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RYA Day Skipper Training Journal by Kali, Nautilus Yachting

Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Keen to complete the Day Skipper I enrolled in the Aegean Learn to Sail programme.

I am by no means a great sailor, having simply sailed dinghies at school many years ago, I prepared for the course with two weeks on the water being ship's first mate/lacky. Plus in the lead-up to my course studied day skipper theory for about 40 hours online.

Arriving in Aegina, and was impressed by the vibrant feel of the town. A long road stretched from one end of the town to the other. Each side of the road was lined with restaurants, shops and fishermen selling the morning's catch. I made my way to the Schools' Office, and let the team know I had arrived. The team confirmed the plans for the next few days, and left me to my own devices. Having signed up for the essential navigation class, my first two days were all theory lessons in a classroom and from Sunday night, that I was due to head onboard the boat.

All set I headed to my hotel ready for the following morning classes.


Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 1 - Saturday - Essential Navigation

We met at 9 am in the school's classroom just a five-minute walk from the main strip. There were three in our class plus the teacher 'Dominique'. Dominique was also one of the Day Skipper instructors and she was brilliant at converting so much of the nautical jargon, into English. All the topics that I had spent hours pouring over late into the night, now made more sense than ever and there was a massive realisation that nothing beats face-to-face tuition. By the end of the day we were a little frazzled but nothing that couldn't be fixed with a great meal in Babis, the local restaurant of choice, and a decent night's sleep.


Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 2 - Sunday - Essential Navigation, Embarkation

The following morning I received a Whatsapp notification with our boat name and the details of the others on our boat. Included in my yacht was one of the other students in my class, which worked really well as I then knew there would be at least one familiar face on board. Our yacht contained a group of five students plus Alex our instructor but as much as I wanted to get involved with the friendly Whatsapp messages popping up, I had another day of studying the in and outs of passage planning and all the final theory elements required for the week on the water.

Now at the end of my second day in the class, I felt prepped "in theory" to get going and at 5.00pm we met the crew and boarded our yacht 'Portokali'. After our introductions, all the week's students met up for an €15 "All you can eat" meal but I think I was the only person that took this challenge literally. A Great First Day.


Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 3 - Monday, Aegina - Old Epidavros

The Day Skipper Certification is made up of days where you were the skipper of the boat, and days, practicing and learning from others. With the weekends' classroom tuition fresh in my mind, I opted to be the skipper for the first day. Planning the days itinerary, taking the yacht in and out of the Marina, selecting our headings and route and leading the crew. My destination was 'Old Epidavros' 20 nm away. I checked my plan with another member of the crew for moral support, and then briefed my crew.

I then discovered once the instructor steps in with additional drills and tasks your passage plan goes out the window and the day is spent thinking on the fly, positioning, taking readings, and adjusting headings. Four hours later we safely arrived into Old Epidavros and my first day as skipper was complete.


Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 4 - Tuesday - Old Epidavros - Methana - Poros

Today as per the course we had a change of skipper, however, before we left Epidavros we had to visit the local Roman Amphitheater which makes this town an almost essential place to visit. I have seen a few Roman structures in my time but this was breathtaking. A definite highlight and a recommendation to anyone sailing the Aegean Sea.

Back on the ship we set sail to Methanos, light winds meant we swapped between sailing and motor sailing, our skipper for the day provided our passage plan, but keen to get involved and have the additional practice, I watched and made notes alongside the days' skipper. As crew today, we simply refreshed our skills by tacking and setting the sails. We also practiced manually fixing our positions and setting our position using Triangulation, finally putting into practice some maths from thirty years ago.

Two hours into our journey, our steady sailing and manual positioning exercises were rudely interrupted by a dolphin pod. Again the passage plan went out of the window as we ditched our heading and just sailed in circles with ten or so Dolphin playing in our bow wave. The experience was only ten minutes but it was certainly an unforgettable experience.

Stopping in Methana for the afternoon we prepared for our night sail, a chance to put into practice all the theory we have learned about warning and shipping lights. Four hours of sailing through the night with five sets of eyes desperately looking for shipping lights, warning beacons, and as many things as we could identify was testing work however the reward of heading into Poros and sleeping on anchor, with the lights of Poros in the background was well worth it.


Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 5 - Wednesday, Poros Loop of the Island

A morning coffee, and an easy sail around the island today. With the crew feeling confident about passage planning, today we took things started on the emergency drills. Man Over Board drill was well and truly drilled into us. Under sail, on the motor lots of practicing. Alex's phase "okay again" with everyone switching roles seemed to be the phrase of the day but thankfully, you can understand why this was one of the most important activities on the course. Sailing around the island we had lunch at sea, we spent time swimming from the rear of the boat, using the boat as a huge rib towing us around and generally blowing off some steam, after the morning's mental workout. Then after arguably the best meal I have ever had aboard a boat we continued around Poros. On return to the town of Poros we practiced some stern-to 'med mooring', the item that frightens so many and we had a feedback session with our Instructor and the chance to request additional training (things seemed to be going well so far).


Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 6 - Thursday Poros - Korfos

On the run-in now to get the Day Skipper certificate.

Today was the best day for sailing, with 10-12 knots of wind, 20+nm to the evenings mooring and a temperature of 28C. It almost begs the question to why more people don't sail in May. With the crew settled into various roles and everyone working really well together it was a great day. I spent the day plotting our position using transits, running fixes and working on tasks that meant nothing to me just a few short weeks ago. While even though it was a long day, but being a glutton for punishment the highlight for the day was performing the drill where we sailed onto a mooring buoy. I was really nervous at the beginning as Alex talked to us about the drill, but this time it was me saying "Okay Again" until it was perfect. The physical and mental challenges of feeling for the wind, adjusting the sails, and getting the crew to perform just at the right time to pick up the buoy was far more fun than it sounds.

In the evening we met up in "Georges" with two of the other tuition boats and the evening was filled with fifteen trainee day skippers swapping stories of the last few days.


Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 7 - Friday, Korfos - Aegina

Friday with the sailing and drills all completed, the morning was mainly theory, note-taking, and any other business. We spent time talking through potential emergency situations, the use of equipment, asking questions, and what to do in different scenarios. The day's wind was again fantastic, cruising along at 6 knots, with the group reflecting on things they had picked up over the last few days. Just after lunch, I received an ominous call from Alex below deck, to which he then presented me with a fresh new Day Skipper Certificate with my name on it! To be honest, the rest of the day was just a blur as I and all of my crew mates successfully completed the course and the afternoon was all about where we would like to sail next and what we could get up to with our newfound qualifications. Two of the crew were looking to start new careers in the sailing industry, while I had a family holiday in Croatia on the cards.

Now to book my first trip and sign up a willing crew.