This is an update on my “learn to sail” project. Last weekend I completed my first two lessons through Windworks Sailing at Shillshole Bay Marina in Ballard, WA. Windworks uses the US Sailing Basic Keelboat (BK) curriculum and divides it into three parts: BK1, BK2 and Bk3.
Brief side note: I discovered Windworks when I was trying to solve the problem of learning to sail without a boat. Windworks provides sailing lessons and has a whole fleet of boats that you can charter.
Someday I hope to publish a slew of posts stemming from my charter activities. There are a bunch of items on the bucket list that I can knock off through boat charters. First things first though: I need to learn to sail so that I can operate a boat safely, competently, and without creating any sort of Coast Guard incident.
Learn to Sail Lesson 1: Basic Keelboat Crew Training (BK1)
Mea Culpa here. I was completely confused during my first sailing lesson. Basic Keelboat 1 (BK1) certifies you to be an effective crew member.
BK1 starts with a classroom overview of basic sailing concepts, anatomy of the boat, examination of a scale down model and a safety briefing. In the classroom, we also covered a little bit of sailing physics, engineering, knot tying and navigation. This part of the day went great.
Our next step in the process was to take a stroll out to I-Dock at Shillshole by, step on to a Capri 22 (we sailed on Tin Man) and sail it out into Shillshole Bay. This is where it got a little more challenging.
My biggest challenge during the BK1 class had to do with sailing vocabulary. Sailing has it’s own language, much of it invented hundreds of years ago. Some of the terms have a clear linkage to modern day terms (telltale signs, head up, fall off for example), but much of it was new to me.
So anyhow, I felt like I was learning a new language. As we worked through our turns in Shillshole bay, I wasn’t differentiating the points of sail vs. the maneuvers vs. the commands and warnings of things happening. As a result, I wasn’t quite able to connect what the instructor was saying with what actions the crew needed to take.
If you are going to learn to sail, here are my two biggest lessons learned going into the first class:
Lesson Learned #1 – Learn the Vocabulary Before the Class
My first lesson learned is to learn the vocabulary before the class. There are lots of nautical terms, the ones that matter are the points of sail, maneuvers, and commands.
The points of sail are the sail positions (close hauled, close reach, broad reach, beam reach, run). These points of sail describe the position of the sail in a given wind condition.
There are also maneuvers (head up, tack, fall off, jibe). The maneuvers describe a turn or change in course. This will subsequently result in a change in point of sail.
Changes in direction and points of sail are preceded by commands. These come from the skipper and tell the crew what is going to happen. So, the sequence is the command (what is going to happen), the maneuver or change in course, and the adjustment of the sail position.
Don’t mix them all together.
Lesson Learned #2 – Eat right and Avoid Cold, Greasy Breakfast Sandwiches for lunch
I live in Snohomish County, near Monroe, WA. I got a late start in my trek to Ballard and skipped breakfast. On the way to class I purchased a breakfast sandwich and stuffed it into my pack for lunch later. Before casting off I scarfed that greasy, cold bacon and poached egg sandwich and we ventured out into the Puget Sound.
I underestimated the affects of the tide, wind and waves on our little Capri 22 and I should have prepared a little better. I didn’t get seasick, but the motions coupled with that heavy, greasy lunch definitely affected my focus. My lack of full understanding of the vocabulary combined with poor diet choices made that first sail less then optimal from a learning perspective.
In a state of confusion and still feeling a little green, I drove home and prepared for BK2 the next day. I decided I needed to up my game for round two.
Learn to Sail Lesson 2 – Basic Keelboat 2
The next morning I packed a lunch, a bunch of healthy snacks, and showed up early to review. I suspect that the instructors had a good debrief because the BK-2 instructor dialed right into what I was struggling with. We started the day with an exercise that reviewed the points of sail, maneuvers, and commands. It was exactly what I needed and I understood immediately where I had gone wrong in the previous lesson.
After a quick review we were out on the Capri 22 again. This time we were sailing on Twister.
BK 2 was a blast. We sailed out of the marina, watched some races, practiced configuring all of the various points of sail and worked through each of the maneuvers.
Once we started working consistently as a team we threw some bumpers overboard and practiced man overboard drills.
The sailing itself would have been a perfect day by my standards. Couple that with some great company (the other students and instructor), races and a couple of curious harbor porpoises and the day was nearly perfect. The only thing that might have taken it to the next level is a little more sunshine… But it’s April in Seattle, I’ll take what I can get.
Prep for Round 3 and the End Game
I’m already signed up for BK-3 at Windworks. I really can’t say enough about them. Their instructors, equipment and program have completely exceeded my expectations. Anyhow, after BK3 is the US Sailing Basic Keelboat Certification exam. This is the first step in tackling my sailing bucket list goals.
Basic Keelboat Certification opens the door to chartering (renting) sailboats up to 27 feet. This sets the stage for future classes and certifications – the result being longer range adventures in exotic locations.
One final note before signing off… A big goal in creating this blog is learning from others. If you are learning to sail, planning to, have some lessons learned through your experiences, have been sailing near Seattle, have been chartering sialboats, etc. feel free to leave a comment or ask a question below!