A “Business Trip” to Antigua

Kathleen started to think about getting more training to improve her confidence.  We both have Sail Canada Basic Cruising along with radio, survival, first aid and navigation qualifications.  I had been researching the training and testing for RYA Yachtmaster but I had not formed any plans to get there. Kathleen talked to me  about nipping off for a week’s sail training as I was too busy at work.  She made the excellent point that we are in process of investing a lot of money in a refit for the boat, but we had not invested much in the crew over the last year.  She was right of course.  I looked at my work schedule and freed up some time as we started to research some options.  We found a couple of options for RYA training in the Caribbean and sent of some emails and landed on Miramar Sailing in Jolly Harbour, Antigua.   We signed up for a skills building clinic as we did not know where in the RYA scheme we could slot in.

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We joined the boat, Miramar, a Benateau Oceanis 400 and met our instructor – Ian Grant and our fellow student Anna.  Anna was starting the second week of a three week boot camp with Miramar.  Coming to sailing as an experienced sea kayaker she was gamely eating the elephant that learning to sail big boats is, almost from scratch.


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The west coast of Antigua is a great place to sail, with many bays and harbours to play with.  Ian talked to us about what we wanted to get out of our time on the boat.  For Kathleen, practice, skills and confidence building.  For me, the same with feedback on where in the RYA scheme I could slot in.  For us, to build our confidence in each other and to improve our communication as we sail.

What could possibly go wrong?

What could possibly go wrong?

Ian’s natural teaching style and our needs meshed really nicely.  He quietly assessed where we were and pushed us both forward with challenges, often preceded with his catch phrase “What could possibly go wrong?”.  When we had a skill in hand he would move us forward to the next level or discuss the requirements at Yachtmaster level to put the exercise into context.  We practised man overboard (the less political correct version of the Canadian “crew overboard”) to the level where Kathleen and I could demonstrate solo MoB recovery.   The resulting tracks are entertaining…

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We worked on skills as a crew, a couple and individually.  Ian was patient and thorough with all of us.  As the week progressed I started to work towards the RYA Coastal Skipper Practical Certificate.  We knocked off the requirements and Ian threw me some practical challenges.  Be warned if you sail with Ian, the boat suddenly becomes very unreliable.  By the middle of the course Ian and I had agreed on my weak spots and I set about practising those skills, including the boating equivalent of a three point turn in a very tight dock where the only thing of value was the tender of a superyacht. On Thursday I noticed that Ian was starting to test Kathleen on various skills.  He did this in a way that she was not even aware of and it was very cool to see her respond to the moving expectations easily and comfortably.  Before long Kathleen was polishing off the last requirements of Day Skipper.  Guess who gets to service the engine next time!

Kathleen learning the art of diesel maintenance

Kathleen learning the art of diesel maintenance

The course was beyond our expectations, Ian was amazing, Anna was fun and learned so much and Michael, one of Ian’s former Yachtmaster students, was a great reference for Ian’s Yachtmaster Prep course. Now Yachtmaster Off-Shore seems in reach for me.

Crew after a busy and successful week.

Both Kathleen and I are now able to get an International Certificate of Competency, the standard required to charter in much of the EU and other Mediterranean countries.  In the Sail Canada scheme, Day Skipper maps to Intermediate Cruising and Coastal is similar to Advanced Cruising.   RYA, the Royal Yachting Association, is the UK sailing authority.  RYA Yachtmaster maps to the Offshore level, however the Yachtmaster qualifications can be commercially endorsed and have wide international recognition.  Overall the RYA Yachtmaster scheme is highly professional and accessible with many training centres, including two in Canada.  At the time of writing this post, Sail Canada Offshore Standard courses are not available.  For me the choice to switch away from the Sail Canada scheme to RYA is a simple one, I can get the training and it will be recognised.

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So a week in the Caribbean in the middle of winter sounds like a vacation, but we worked hard and we achieved a lot.  The effort was to make our future better, that sounds like a business trip to me, even if we had a great time.

Overall a fantastic week and we are looking forward to returning to Antigua on Kinship in January or February next year.


OK, I guess a week in great weather was good too…

Token vacation picture, yes the sea is that blue

Token vacation picture, yes the sea is that blue

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