Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An example of a three-day "Learn to sail a keelboat" class

A three day class

Here’s one notion of how a three-day “Basic Keelboat” class might be done. Depending on your needs, the school, instructor, equipment, and water and weather conditions, your experience may be different. In this example, let's assume that an adult couple are learning to sail on a 25 foot long sailboat with two sails (main sail and jib) and a fixed lead keel beneath the boat that makes it more stable.

Flexible topics to be worked in by the instructor and students during bad weather or breaks in the action are boating terms, knots, safety equipment and rules, rules of the road/right of way, sound signals, navigation marks and lights, chart symbols, emergencies (breakdowns, weather, medical), personal preparation, trip preparation (weather, equipment, boat), tides/currents, weather, float plans, skipper responsibility, safe operation, seamanship, restricted areas and homeland security, different kinds of sailing, sailing history and kinds of boats, racing/cruising, dinghies/big boats, trailer sailing, boating courtesy, boat and sail care, boat and personal equipment, sailing for different kinds of people, boating resources, and any and all student questions

Day One, AM: review, terms. Instructor feedback and student discussion if homework has been sent in before the class. Dinghy classes will add swim/PFD check, capsize drill, paddling and sculling. Getting on and off boats safely, loading boats safely, where to sit on the boat, keeping lines clear. Rig boat with instructor coaching. Figure 8 “stopper” knot. Raising and lowering sails, heading boat into the wind. Learn where to find gear, unroll sails, hank on jib, attach jib sheets. Take first sail with instructor. Start with instructor on tiller and crew handling sheets, then rotate students through position to do some hands on sailing, basic tacks, easy sailing. If helpful, instructor may reduce sail to keep things going slowly and comfortably. Position of crew, balancing weight on the boat and trimming with crew weight for wind strength, moving safely on the boat. How much heel. Basic motor use and care and fueling safety as needed; kill switches, fueling, ventilation. Cleat hitch. Putting boat away for lunch/short breaks.

PM: hoisting sail, tacking and gybing, coordinating tiller and sheets, basic trim for points of sail, basic rules of the road in practice. De-rigging the boat for the night. Flaking and rolling sails. Rigging fenders and docklines. Basic sail care and boat care.

Day Two, AM: more knots and class room topics, refining points of sail and sail trim, observing wind, using tell tales and wind vanes, bringing boat to a stop and starting again, picking up a mooring, docking and undocking. Sailing in circles, figure eights, sailing to stop next to docks, boats, moorings. Clove hitch and bowline. Instructor hands off most of the time, only stepping in for quick demos and a bit of “hand holding”.

PM: A bit of fun sailing and review, simple SOLO sail with instructor in a nearby boat if conditions are reasonable. Then, instructor back on board for Crew Overboard (COB) recovery drill (figure 8 and/or quick stop). Discuss boating emergencies and put COB drill into context. Discuss staying with boat, signaling, and cold water. More sailing, docking, stopping and starting, sail trim, refining sail shape with more controls such as the traveler. More COB recovery drill. More general topics, practicing rules of the road and maneuvering and other boats. More COB. Reefing sails basics and discussion of rough water safety and maneuvers. Square knot. Brief solo/accompanied sail if time allows. Derigging without instructor help. General review and answering questions back in the marina, fill in any missing topics.

Day Three, AM: Rig boat, quick entirely SOLO sail if wind allows, else docking/ undocking practice with motor, paddles, sculling, or other techniques. Return for review and questions. Take written test if taking a certification class. Review test, go over and fuzzy areas. Discuss applying what you’ve learned to different kinds of boats and sailing in different kinds of places. Discuss refinements of sail trim and sail trim for different conditions and on boats with different equipment.

PM: Rig boat and go sailing with instructor in another boat and practice maneuvers between the two boats. Then get instructor on board for more COB practice and close-quarters maneuvering. Then review and demonstrate skills for practical test. Time allowing, have a fun sail before docking and de-rigging. Debrief and ask questions.


At 7:56 PM, February 19, 2010, Blogger O Docker said...

I had a chance to sit in on an ASA Basic Keelboat class a few weeks ago - I filled in for a no-show student on days two and three. My wife was the only other student.

The material was presented in much the order you describe, but they didn't get to actual sailing until day two. In the beginning, their primary emphasis was on getting the boat into and out of a slip under power safely - understandable, I guess, from the school's perspective if you want to keep your boats in decent shape.

If you've been sailing for a while, you forget what a huge amount of stuff their is to absorb all at once in the beginning. Even with just one student in the class, there was very little time to practice boat handling during the class. Most of the final afternoon was spent prepping for, taking the test, and evaluation of the results, so that only left a day and a half for sail training.

I think the real learning happens in the 'practice time' that begins after the class. They encourage students to go out at least six times before progressing to the next class.

With technology that's available today, I wonder if the big training organizations (USS and ASA) wouldn't be better served by teaching and testing a lot of the the classroom material with interactive online programs before the actual classes begin. That might make better use of the student's and instructor's time.

My wife did finish the class jazzed and anxious to get back out in the boats on her own, so she could start sorting out the rush of material she'd just been through.


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