Sailing Schooled Ep. 5 – Final Tests, Patience, and a Tight Spot

Sailing Schooled Ep. 5 – Final Tests, Patience, and a Tight Spot

This is the end! Or is it just the beginning? Hmmmmm, how very meta.  Our Cruising Catamaran Sailing Classes are coming to an end and we’re bustin’ tail to get from Miami back to the Marina in Ft. Lauderdale.

To be honest, we’ve read dozens of sailing blogs, talked to fellow sailors and many of them skipped any sort of formal training or schooling.  We originally thought we’d follow suit and skip sailing school too.  “We’re smart, we can figure it out”, “We’ll watch YouTube”, “We’ll have our friends teach us”, these are a few of many statements we made before deciding to take a proper sailing course.  Oh, how differently we feel now.

sailing couple

Join us on our last day of class and see for yourself the progression of “day one” us, into “day five” us.  It’s amazing what we can learn in less than a week when we have a good instructor and focus all our energy on one goal.

What we learned on Day Five – Patience

We’ve always known it, but it’s a good reminder that Mother Nature doesn’t always accommodate our scheduled plans. With Sailing, a proper plan is extremely important, but patience is the most important virtue of all.

If Capt. Jen didn’t need to be back, we would have hung out in Biscayne Bay and waited for the wind to pick up.  With a little more wind we could have sailed instead of motor-sailed.  From everything we’ve read and learned so far: Waiting on optimal weather seems to be the greatest difference between a relaxing and comfortable sail or a not so nice sail.

Other notable lessons learned:

  • A preventer can keep the boom from slamming in light winds.
  • Motoring with only one engine gives us a decent amount of apparent wind while saving fuel.
  • Nikki’s exploration into the front locker exposed way more rope than we’ll ever need.
  • I realized I’m not too proud to give up the helm when I know Nikki’s skills are superior.
  • Kent (our broker/friend) has a thing about not putting fenders down until the absolute last minute. Cruising around with your “New York Jewelry” hanging off the side is bad practice he would say.  Captain Jen said the same thing.  It’s good seamanship to keep your vessel tidy and neat. Waiting till you get close to the dock to drop the fenders is part of that.

As for our boat, with Captain Jen’s advice today we’ve decided the following items need to be considered:

  • Service our main sail so it falls without jamming (very important in emergencies and something we’ve since fixed)
  • Replace our main halyard in the near future
  • Service our Traveler (Check! We did and it works soooo much better)
  • Repair or replace our stack pack
  • Buy a secondary head sail (i.e. Asymmetrical Spinnaker)
  • Grow a money tree. Sailing stuff is crazy expensive

Keep Calm and Dock

Along with patience, the need to keep calm under pressure is important.  This cannot be more true than when maneuvering through a tight marina and docking in a slip made for a boat 5 feet shorter than ours.  This is a statement echoed over and over by Kent when we’ve sailed with him: Slow and steady, no need to rush and keep calm.

learning to sail
docking woes
docking a catamaran

Fortunately, Nikki has navigated this marina multiple times over the past few months…but this is the first time we’ve had to take this middle spot in the back corner of the marina.  I think she did a damn fine job staying in control while trying to squeeze our boat into the designated spot.  With the help of the Tanda Malaika crew she got as close as humanly possible without causing any damage to the surrounding boats.  This experience showed us again, we’re ready to begin this adventure on the water.

20/20 Hindsight

Now that we’re on the other side of class we’ve been doing a bit of coastal cruising when we can get away from the service dock (we’ve been at Just Catamarans working on the boat on and off since school ended).  Two days after class, Capt. Jen prepared an email of competency for our insurance company and within days of receiving her message our “Captain on Board Restriction” was lifted.  This was our main goal with taking the class in the first place, but we ended up walking away with so much more.

Is Sailing School Worth It?

We have a basic understanding of rules, regulations, navigation, anchoring, docking, points of sail, chart plotting, manual steering techniques, man overboard emergencies, I mean the list just goes on!  When people ask “is it worth it?” my answer is “yes, 110%!”
The confidence in ourselves and a better understanding of our sailboat helped us realize we did the right thing in starting this new adventure.  We’ve always followed our dreams, but now we’re just a little more prepared for success.

A few Sailing School tips

  • We were crazy busy before school started and didn’t make enough time to read all our books, and that was just silly. There isn’t much time to study during the class so we were lucky we passed each of the tests with a 90 or above.  I’d say read each book as many times as you can then watch our videos over and over 🙂
  • Previous sailing experience goes a long way! If you have a friend, or a local yacht or sailing club that holds events, you should join in!  Every minute you spend on a sailboat you’ll inherently pick up little bits of knowledge that will come in handy during class.  Fortunately for us, we’d been sailing quite a bit with friends the past couple months so we’d picked up a lot of the lingo and technique.
  • The cost difference between our private class and the group class isn’t much so make sure you weigh your options before booking. On one hand sailing our own boat was a wonderful learning experience, on the other hand having 2 additional classmates might have made the class more fun (I think most classes are 4 students).
  • Florida Summers are the Worst! Ok, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic but if you can take the course in a cooler season like winter, it’ll be a lot more comfortable.
  • Check with your local ASA school about tips, some school’s instructors work for tips while others do not. With BWSS the recommended tip is between 10%-20%, an expense we didn’t originally plan for (even though I did find it on the FAQ page, but not until after class).

Sailing School Before or After buying a boat?

If you are thinking of buying a sailboat and don’t have much sailing experience…our suggestion would be to take a class like this first.  We had planned to take this course first but the schedule was full and we ended up finding a boat faster than we expected.  Having this knowledge and experience would have made a lot of our transitional frustrations way, way easier.  There is so much to learn about this sailing lifestyle and knowing the basics of coastal cruising will make a world of difference.

We are Extremely Grateful

We have so much to be thankful for in our nomadic way of life, but the biggest one has to be the people that weave their way into our lives.  Thank you to Capt. Jen for agreeing to come aboard and be filmed for an entire week.  Thanks to Dave at Blue Water Sailing School for allowing us to film and share our experience with other people who dream of sailing one day.  Thanks to Terry Grimbeek for taking off a week of work (without pay) to join us and help film the adventure of learning.  Thanks to the readers, watchers and subscribers…even the ones that never click that comment button to say hello, we couldn’t do it without you all!

Finally, a BIG HUG to our Patreons, without you as our crew we’d have to focus on paid or sponsored content instead of creating authentic videos like these.  We really put a lot of love into this series and we hope you all enjoyed learning with us.

sailing school

If you’ve had a good sailing school experience please share in the comments below, make sure you list the city and school in case others are in your neighborhood.  If you’re a seasoned sailor and feel like chiming in with your own tips we’re all ears…we haven’t let our sailing school success go to our heads, yet.  If you’re the owner of that boat in our docking spot and you want to send a bottle of high quality bourbon (as requested by Nikki) we’ll happily get you an address!  Till next time, we’ll see you on the water.

The Crew, Sailing Courses and Certifications

If you want to know more about why we’re taking sailing classes or get to know Captain Jen and our volunteer cameraman Terry a little more, check out: Sailing Schooled Ep. 1

We completed the A+ Cat Course: Bareboat Catamaran Skipper through Blue Water Sailing School.  (Side note, after our second video, BWSS offered all of our readers a 10% discount!  Just use the code word CURIOSITY when booking to get the discount. I guess they liked our videos!)

Also, if you want to begin the education you can find our sailing school books here:  and the flashcards we used to study here:

Equipment used to film this video:

See all of our camera/editing equipment and how we use it here:

Sailing Report

Date: 6/23/2016
Weather: Minimal clouds and lots of sunshine
Wind:  South to Southeast 5 knots
Seas:  Following Seas with consistent 1 foot swells
Route: On the “Outside” from Cape Florida to Port Everglades
Marina:  Harbour Towne Marina (we’re here for service with Just Catamarans).