Becoming a Skipper


Have you ever walked along the marina at a coastal town and wondered what life on a boat would be like? I have breezed past plenty of marinas in my 29 years of life and the same thoughts and questions always cross my mind. It always seems, to me at least, that being on some voyage by boat, could possibly be one of the most exciting and personal growth inducing challenges one could ever undertake.

Earlier this year I was looking at a variety of activities I could do while on holiday. Activities that would result in skills which would come in handy should I ever decide to live part of my life abroad. One of the activities I found ( or that found me..) was learning how to sail. With my current level of knowledge pertaining to “saling” being non existent, I’ll have to admit, it’s looking a bit daunting at the moment, because quite frankly, when it comes to tying knots or nautical miles, I wouldn’t know my arse from my elbow. For this reason, I’m classifying the acquisition of this new skill, as one MEGA adventure and I cannot wait to get started.

Doing just a bit of research, I’ve learned that I’d need to complete the following courses before I’m able to single handedly charter a boat and take it out for the day, whether by myself or with a group of people.

1. RYA Day Skipper Theory

2. RYA Competent Crew Practical Course

3. RYA Day Skipper Practical Course

For this year, my goal is to (at least) get to step 3 (there are a few more courses needed before crossing the atlantic on my own!), after the Day Skipper Practical Course I’ll re-assess whether becoming a coastal skipper is the way forward.

Looking at the different topics and subjects I’ll need to become familiar with, I’ve collated the curiculum basics below:

1. The RYA Day Skipper Theory Course includes; the basics of seamanship, the essentials of coastal navigation and pilotage, chartwork, electronic charts, position fixing, plotting a course to steer, weather forecasting and meteorology, tides, collision regulations, construction, parts and equipment of a cruising boat, emergency and safety procedures including distress calls, use of flares, safety harnesses, lifejackets and liferafts.

( This theory course has no exams and isn’t mandatory, however it is recommended in order to be somewhat familiar with boating and sailing terms before setting foot on a boat for the first time. )

2. The RYA Competent Crew Practical Course requires one to become familiar with: Knowledge of sea terms and parts of a boat, her rigging and sails, sail handling, ropework, fire precautions and fighting, personal safety equipment, man overboard, emergency equipment, meteorology, seasickness, helmsmanship, general duties, manners and customs, rules of the road and dinghies

3. On the RYA Day Skipper Practical Course we’ll learn more about: Preparation for sea, deck work, navigation, pilotage, meteorology, rules of the road, maintenance and repair work, engines, victualling, emergency situations, yacht handling under power, yacht handling under sail, passage making and night cruising

4. Finally, the RYA Coastal Skipper Practical Course will teach us about: Passage planning, preparation for sea, pilotage, passage making and ability as skipper, yacht handling under power, Yacht handling under sail, adverse weather conditions and emergency situations

  • Upon completing Step 3, I’ll be able to navigate around familiar waters by day.
  • Upon completing Step 4, I’ll be able to navigate safely on coastal and offshore passages at day or at night.

Researching further, I found the perfect place to take these courses.

The Miramar Sailing School in Antigua!

Today I had a Skype call with Denise from Miramar Sailing School who advised me to take the RYA Day Skipper Theory course -while in the UK, in order to make the most of my time in Antigua and actually spend that time on a boat instead of in a classroom. Thanks to her helpful guidance, I’ve decided to complete the first step here in the UK ( online or in person), followed by steps 2 and 3 in Antigua in November. Exciting!

Check back for clickable links as I’ll be finding more info on the theory per step/ section/ topic, in order to start breaking down the info I’ll need to learn, in preparation for the practical courses over the course of the next year.

PS. You can do the same! To enquire or check prices, take a look at their website here:


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