Day Skipper practical – what to expect

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Student review of a RYA 9 day Combined Theory and Practical course

“And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to sail her by .. plus someone to tell me how to do it!5 of 5 stars

Physically exhausted and mentally finished with a fantastic sense of achievement, some great memories and a brand new, shiny Day Skipper card. All the signs of a brilliant week.

My wife and I took the Day Skipper Theoretical and Practical combined 9 day course (did we really fit all that into 9 days?). It’s a good combination and Commodore do it very well. We lived on the boat for both the the practical and theory courses which we feel is an advantage – if you have a question about something, you can go and look at it.

RYA Day Skipper Course

There were 5 students in our group with mixed sailing experience, however we united in the search for the worst pun and most terrible joke. The first 3 days were spent on theory, particularly navigation, in the floating barge classroom, another advantage as it leads you into working on charts in a very gently rocking environment. After taking and passing the first theory paper, we were ready for the off.

 ‘When my wife woke me up at 5am to discuss the finer points of mainsail raising, I knew we were hooked’.

Tuesday to Sunday were spent at sea covering both the practical course and the other elements of the theory course. We had a couple of nights staying in marinas and eating in the pubs, otherwise Emma, our instructor, cooked on board. We also moored in the very cute Newport Creek where our tidal height calculations were put to the test by the approaching mud – we didn’t touch the bottom! The students shared in the everyday chores of running a boat – how do 6 people generate so many cups to wash up? We sweated our navigation lights and rules of the road until we passed our second Theory exam. When my wife woke me up at 5am to discuss the finer points of mainsail raising, I knew we were hooked.

We had great weather and the boat, a Bavaria 44 was very comfortable. We also ate extremely well. If you can sail in the Solent, you can sail anywhere!

Emma, our instructor, was excellent. Material was introduced at a sensible speed, explanations were clear, questions answered and progress maintained. Emma was very calm in the face of 5 rookies in charge of an expensive boat. As always with sailing, plans were made in great detail but then changed due to tides and weather and this all went well.

A couple of other points. Gosport marina is very comfortable and Gosport provides anything you might need. Commodore seem to have a complete lack of hidden extras; accommodation for the whole course, waterproofs and marina fees are all included. Anything you will need to buy or pay for is clearly outlined in the booking instructions. Pricing seemed very fair when considering other similar courses.

This is an intensive course. I would advise anyone thinking of doing it to be sure to have the experience that Commodore outline in the booking instructions. If you have the time, it is handy to read some course material in advance. Oh, and make sure you can tie that bowline!

Overall a fantastic experience and I’m planning my “Coastal Skipper” with Commodore – especially if the sausages and mash are still on the menu!

September 2015

Student review of a RYA Day Skipper practical course

Day Skipper Course
Day Skipper Course

  • I come from a dinghy sailing background and wanted to take Day Skipper to extend my sailing into yachting so I can consider charters in the future. I had only completed one passage prior to this course so completed the DS theory online first, separately. I booked the practical with Commodore because I wanted to be in the Solent, their reviews looked good and they seemed to have a flexible and pragmatic system of mixing different types of student on their courses. The booking process was fine. The welcome was warm and informal. We all ate out the first night then had a brief about our aspirations and experiences.During the course I can say our instructor, Emma (Yachtmaster Offshore Instructor) was excellent: very calm under pressure, incredibly knowledgeable and experienced, and patient with her crew of 4x Day Skipper plus one Comp Crew. Her approach was to tell, show, do, then let us make mistakes (up to a point) in order to allow us the opportunity to self-correct, or observe our own mistakes. This was very effective. The crew operate very much as a team so everyone on board had the opportunity to practice passage planning, rope-work, sail-trim, MOB, parking, tying up, navigation, pilotage, moorings, safety briefs, skippering the yacht (leading the team), chart plotter, GPS, VHF use, etc. We all had jobs to do also: cooking , washing up, engine checks, etc. On the rare occasion things started to go wrong, Emma took command and kept us out of trouble, this is where her steely nerve and vast experience really showed.

    Use of the shore facilities was excellent – all the marinas are very well appointed for showers, etc

    The yacht, Emerald Star a 44-foot Bavaria, was well up to the task, roomy and comfortable, safe and incredibly manoeuvrable. I didn’t pay the excess for a single cabin but I didn’t have to share cabins due to a couple already sharing. Food on-board was good. Use of the shore facilities was excellent – all the marinas are very well appointed for showers, etc, and we ate out 3 nights. Highlights for me were mooring at Newtown Creek , pilotage into Lymington Town Quay alongside an oncoming huge passenger ferry, MOB drills just off The Needles in fantastic weather, the night passage back to Gosport using buoyage lights and leading lights back over The Swashway and into the harbour eating chocolate and popcorn!, and the good company and humour from the rest of the crew. In my group the other students owned yachts in the area or had chartered in Greece for several years, so they knew the ropes and techniques more than I did, and some the area and its bouys, routes of ferries and other local customs. This wasn’t actually a problem as we all had to learn the specifics for Emerald Star, and not having local knowledge have me the opportunity to practice the theory, which was always useful, and Emma made sure we all practiced the theory to verify any assumptions based on knowledge anyway (e.g. bearings to avoid collision course of a ferry, 3-point fixes, etc).

    Day Skipper
    Day Skipper

    So much learned and still to learn: as our skipper put it – “a licence to practice” !

    Would I book with Commodore again?: absolutely, mainly for their pragmatic, flexible and patient approach. I absolutely loved the week on-board Emerald Star and can’t wait to do some mile-builder weekends with Commodore now. So much learned and still to learn: as our skipper put it : “a licence to practice” !

    I would also consider booking the DS theory course through Commodore also, to get the benefit of their instructors’ advice during this course, and so they know a bit about you before the practical.

    So If you’re a bit apprehensive about taking up this course, there’s no need to be. They will take very good care of you and you will learn a huge amount in the process.

    For info: below is our itinerary which made up the 100 miles at sea.

    Parking practice in the marina
    Gosport Marina to Swanwich Marina up the Hamble

    Swanwich Marina to Newtown Creek
    Newtown Creek to Yarmouth Marina on IoW
    Practice: pickup mooring bouy under motor

    Yarmouth Marina to The Needles
    MOB drills under sail close reached due west of The Needles
    The Needles to Yarmouth
    Yarmouth to Lymington Town Quay
    (My first CTS passage and pilotage)

    Lymington Town Quay to anchorage at Thorness Bay on IoW
    Thorness Bay to Gosport Marina (Night passage)

    Gosport Marina to Osborne Bay
    Osborne Bay to Gosport Marina

    Portsmouth harbour
    Practice pickup mooring under sail in a F6 !
    Back to Gosport Marina

    May 2015