Six-month – becoming a sailor – blog summary

This blog post is inspired by a comment I received from blogger, Rebecca Olsen. She said she was reading my blog to gather lessons learned. That sounded like a lot of reading. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to summarize my own findings.

So here goes:

Things that went well

  • learning the language of sailing – reading helps but full-on immersion through practical sailing experience is better
  • taking Navathome’s online RYA sailing program – Day Skipper Theory course – was money well spent
  • having Pat Reischmann as our broker and advisor for purchasing and refit decisions has been fantastic
  • hiring a marine documentation specialist to assist with paperwork and process relating to our boat purchase
  • getting my hair cut in a style that is entirely simple and devoid of highlights. This was actually one of my favorite blog posts to write. See “Sailing hair: getting gritty, not girly“.
  • scopolamine patch worked to combat seasickness, but left me with short-term eyesight issues
  • visual phonetic alphabet was really helpful as a study tool for the RYA VHF radio course (see image below)
  • my GILL brand technical boat shoes – excellent grip, and no foot injuries

Things I’d do differently

  • jumping into sailing as a complete newbie at Antigua Sailing Week (ASW). I would have benefited from the RYA Competent Crew course prior to ASW.
  • as I didn’t have any practical sailing experience, the RYA Day Skipper course was too much of a leap for me as a first step. RYA Competent Crew was a perfect entry point.
  • I’d be a more discerning shopper. To downsize, we have so many things to give away, throw out or donate
  • I’d spend less at thrift stores. Often, someone else’s junk wound up at the thrift store for a reason.
  • during a refit – do your research and set an expected budget, then multiply that number by three, and there’s your actual budget

Thing I’ve learned

  • buying a boat is a bit like buying a wedding dress. An expensive boat begs for expensive accessories.
  • cleaning a boat is a lot of work. So much surface area!
  • boats attract vermin. I hear that cockroaches are not uncommon. Eggs and bugs like to hide in cardboard so leave cardboard off the boat, including cereal boxes. As one person told me:

    “We have to live with them not only on the yachts but also in villas and restaurants. Welcome to the Caribbean!!”

  • stainless steel 316 is marine-grade with anti-corrosion qualities. Cutlery is usually made of stainless steel 304, which is great for knives and forks but will not last at sea. Expect to replace your stainless steel kitchen items. Very few items are made with marine-grade steel.
  • Caribbean has no tides
  • Caribbean hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30
  • there is no substitute for actual sailing experience
  • sailors tend to dress casually onboard but they carry a dressy outfit – chinos and dress boat shoes – just in case they go out for dinner. This is the only sport that I can think of that has a casual and dressy casual dress etiquette
  • there is an etiquette for having a boat with tidy ropes and fenders at the marina. Tires as fenders are déclassé, which is too bad but there it is.
  • catamaran owners can be perceived as snobby by some other boat owners
  • I value Canadian winter and winter sports. I take pride in staying warm.
  • navigation is an art not a science
  • wind is important when sailing

Here is an image of the phonetic alphabet. I found it a really helpful memory aid when I was studying for the RYA VHF radio course.

Visual International Phonetic Alphabet
Visual International Phonetic Alphabet, useful for the RYA VHF radio course

Six months ago I couldn’t hold a conversation about sailing beyond, “that is a nice-looking boat”. It was very awkward. Since then, we’ve bought a St Francis 50 catamaran, and taken RYA sailing courses. We’ve rented our house and are in the process of downsizing. We are gathering information from educators to prepare for homeschooling.

The next six months should be interesting. We’ll be moving to our catamaran and homeschooling our kids, while gaining sailing experience. I am excited about what the future holds. There’s a lot of learning to do.

One comment

  1. Hey, thanks for the shout-out! Awesome list! Too late, I already read your whole blog :). I’m excited to see your summary of the next six months! Thanks again for the list!!


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