the functions of various lines and parts, and points of sail.
After a couple hours, we broke for lunch and then headed to the slip to board Valkyrie a Catalina 30. Due to the stiff winds, our instructor Ash decided we should reef the main, explained why and how to go about placing a reef.
Then we were on our way, backing out of the slip, pulling into the finger and motoring our way out the basin and towards the channel. We raised the sail in the channel, then headed out past the breakwater and sailed towards Catalina Island. All afternoon, we practiced trimming the sails depending on the various points of sail in Santa Monica Bay. It was a wonderful first day to be out on the water.
The following day was sunny and clear. We took out a Catalina 22 Iris, and spent a little more time in the channel identifying stand-on and give-away boats. We also came across Tim aboard Pegasus. Her motor died and he was without a main sail, so he was sailing her jib back to port.
The following weekend aboard Catalina 22’s (Iris & Golden Hind), we practiced modified figure 8s and crew overboard sequences during a bit of rain and variable wind conditions. We primarily stayed in the marina to practice these drills. At the conclusion of Sunday, we all took the test, which was graded on the premises. If we passed, we rang the bell on our way out.
First Charter Experiences
During the months of December and January, I got together with my fellow Basic Keelboat classmates, Jody and Aakshi. During these charters, we experienced varying weather conditions from sunny & clear to clouds & rain and enjoyed daysailing 2-3 nautical miles around Santa Monica Bay.
It was great to practice on the water skills before leveling up and taking the next ASA course.
ASA 103 Basic Coastal Cruising - Feb 2012
Catalina 27 Instructor: Elliot, Martin, Ben
Over the 3-day President’s day weekend, Bluewater Sailing held a Basic Coastal Cruising class. Just as in the BK class, the set up was class in the morning and sailing in the afternoon.
We went over the duties of the skipper and crew, learned how to interpret weather forecasts and changes, learned to read nautical charts, learned to anchor and to handle various events (e.g., fouled propeller, leaks, anchor drag, running aground, etc.)
During the sailing portion of the class, we practiced crew overboard drills (figure 8 and modified figure 8), put in/shake out reefs and practicing heaving-to, handling the boat under power and sail, docking, and anchoring. All three days were clear and sunny with 12-17 knot winds.
First Skipper Experience
Catalina 22 Golden Hind
Following the BCC course, I was excited to skipper my first charter and invited some friends along, Shannon and her husband Mark, as well as Brian, who had some previous sailing experience.
It was a great outing on a clear sunny day with warm light winds due to the Santa Ana winds. For those who are unfamiliar with these conditions, the Santa Ana winds are strong, dry downslope winds in Southern California and northern Baja California. They’re caused by clockwise circulation around areas of surface high pressure east of the Sierra Nevada in the Great Basin region.
Shannon happily snapped pictures from every angle imaginable trying to document the day and subsequently post to social media. I had a chance to take Mark and Brian through the steps to prepare to sail, describe and assign duties and go over safety procedures.
By the time we got past the breakers, we found many sailboats were out getting ready to race and we stayed leeward of the action. While Brian and Mark were chatting, I noticed that Shannon hadn’t said a peep in a while, which is unusual. She is the most talkative of the group. She then pitched over the port side and threw up.
We decided to head back into the marina. After hosing down the boat and putting her away, we went to Chase Park and had the picnic we had originally planned for in the cockpit.
A few months later, Shannon admitted she was pregnant with her second daughter, Paige.
I had 4 more daysails the rest of 2012 as it was a challenge to connect up with other sailors. I did join one of the sunset races, but it was scratched due to light winds. I was also busy with travels to Australia and training for a Machu Picchu expedition in the spring of 2013.
Stay tuned for part 2 of the 3 part series on our Sailing Resume.
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