Tips for newcomers sailing as skipper for the first time
Denis Korablev
  • 07.08.2020
  • 160

Tips for newcomers sailing as skipper for the first time

Going to sea for the first time as a captain is the most important moment in the life of any yachtsman, and if everything goes smoothly, it rewards with confidence in your abilities in the future. We will try to consider what stages you should pay attention to so that everything goes right during the first exit as a skipper.

By this solemn moment, everyone passes with a different level of experience - someone just managed to take yachting courses, and someone has already gone hundreds or even thousands of miles under sail. Practice at a sailing school and sailing trips with a crew on your yacht differ dramatically. Typically, yachts designed for training outings have healthy and motivated children who are responsible for keeping an eye on the students and not letting things go wrong. In addition, training yachts are equipped with everything you need. The same yachtsmen who prefer to earn experience on their own yachts are undoubtedly more independent and used to rely on their own strengths, getting by with the means available on the ship.

It is possible that your first voyages as a skipper will be with more knowledgeable people than yourself, and in the case of your family members, you will also have to experience pressure from them.

Role of the Captain

A good skipper is distinguished by the ability to pay attention to many factors at once, both on and off the boat, without giving the appearance of confusion even in the most difficult situations. And the captains succeed in this, first of all, thanks to the preparation.

There are 3 things that a good captain should never allow on a yacht:

  • Grab the helm. When the captain is at the helm, he does not have the ability to competently and in time to give instructions, help with difficulties in work on board and solve other important problems according to the degree of their increasing complexity. The only exceptions are maneuvering when mooring and in tight spaces.
  • Spend too much time navigating. During periods when the skipper is below deck, he is disconnected from events on deck. It is worth taking care in advance so that you can plan everything so that you can be sensitive to any information. Under normal weather conditions, the map can be taken with you to the cockpit, and if you need to spend some time planning at the chart table it is worth considering drifting for a while.
  • Too forgetful of work on deck. If the skipper gets carried away with most of the duties for other crew members, he will involuntarily focus on the current task, and at this time, fateful changes in the development of the situation around the vessel can occur (for example - the approach of another vessel, weather changes, etc.) that he may not notice.

And even despite the fact that many captains like to steer the ship on their own, as well as to participate in deck work and even in cooking in the galley, it is still necessary to understand that such duties are secondary for the skipper. Not burdened with everyday worries, the captain thinks and plans everything in advance, and in case of too rapid developments, he is always ready to slow down the yacht.

One of the most important aspects of a skillful captain's character is his ability to soberly assess the situation on and off the ship and make informed decisions at crucial moments, saving crew time and effort.

Planning directions and times to sail

In the case of organizing the first go to sea, in the role of the captain, you should choose proven, waters familiar to you. Thanks to this, everything will be easier - from navigation to the selection of a parking space. If the sailing takes place in waters with heavy traffic, it is better to plan an exit on Wednesday-Thursday, then your trip will be more relaxed than on weekends during the high season.

Another important factor is wind. You should not plan your first sailing as a captain in windy weather, even if your yacht behaves well in a 7-point wind in the hands of an experienced skipper, it is still better to try to avoid potentially dangerous exercises, especially with an inexperienced crew.

Meticulous preparation is essential for a successful sailing out to sea, but just as important are many other factors, such as depths, hazards and local regulations. Therefore, do not rush to plan accurate courses, but double-check the distances between marinas, calculate the duration of transitions, view the main points on the route and familiarize yourself with the restrictions adopted in each of the marinas along the way. When you have finished vital information gathering, check the latest weather forecasts before deciding when to sail. However, keep in mind that the actual time from the beginning of the preparation of the vessel to the departure is much longer than it was planned. So define it and double it!

It is also important to agree on a variety of plans, which will come in handy if you fail to reach the goal of the walk or weather conditions deteriorate dramatically. Naturally, you can simply return to base, but this can be difficult if you have to move upwind for a long time.

If you do not feel very confident on your yacht, then you should take care of hiring a sailing school instructor. The instructor will help you not to get confused and instill confidence in you when maneuvering in difficult situations, and in the case of organizing a voyage in an unfamiliar area, he will familiarize yourself with the peculiarities of local waters.

Fully prepared yacht and crew

If the crew of the vessel is recently recruited or the yacht is not fully known to you (as well as its capabilities), you should study it in detail. Before setting sail, define the function and position of each end. Even before sailing, it is important to demonstrate reliable handling of anchor winches and test the radio for operation.

Ensure that each crew member is familiar with the purpose and operation of any deck device and personal safety equipment. Also obligatory is the generally accepted instruction on personal and collective safety before the hike. At least one other crew member (other than you) must be able to signal flares and send a distress signal. In a man-overboard situation, even an experienced skipper can get confused, so oblige all crew members to wear life jackets and harnesses to avoid this ordeal.

The team should be briefed and familiarized with the transition plan. It is worth discussing it with them and warn about possible pauses along the way. It is best to make sure in advance that plans ashore by no team member will not be thwarted by delays or delays.

At sea

On the way, do not strain, it is better to try to feel relaxed, but at the same time sufficiently aware of everything that happens on board and behind the stern. At critical moments, you should not emit any signs of insecurity or panic. The team must understand that each of its participants on the way is an observer of everything that happens. It is worth keeping people busy, otherwise there may be cases of idle spending time.

As experienced sailors say 2yachts, if you have no confidence in your location or you cannot accurately determine where to go next, then it is worth temporarily drifting or slowing down the movement of the vessel. An excellent solution is to not go beyond the next positive definite point of the route, that is, having swum to it, and making sure that this is the given place, you will be able to find out where to sail next.

Avoid overloading the yacht with sails - it is probably worth taking an extra reef with you to create new problems. It is not uncommon for even experienced captains to reef too late. As the old saying goes: "If you started thinking it was time to take the reefs, then you are already late with it."

In the first campaign, you need to do everything in order to protect yourself and the team and minimize risks.

Upon arrival at your destination, select the most convenient berth in terms of approach. Do not take into account the arguments of the crew members such as: "far to the supermarket" or "dinghy takes a long time to get." You need to approach the place as smoothly as possible, without sharp turns that can disorient other traffic participants and lead to a collision of ships.

Accumulation of experience and development of skills

We advise you to expand your knowledge base on the way, and for this you need to try something new every time: for example, tomorrow you will anchor, and today you will be on a barrel, then you will practice the operation to save a man overboard, then you will drift etc. A successful mooring the first time or a skillful approach to the barrel under sail will add confidence in your strength and determination, but for the first experience always choose an area with the necessary amount of water space.

If simple maneuvering is planned, you can invite someone from the team at the helm (if they agree), and instruct and control him from behind.

And if the survey of new bays and marinas is better done during the day, then it is to plan night stops only in proven places. You should not test yourself for strength by sailing throughout the night. To get the night sailing experience you want, it is worth planning to depart early.

In conclusion, I would like to note that it is a good idea to plan the first few skippers' voyages in the company with yachts of friends - this way you will be guaranteed quick assistance if necessary and exchange of experience accompanying the transitions.

If you are interested in yacht charter - you can contact the managers of our company to get comprehensive advice on all issues of selection, purchase, registration and registration of a vessel in your chosen region.