Put to the test
Caroline Strainig checks out a trail-blazing course developed specifically for would-be charterers.
Okay, so you’ve done a little sailing, and are dreaming of hiring a yacht somewhere. But you’re far from expert, and would love a little more in-depth instruction that will give you a leg up in terms of making your first charter as a skipper an enjoyable and stress-free affair.
Okay, maybe not – you’ve done 11 Sydney-Hobarts and are a gun skipper! – but it gives you an idea of the sort of person Sydney By Sail had in mind when they developed a new course recently.
‘The Bareboat Charter Course is geared to prepare first-time charterers on the requirements of skippering a yacht in sheltered waters,’ company GM Ed Penn explained.
‘It’s a sort of mini Yachtmaster. We started it three years ago because it was evident there was a gap in the market to provide more specific training for people with some sailing experience but limited charter experience.’
The course focusses on sailing technique, general operating procedures and passage planning. ToThe day I sat in all five students had recently done the Yachting Australia Introductory Course/Competent Crew Course with Sydney By Sail, which is an accredited Yachting Australia sail-training school in addition to operating a fleet of Hunter charter yachts on Sydney Harbour. All students said they hoped to bareboat, either in the immediate future or down the track.
Lots to learn
It wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of how much would be new to me, but quickly found that even though I had bareboated a number of times and seen dozens of production yachts there were still plenty of tips for me to file away in the memory bank.
Our instructor, Rick Kolodziej, a Royal Yachting Association-qualified Yachtmaster, started by giving us each a section of the yacht to explore and report on what we found in the way of safety equipment: lifejackets, flares, V-sheets, fire extinguishers, fire blankets, EPIRBs and emergency fuel shut-off and the like. One of the points that I was glad to be reminded of was the need to check what type of extinguisher it was – as in use powder and not foam on an electrical fire.
We also went over stove operation, basic radio protocol, electrical systems, seacocks, bilge pumps and basic engine checks.
Then it was out for a busy few hours on the water, practising general helming and sail trim, raising and dousing sail and reefing and anchoring. Aspects Rick emphasised in the latter included how much scope to use and how to check transit points so you know if you are dragging.
Back at the dock it was time to get out a chart, take a few bearings and discuss the sort of basic line-of-sight pilotage/navigation required to bareboat on Sydney Harbour or the Whitsundays.
Worthwhile or waste of time?
All the students said they enjoyed it and learned a lot, and I have no hesitation recommending the course for any would-be bareboater. If the demand is there, I’d like to see the concept taken even a stage further – making it two days with an overnight component and adding dinghy usage to the mix – but even in its present form it is still invaluable. A thumbs up to Sydney By Sail for developing it.
MORE ON SYDNEY BY SAIL
Sydney By Sail is a sail-training and yacht charter company operating a fleet of modern Hunter production yachts from the Festival Pontoon adjacent to the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour. The principal is well-known racer and Olympian Matt Hayes.
Part of a package
You can do the Bareboat Charter Course by itself for $295 or as part of an $1180 package ($200 saving) designed to take you from total novice to a reasonable level of competency. The package includes the YA Level 1 Introductory Course and YA Level 2 Competent Crew Course, a four-hour night sail and entry to four social races in addition to the bareboat course.