Since I am no longer a boat owner I am having to share other people’s boats or use boats through charter companies. Part of that equation is having to show the boat owners, or at least the ones entrusted by the boat owner, that you are capable of handling their vessel. The various organization such as ASA, US Sailing and US Power Squadron have developed certification programs that set standards to make that process more or less universal.
Everyone who has been sailing for a long time will know that you are always learning new skills and techniques. Regardless how advanced you certifications say you might be, there will be circumstances that you have not come across, new harbors you have not been in and new crew whom you have not sailed with. Part of being a good sailor is to adapt and react in any circumstance you come across.
My sailing club has a somewhat unorthodox system of completing each training and checkout of each boat in the fleet. As it is an all volunteer group of instructors and members, you often train and checkout with different people for different boats. It seems that the more sailing experience you have as a sailing instructor, the more you want to improve and change the methods set by your predecessors. This is the kind of stuff you hear sailing instructors banter about in the club house, on the docks or over their favorite bottle of chardonnay.
Since I am not a racer I will not even pretend to be any kind of an expert on sail trim. As long as I am moving forward at a reasonable speed given the condition, I am a happy sailor. I have heard it all from racers who talk about how much racing has improved their cruising and I really don’t doubt that. I am just not in that big of a hurry. Let’s face it, if I was, I wouldn’t be sailing. It’s the techniques like Man over board, close quarter maneuvering, throttle control, heaving to, reefing, anchoring and such that I have a little bit of a problem with from the perspective of having been a student with many instructors in the past.
I have picked up a little bit of insight on pretty much every aspect of sailing from all the sailing instructors I have ever worked with. The only thing that I can gleam from it all is that I will ultimately be developing my own set of skills based on my observations. Sure I will need to do what is required to get the certifications that I need at the time; even if it means changing my preferred methods temporarily to accommodate the instructor at hand; I will most likely go back to doing what I am most comfortable with.
Let’s take the Man Over Board maneuver as an example. This might be the single most discussed topic that instructor like to talk about when it comes to what is best. It is one of the most complex maneuvers for a novice sailor. It involves performing under pressure, staying calm, sail trim, tacking, speed control, helm control and giving directions to your crew. Every one of those affect the outcome of the job at hand. ASA officially endorses the Figure 8 and has been for many years. I have heard differing opinion from different ASA certified instructors of their own version of this procedure. Best points of sail, distance before tacking, may day or no may day call, release the jib or back-wind the jib, everyone has been trying to get me to buy in to their ideals. I feel like at some point, too much instruction starts to negatively effect your growth as a sailor.
Maybe it is just human nature to try to improve on what’s already in place. I am certainly one to always find a better way to skin the cat (sorry Yoda), but I am seeing a good number of beginning sailors in this club who are caught in the middle of these ambiguities. They get frustrated because every instructor teach every technique just different enough so they end up confused and not learning anything at all. The fact that everyone is a volunteer in this club often produce the kind if instructors who might be out there pushing their own brand of sailing certification.
I know I have been complaining a bit in the last couple of posts about some of the problems with my new sailing arrangement. It is actually much better than how I am making it seem. I have been sailing a lot more than this past year before I sold the O’Day and also meeting a lot of local sailors whom I would not have met otherwise. I am really not looking to change anything about the club as they have gotten most things right where others have not. After all, what is the blog if you don’t get to complain and voice your opinion at least a little bit…
Now get out there and practice some MOB maneuvers.