Getting the Most Out of Your Bareboat Cruising Class

With many things in life, you get out what you are willing to put in.  Sailing classes are a great example.  Over the years, I have had students that have not even cracked the book open, and others who have literally worn out the pages reading and rereading.  Your instructor knows which type you are during the first hour of class.  If you are reading this, you have most likely already taken the Basic Keelboat class (quite possibly more) and decided sailing is something you would like to move forward with.  You might even be that person literally getting ready to take Bareboat Cruising.  But even if you aren’t … even if you have taken Bareboat or Advanced Coastal Cruising or (???) … these tips also work to make your next sailing vacation even better.

There is a very good probability you will not hear from your Bareboat instructor until a week or less before class starts.  Possibly not until you walk through the door of Tradewinds and get introduced in person.  Which means, to do what I am about to recommend will require some effort on your own before class starts.   Always start by practicing your skils, reading the book.  And then … Plan a Bareboat Cruise!  Here’s how.

Each of you have very busy lives, and I know that just getting the time set aside to do a bareboat class is challenging.  This exercise is set up in a way that you can spend as much time on it as you want (or have available to you.)  These are things to consider and research during your planning.  As you go along, answer each question.  Do the research.  I will be providing some suggested resources.  There is no reason to actually buy them, unless you really are planning a cruise to the BVI in real life.  Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.  There are no grades on the exercise.  Just the learning experience, Visit the website & Book lessons

Who, What, When, Where, and Why

Where would you like to go?  We will use the British Virgin Islands so that everyone is on the same page, but there are cruising areas all over the world.

What is your budget?  This one could actually be number 1 on the list.  Probably should be.  If you don’t have a budget set upfront, you will spend more than you want to or can afford and impact the joy of the vacation.

When would you like to go and why?  Some considerations are weather, cost, special event timing (e.g. birthday, anniversary).  How long do you want to be there?

Who will be going?  Is this a special romantic getaway for two, or will it include you and seven of your closest friends?  Kids allowed?  Splitting a boat between 4, 6, or 8 people can dramatically reduce the cost to you.

What kind and size boat will give you the best experience?  Monohull or Catamaran.  35 footer or 50 footer?  Remember your budget … this is a very large piece of it.

Paperwork and documents you might need?  Passports current (if not start this one early), sailing log book and required ASA certifications?  The charter company is going to want to know your sailing background, and in some areas of the world like the Mediterranean, are legally required to make sure you have the needed certifications.

Pick a charter company.  Seems like such an important item shouldn’t be this far down the list, but the answers to most of the above will help direct you to the right company to charter from.

Plan travel to and from.  Airlines, hotels needed pre/post cruise, etc.  Trip Insurance?

Here are a few links to talk about most of the above in more detail.

Have a “Cruise Planning Party.”  or two

In real life, invite everyone that is going on the cruise with you and have some fun together planning and exploring your upcoming time in the BVI.  For a class, it may just be you (or possibly someone thinking about going with you in the future).

What stops would you like to make?  Get the whole group together and look at options.  Which … Islands?  Anchorages/mooring fields?  Restaurants/Bars (remember your budget)?  Onshore sights?  This is where cruising guides come in.  Here are a couple of examples in the form of books (no, don’t run out and buy them for the class).  There are a number of others.

Give Google a chance.  See what guides might be available online.  For example, I pulled these four up with about 2 minutes worth of work.

How are you safely going to get from one location to the next?  Now we are starting to get into the “nitty-gritty” of the sailing itself.  I am a passionate believer that everyone needs to have and learn to use paper charts for navigation.  Look up the charts you might need.  Getting from Point A to Point B might require going down Channel C and around Danger D.  Chart it out ahead of time.  Your time on the water will be much more relaxed and enjoyable.  During class you will learn how.  For now, do your best.  I have no doubt you can figure out most of the hazards on a chart.  Be ready to be flexible with you itinerary.  Maybe you will absolutely love an anchorage and want to stay another day.

In addition to paper charts,  I have come to use electronic devices more and more.

Does the boat have a chart plotter?  Probably would have found this out while picking the charter company and boat.

How about a back up navigation app on your phone or tablet?

Sail Magazine had a great article a few years ago on the topic.  In my opinion it is as valuable today as it was then.  https://www.sailmagazine.com/diy/navigating-the-app-world

My personal favorite marine navigation apps are iSailGPS for Apple and Marine Navigator (by Ronald Koenig) for Android.  Both are less than $10.00 and use downloadable charts.  NOAA charts are free … others generally need to be purchased.  I don’t rely on these tools for my primary navigation, and neither should you, but they make great planning tools, and come in handy to check what I already know based on good navigation processes.

If you decide to install one of these apps on your phone, the first chart to download is 18649 (Entrance to San Francisco Bay).

Now go back and revisit the budget.  Still within it?  Too many restaurants?  I an area like the BVI, you can eat most of your meals on shore if you want, however, it gets expensive.  With that in mind, plan your meals.  Do you want the charter company to provision for you?  Most are willing.  Check their cost against the time and cost of doing it yourself.  Which way makes more sense for you?  During your Bareboat class, you will be planning two days worth of meals to give you a little practice.  How about snacks and drinks (yes, things like water and adult beverages.)

This tip is about doing a before class planning exercise.  It will require some additional time and effort on you part, however, as I said earlier … you will get out of the class what you put into it.  If you have questions, problems, or want to share what you have done, send an email to staff@tradewindssailing.com.  They may put you in touch with your instructor or with me, however, you will have a place to get your questions answered and your successes shared!

Oh, and by the way, not doing this same stuff before a real charter is a recipe for a bad vacation.

Of course, everything in this tip assumes you have practiced those five basic skills:
Tack, Jibe, Reef, Heave To, and Crew Overboard Recovery.

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