Cruising

Cruising (5)

Fun, active, stimulating and relaxing all at the same time . . .

 
A man on a sailing boat
A sailing trip is a fun way to stay active during your summer holidays Photo: © Buz Talley
 

 If you thought that sailing holidays were only for families with salt water running in their veins, it's time to broaden your horizons.

Sailing is a "brilliant", healthy and affordable way of spending your summer holidays in BC's pristine coastal wilderness or exploring a Caribbean tropical paradise on a well needed winter break.

Sailors will tell you it is safe, physical, mentally stimulating and relaxing ... all at the same time! It's also a great activity to meet new friends and see a familiar place (like Vancouver Island) from a different perspective.

In these days of busy individuals, in busy families, in busy communities, we need to slow down for a week or two and turn our collective attention to the excitement, peace and tranquility offered by the ocean and wind. 

You can’t however, just turn up and sail a yacht without personal preparation and experience. You’re going to need to invest some time and money learning how to do it. Don't worry, most will say it's one of the very best investments you are likely to make in your lifetime! Most new sailors agree there is something so . . . "wicked" about walking away with Skipper qualifications after enjoying the wind, sand and sea on a luxury sailboat on a 7-day Cruise & Learn in paradise.

If you aim to skipper your own boat, most bareboat charter companies will ask for a “Day Skipper” certification as qualifications for the more sheltered destinations like the British Virgin Islands or BC's Gulf Islands.

"Bareboat Charter Master" certification is qualifications for sailing in more remote destinations that require more experience like the Carribbean's Grenadines and BC's Desolation Sound. Twenty days on-the-water experience aboard a similar sized sailboat as skipper or crew are also required by the major charter companies like Dream Charters, Sunsail and MOORINGS. 

In Canada and the US you are required to pass the Pleasure Craft Operators Card and the VHF Radio Restricted Operators Certificate (known as ROCM) and to have this documentation with you when you are the skipper of a boat.

 

If your plans are to visit the Mediterranean and countries in the European Union (EU) you will require a International Certificate of Competence (ICC) through the Royal Yachting Association (RYA).

One option is to learn to sail before you go on holiday is on weekends.  When you choose this route, your first port of call if you live in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta or British Columbia should be the Vancouver Sailing Club (VSC) based on FalseCreek in downtown Vancouver.

VSC students and Members will tell you that it is an excellent sailing school offering sailing courses, casual cruising, adventure sailing/ mileage builders, racing and rental sailboats.

ed Mileage Builders)

VSC Instructors recommend 3 steps, or foundation courses, for newbee sailors:

  1. Qualified Crew-  2-Day weekend or the first part of a 7- day Cruise & Learn in Gulf Islands or Desolation Sound
  2. Day Skipper-  3-Day long weekend or part of a 7- day Cruise & Learn in Gulf Islands or Desolation Sound
  3. Bareboat Charter Master- 3-Day long weekend or part of a 7- Day Cruise & Learn in Gulf Islands or Desolation Sound

Following completion of the Day Skipper course, you can charter  popular J/24 and Beneteau First 36.7 sailboats at VSC's reasonable rates.

If you have never been on the water and would like to try sailing instead of signing up for a course, VSC will recommend a 1-day Introduction to Sailing that will provide a fun day of discovery aboard one of their 36 foot cruisers in English Bay. Don't forget to bring your lunch. You will stop in in the middle of the 'Bay - surrounded by the mountains, harbor seals, Dalls Porpoise and if you are lucky killer or gray whales. This is usually a WOW moment for future sailors.

If BC's winter is too cold for you these same courses are offered in the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean in December and March as Cruise & Learn Adventures. VSC also has been known to Cruise & Learn in the Grenadines and Antigua. It's best to VSC's website calendar for dates and details.

If you are unable to own a boat joining a Sailing Club is a flexible and inexpensive way to get out on the water and meet people that enjoy sailing- people just like you!

So don't procastinate. Launch the beginning of your sailing lifestyle this year today.

 

Cheers mates!

This is a pretty embarrassing story for me to tell but I’m going to tell it anyway in first person rather than say “I knew a guy who once who …”. It’s pretty much a result of me getting out of the wrong side of the bed and it affected my abilities on a boat and turned a really good day out into a massive reset relearning experience for me – and a dang good blog topic. One that I really hope you devour and take to heart.

It’s about how to be an effective leader on a boat.

Being on a boat is a test of your personal management and people skills. Typically you have friends, family, spouses etc on the boat and also often, friends of friends. So as skipper, managing all those people and personalities is a challenge not to be taken lightly. The test of success is to end the adventure where people still like you because that’s more important than anything. Much of the time leadership is not a big issue especially on a day outing but sometimes and especially on a week long adventure, situations arise when you can make the biggest of mistakes with people.

He’s an example of a situation this past weekend. We all went out on my friend’s Beneteau 37. It was an awesome day with lots of wind and I was anxious to fly his genaker.

On the boat were my friend (the owner) some of his friends and some of mine. Amongst the friends were various levels of sailing experience from zero to intermediate.

My friend and I have captained boats all over the world, so stepping on the boat we made the giantest of mistakes by not setting roles and I made the biggest one of all by assuming the role of leader and completely forgetting that it was his boat

First off – a pleasure boat is not the corporate world and it’s not the military. People are on the boat solely to have a good time. They are away from the office and don’t want to be told what to do. They get enough of that in their jobs. So barking orders and using the excuse – I’m the Captain is not going to let people leave liking you.

And you’ve got to manage your own ego too. In my younger days before I realized this stuff here – I’d like to show off a little that I knew what was going on. It felt to me to raise my self worth and it felt good – to me. Note there is a lot of “me” in that. That information coming in from other people on the boat was already what I knew and I let them know that. Someone would say “watch out for that boat” and I would say “I know I already saw it”. Funny though because I’d take info from a GPS device but not from people. I also made the big leadership mistake in those days that knowledge was power and that I would gain leadership by showing knowledge which auto gave me the power. You can observe this this failing everyday in the corporate world. A boss will withhold info just to make them feel powerful and all it really achieves is that it pisses off their subordinates. So we know that doesn’t work.

What works well on a boat is the President Lincoln leadership style. Lincoln is attributed as being one of the world’s greatest leaders. He involved people to make them feel like they were part of the process. He gathered the advice and then made a decision. His Generals and others around him saw that he was taking input and thus they felt valued. When someone feels that they are valued – they will follow. They also see that you’re making a decision from the best advice at hand. Leadership is NOT about knowledge, it’s not about barking commands, leadership is about getting people to follow you from a perspective of respect in you. Respect is earned not appointed. You’ve got to be a respect ROCK and you can’t let your ego get in or your impatience take its toll or your anxiousness overtake.

This past weekend I lost my rockness for some reason. Up on wrong side of the bed? Don’t know!. The first thing that set me off was a crew member who I consider knowledgeable let go of the docklines when we were side-to in the wind. It blew us against the leeward dock and set us up for a scrape down the side of the boat.  I lambasted him for this – in front of the other crew. Now who’s the jerk? He made a fundamental boating mistake but I made a bigger fundamental people mistake. What would have been better was to say something like – “Hey John – I think I’ll pass the dock line back over you so we can start again – the wind is pushing us against the dock and I don’t want to scrape the boat. We’ll recenter the boat and then you can walk back with it as we pull out holding us away from the dock. Is that ok?” But instead what came out was “Come on John you know better than that- what the hell did you release that line for?” Which comment would garner me respect from him and the other crew?

Next thing that set me off was after we had reefed the mainsail and were heading on a beam reach, the mainsail was sheeted in too tight and so I said let out the mainsail. Two crew members  blew out the reef. OMG. So I went into lambast mode again. Now I’m looking like a real jerk again. After the lambasting they claimed that my instructions were not clear. In my mind and my language I’m going “wow if were on a beam reach and the sail is sheeted in tight – isn’t it bloody obvious that let out the main sail means let out the sheet not the reef. OMG.”

So what’s happening here? Sounds like a corporate project meeting gone wrong with a leader promoted above their abilities doesn’t it. Blame, yelling, stamping excuses.

I’m keeping this in first person, accepting personal responsibility for this and blogging this publicly because I want to make the point that even though I think I’m a good leader on a boat look who I turned into – this is not me – I’m always being told that I am the calmest captain ever – because I know this stuff – but what the @#$%. What happened was I let my self down and my internal  known leadership skills.

What should I have done in that last instance?  Well first off – there is no danger – you’ve got to accept that – next confront the fact that you are frustrated – next use this knowledge here to know that frustration is not going to solve the issue.

In Steven Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he discusses this topic. He presents that Humans have the ability to observe an action, think about it and then after they have thought about it then they can decide on a reaction – that highly effective people are conscious of this and engage this in their everyday, every moment life. It’s a good read by the way.

So thinking about it – venting frustration is not the most effective way to handle blowing out the reef. Best way to handle that is to accept responsibility for not being clear. Equally obvious is that if a crew member blew out the reef then they did not know what they were doing. They did not do it vindictively – they did it out of lack of knowledge that I assumed they had. So best way is to remedy the situation. “Whoops, I’m sorry that was my mistake for not being clear. Let’s get the boom out, bring the reef back in and then we’ll set the main sheet to match our heading.” Then perhaps ask a question to re-involve the crew and gain some interaction. “BTW does anyone have any desired direction they want to go today”. i.e. you’re showing that whilst you have the technical issues of sail set down pat, you are involving the crew in overall strategic decision making.

Next thing that set me off was that as I moved to the bow of the boat to set up the genaker with the owner, I left a crew member in charge of maintaining course (same one who blew out the reef). The boat began going all over the place, I yelled back “sail the boat will you”. Then it got worse and worse with the owner jumping in and now throwing a tissy fit that he didn’t appreciate being told what to do.

This is a signal folks. Good friends at log aheads and with the crew sitting there too shocked to say anything.

As soon as you recognize something is going on like this on a boat, you have to put on your good leader hat and swallow crow and realize that you have created the situation and accept responsibility. With the owner now spitting the pacifiers out of the cot I should certainly have gotten privately together with him and had a talk. Afterward we realized it was over something small but significant enough to set him off – but only because I had created the “set off atmosphere” and he’d been breathing the bad air.

Jim Cathcart a national speaker and author developed “The Acorn Principle”. It says that an acorn already knows that it will turn into a mighty oak. From that he developed the concept of asking yourself in any situation “How would the person I want to be – do the thing I’m about to do”. For example, how would Lincoln have solved this? Applying this then you have to ask yourself, “if I am to be the best leader of this boat (corporation, government, non profit, team, family) what should I do now.” If you know the story of Shackleton, you might ask “how would shackleton have solved this?  Almost immediately this has the effect of settling you down with the answer. At any point on that day adventure – if I had asked myself that question the day would have been completely different. The answer surely would not have been “to get frustrated and yell and embarrass crew members”. Moreover it would have been more like “To help fix the situation in a positive manner, involve the crew, make sure they are having a good time and if someone does something stupid – it’s not stupid to them”

Finally, I’m going to address the safety of the boat vs people management issue because some will say “well dang it – it’s my responsibility to save the boat and if we are in a bad situation then people’s feelings don’t matter”. To answer that I’m going to call rubbish. Not matter which way you cut it, that is bad leadership and you’ll create panic, uncertainly arguments and mutiny (ask Captian Bligh who’s been tagged as the biggest jerk captain ever). If you’ve got a sinking boat, a bad storm, a life situation your good leadership skills are more paramount than anything. Leadership will save the boat, get you through the storm and save a life. Good leadership might go like this “Crew we have a serious situation, I know what to do and I will need all your help and agreement to get us through this as a team. As a team we will solve this. Can I have your agreement?” If there is an injury then you can then ask “who is the best at bandages?”. You see, you don’t have to say I know what I am doing and take over the bandages. You’re establishing command and leadership and involving the crew. When you get a difficult crew member arguing with you it’s best to take that person aside. Put on your leadership hat lower your voice, listen and say to yourself how would Lincoln have solved this? Perhaps if you really listen to one of your crew (generals) one just might have a good idea but would otherwise be too scared to bring it up. A one minute good leadership meeting will do more to save your boat and crew than any amount of barking orders and trying to command civilians from your self appointed captain’s seat.

If there is one thing you can take from this article, please take the acorn principle “how can I be the best leader in this situation right now?”

That and make sure you get out of the right side of the bunk everyday – that goes for life too.

Like it? Please “LIKE” it.

PS – if you’re taking a bareboat charter trip please get all your crew to read this article then get them to take the Bareboat Charter Sailing Course (you too). The course is not  a repeat course on how to sail a boat – it’s more about making sure everyone has the right information to make the trip a success – after all that is what you are going for – a good time right? Who wants to have a crappy time on a sailing vacation because the crew didn’t gel? Also available in iBook format here – Bareboat charter sailing iBook on iTunes for iPad.

Bareboat Charter Sailing Course

Take the Bareboat Charter Course

“Learning to sail together can save your marriage”.
- Anon

We don't think so, but it can be a lot of fun doing something as exciting as sailing together- an art, science, sport and lifestyle that many couples enjoy for a lifetime.

There is absolutely nothing only "male" about sailing. Women can and should be as skilled in steering, docking, navigating and MOB drills as men. 

One scenario we see often both here on the coast and the Great Lakes, is the man has more sailing experience and knowledge than the woman. He typically navigates, steers and does the docking while she handles the lines. Both may know their jobs but if the man goes overboard or gets hurt or sick, the woman can't bring the boat back to the dock and often ends up stressed or the target of unpleasant yelling.

Smart men take sailing lessons with their wives (or significant others) because the ASA certification process ensures that they will share a common sailing vocabulary and learn all the necessary skills to be competent and confident sailors. Both understand their mutual sailing abilities, attitudes toward safety and what constitutes a full day of cruising. Better communication will increase the pleasure factor for both parties and is the first step in building the kind of partnership that endures for a lifetime.

From our experience, once the couple's sailing lessons are completed, the men readily admit they have learned a lot more about sailing knowledge, seamanship, boat handling skills "and" their new First Mate!

Women feel the confidence that comes with sailing competence, achieved by mastering the important skills presented in their courses.

Couples come to the Vancouver Sailing Club to become better prepared to sail and cruise together with proven skills and earned confidence.

 

S A I L I N G  T H E  B V I  

WITH THE VANCOUVER SAILING CLUB 

December 2012

My journey to learn to sail began in Denver, CO, for ASA 101 and 103, and then on to San Diego for ASA 104 and 105. I had the good fortune to experience excellent schools with very competent captains. However, the most significant part of my journey came in December, 2012 with Carl Richardson, who owns and operates the Vancouver Sailing Club (VSC) and Sailing School in  downtown Vancouver, British Columbia.

I was looking for a December experience in the Caribbean to accomplish ASA 106 and I was a party of one—which made my search all the more difficult. The VSC had a great venue available, 9 days aboard a 39-foot SUNSAIL catamaran exploring the British Virgin Islands. Following discussions with Carl, I signed on with the added benefit of taking ASA 114 as well as 106. Carl’s thinking really resonated with me. He felt it took at least 9 days to ensure you were steeped in what it took to skipper a boat in all conditions. I came to know the wisdom of his words as Carl is one of those sailor’s sailors who has raced and voyaged all over the world.

He made sure we had the opportunity to study our books, but we were there to learn what being a skipper means, and we spent the bulk of our time doing just that. His incredible enthusiasm for sailing, and sailing right, came across in so many ways. Safety was always paramount- from the condition of the boat to the rules for pfd’s. I watched other sailors who were meandering around the BVI’s during the course of our time there, and I came to understand that there are sailors, and then there are SAILORS. Carl’s attention to detail made him stand tall as I compared sailors. I am sure there are many there who hold the appropriate credentials, but the number who were real sailors were far fewer. In some cases the differences were quite obvious—the way the sails were luffing when they should not have been, motoring when the winds were fair, mainsails hanging all over the boom when in anchorages, lines not tied up, etc. General boat appearance and condition were items Carl drilled us on as those were indicators of how the skipper viewed his responsibilities.

Carl wanted us to get the feel for sail trim without consulting our books, and he put us in numerous situations where we had to apply our knowledge, not simply regurgitate it on a test. We practiced trimming and shaping sails in every possible point-of- sail in winds varying from 6 knots to 32 knots. For example, one day we set sail from Jost Van Dyke to Anegada Island- a course which was largely in the face of 24 to 32-knot winds. As the day wore on, sails began to disappear and other boats headed in for calmer waters or anchorages. Soon we were the only sails to be seen, and we were given the opportunity of optimizing close-hauled sail shape, sail trim and reefing early as never before. We eventually needed to make a course change since we determined we could not reach our "Plan A" destination before dark. As we beared-away to our "Plan B" course on a beam reach we felt very confident in our new skills and made it through the entrance of Gorda Sound, Virgin Gorda in plenty of time for happy hour on the deck of the Saba Rock Resort.

"We" is a key word here, because although our crew of four had never met before and had different levels of knowledge and experience, Carl made sure we all rotated through every responsibility, in all points of sail and weather conditions. We shared boat maintenance duties, navigation and chart functions, hauling sheets and halyards, tidying lines, making coffee, cooking an abundance of fresh food, doing dishes, and even emptying the toilet/ head holding tanks. We practiced man overboard recovery, reefing sails, mooring, anchoring, and docking, and learned to drive the boat with sails and engines. We also swam and snorkeled together every day, dined onshore as a group each evening, and came to think of ourselves as a team. Not just a team, but a damn good team considering what we observed in the BVI’s.

We knew we could call on each other to accomplish any task and that we shared responsibility for getting it done right. The skills Carl taught us were acknowledged when we sailed most of the way into an anchorage one day before dropping sails and motoring the last 50 yards to our buoy. Sailors on other moored boats took notice of our skills and waved as we sailed on in. We understood that our pride in our seamanship was reflected in how we handled our boat, how our sails were trimmed, how we used the wind to get us where we wanted to go.

And isn’t that what sailing is? Thank you Carl for a most awesome voyage, for sharing your knowledge with us, and for teaching us what being a Skipper is all about.

Scott Smith, Colorado Springs, CO

Certifications ASA 101, 103, 104, 105, 106, 114

Please note:

2014 Dates for Cruise & Learn - BVI are Feb 17-24, Feb 17-March 3, April 21-28, April 28- May 5- Join Us!

 

S A I L I N G  in the G U L F  I S L A N D S

on a Vancouver Sailing Club CRUISE & LEARN 

October 2012

I have recently begun a path to obtain all of my certifications for chartering. I have sailed and power boated for many years, but never before bothered with the certification process. In the past 12 months I have taken and passed numerous ASA certifications (101,103,104, 105 in progress, 106, and 114). Through these months I have had direct experience with 2 ASA schools and met and interacted with quite a number of other students from other sailing schools.   The second school the Vancouver Sailing Club and Sailing School was vastly superior to the first, and I have completed several courses with them.

In choosing a sailing school, my first experience has always been on the phone.  Having spent 25 years developing Customer Service help desks from the initial concepts in the 1980's through managing 30,000 desktop client environments more recently, I can assure you that the first point of contact into a service oriented company will likely establish your overall experience. As such, I easily weeded out a number of ASA schools simply based upon the schools professionalism and interaction in the initial phone call point-of-contact. After that I reviewed the schools based upon Internet research.  This weeded out several more due to complaints. Finally, having achieved the best selection I could from phone calls and research, I proceeded to book the class and make travel arrangements.

My first choice of a school had me wondering what went wrong with the above process. However I did learn a great deal about sailing in the BVI and about a sailing Instructors skills required when trying to create a cohesive crew from a group of total strangers with only the common interest in learning to sail.

My first memory is of our first schools Captains' explanation of such basics as sail raising, sail reefing, and points of sail- it was amazing to see the total confusion and frustration of students.  Every course I've been on had the pre-requisite requirement for the students to have read and performed solo testing of the Sailing Instruction Manuals.  However, the difference between reading a book and actually standing on the foredeck of a rolling boat was quite a difference.    The first experiences of our 4 member crew were of confusion and shame for not knowing what to do. 

With the Captain yelling instructions (I say yelling because a louder voice is required with wind, rigging, waves, and of course dialog between strangers) the Students had various reactions to this environment.   Once they had actually performed the duties, seen the results and returned to the cockpit, most everything settled down and became more comfortable. In talking with other students from other schools the experience varies greatly.  Most students believe that they are personally being yelled at directly, not as a crew member, but as a person.  From my observation many of these students come from office environments.  I explained my perspective to them and the change in attitude they had was remarkable.  However there were exceptions, I did interact (not from a learning position, but just being at the same BVI anchorage) with school Captains who really did yell at students and did denigrate them.  This unfortunately appeared to be the Captains instruction style. 

Having spent years of camping and travel to foreign countries, the first negative experiences of are generally with food.   I found on my first Cruise & Learn that the Students expected some sort of gourmet food on board.    Every student had a different idea of what that food was.  The sailing school's advertisement said that all meals were included.  Well, this means basic breakfast cereals, fruit, perhaps eggs, sandwiches, and basic dinners.    I quickly appreciated the Captain's who would offer the evening dining out experience. Their choice of anchorages normally included a bay with a couple of resort offerings.  The Students were disappointed that their dinners and drinks were not included.  In all honesty though, they were offered the choice of staying aboard and cooking their own, or going ashore.

I chose the Vancouver Sailing Club for my next Cruise & Learn experience in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. Upon  my arrival in Vancouver, I met with my Instructor and Skipper, Carl Richardson, and found a friend and teacher. The professionalism of having a real office, with study area, books, charts, navigation tools etc was quite a relief.  I think prospective students of sailing are surprised to find that many schools do not have brick and mortar buildings.  They have only the boat located somewhere in the world.  

Carl immediately sat me down in the office and inquired about what I needed to reach my sailing  goals.  I explained that I did not have the proper gear recommended for sailing in Vancouver and had purposely not purchased any, believing that Vancouver would have the type of stores to have the proper gear.  Carl, despite a hectic schedule, took me shopping to the perfect stores.  Carl spent his own time explaining the strengths of the various clothing & gear manufacturers products, getting me fitted correctly and utilizing VSC's business accounts to obtain significant discounts for my purchases.  Carl's attention did not stop there, he took me to another store where the final article "gortex socks" could be purchased. I have found that Carl's kindness and attention to this type of situation is his trademark.

My first  school had distractions (the Captain's personal relationship problems were evident), the poor maintenance of the boat, the horrific scheduling demands, etc.  Sailing with VSC was quite different. At the VSC, it was all about learning- to- sail with confidence and cruising enjoyment.  Our instruction yacht "ClaraALLEGRO" was a 2011 Beneteau First 36.7 sloop cruiser/racer in almost new condition.  Yes, there were some issues, but the issues became an opportunity to learn and were remedied in a timely fashion.

Our skippers' life was revealed only for learning sailing. Carl's experiences around the world were relayed in contextual reference for anchorage selection, anchor techniques, windage, currents, tide comparisons, navigation, boat designs, sail rigging, trimming sails etc.    

Carl's first moments with the 4 of us were spent in finding out about our sailing history and anything that would detract from the crews comfort or performance.  For myself I have a hearing problem with my left ear.  I explained this, and for the rest of the 7 days, Carl always, always made sure to remind the other crew.  Over the 7 days the crew took the time to remember this and help with communications.  I've never had a greater group to work with.

Every moment of sailing was spent learning.  If we were on a steady course, then Carl would review everything we had just been through, or other things that were to come up shortly.  We cruised through harbors identifying the rigging and differences of other boats.  Each day we logged our maintenance regimen, morning navigation review, constant attention to ATONs, right- of- way traffic, hazards of all manners, the approaching wind on the water, the lack of wind areas, weather changes etc.  Since we were in British Columbia the wonders of this area were also pointed out- seals, sea lions, dolphins, snow capped mountains, the constant float planes; a spectacular place of land and sea.    We took particular care in Navigation with Carl working with the Skipper and the Navigator of the Day always checking positions, hazards, velocity, current effects, tide ebbs and floods, etc.  The assigned watch/deckhands were constantly busy as well.  There was never a moment of confusion, everyone and I mean everyone knew exactly what was going on at all times.  I could not ask for a better lesson in "living in the moment".

The food was basic, but great.  Carl took us all along to the market for provisioning.  Beforehand we discussed food allergies, preparation care, cleanliness, etc.    Carl keeps a tidy boat and the galley was always clean and the food was great.  As a side note;  Carls' stew is incredible.  However, we did spend some evenings at well appointed marinas and had the delight of sampling the Gulf Island's dining establishments.  They were varied in cuisine and uniformly very good.  It was really nice to get off the boat at these times for a walk and use of the Marina's endless hot showers. Visiting the early morning coffee shops were fabulous at regenerating our spirits and energy.

My best experience ever in sailing was sitting at the helm with Carl by my side.  We were on a close reach in the early morning with 15-20 knots of wind, the two other students (now crew) were at my full disposal for sail trimming.  Carl's infinite patience and understanding allowed me to release all anxiety about the boat.  We sat and studied, tested, and observed all the aspects of sail trimming, sail twist, the effects of each and every control as applied to the jib and mainsail. Watching the shapes of the sails change and feeling the "power" differences, different degrees of heel, the actions of the crew, feeling the "groove" of the boat, the helm's "feel", the speed fluctuations on the boat.  It was a beautiful thing.

Carl took 4 total strangers and brought us together as a cohesive, trusting crew.    We all passed both our written and under-way exams for ASA106 certification. We have stayed in touch, and plan sailing together again in the spring with the VSC. Thanks Carl for a great adventure.

Jeff Dull

Colorado Springs, CO

certifications ASA 105, 106, 114

2014 Dates for Cruise & Learn - BVI are Feb 17-24, Feb 17-March 3, April 21-28, April 28- May 5 - Join us !

 

MEMBER OF THE VANCOUVER SAILING CLUB

2008- Present

I have been a student of Vancouver Sailing Club (VSC) and Member of the Club since September 2008, when my wife and I took ASA 101 and 103 on a cruise and learn with Carl Richardson as our Skipper and instructor. We have since taken 104 and 114. I have also completed 105 and am taking 106. We have done many day cruises with Carl and Vaughan Johansen, another VCS instructor. I am in the VSC racing program and completed the VCS 504 Competent Racing Crew course. Over the last 4 years I have been crew for many club races, regattas and several distance races, including Southern Straits and Round Salt Spring Island races.

I heard about VSC from a friend who knew of Carl and suggested I call him, knowing I was interested in learning to sail.  At that time we did not know about the VSC. I recall the first time we talked to Carl. It was long call and he took time to tell us about the club, his qualifications and experience, the courses and the gear we’d need. Being in Canada, I wondered why ASA and he explained how the certification was recognized around the world and a good choice if we wanted to cruise just about anywhere. We connected right away. There was no pressure to sign up. He was friendly and I immediately felt there would be a personal touch rather than being just another student. Turned out I was defintely right about that. He invited us down to see the boat we’d be on and explain some more on how the courses would go. I was convinced and we signed up. He provided course books to study and a few weeks later we were sailing. We had a wonderful time on that first trip. We learned lot and with Carl’s instruction built the confidence that we could become sailors. I was hooked and knew I wanted to do more sailing and take more courses.

I have found Carl to be professional yet friendly and easy going, patient and always happy to take questions and explain things to students at any level.

I think he is an excellent instructor and I’m sure every fellow student would agree. He’s obviously very knowledgeable about sailing. There is always a learning process going on with Carl on these trips. While we are enjoying a sail or at anchor he takes every opportunity to impart some knowledge, even small things, about sailing, seamanship, the boat, equipment, weather, life on board, etc. After four years he is still teaching me things every time we go out.

Carl is always very safety conscious. He encourages wearing PFDs at all times and requires it if the wind picks up. In rough weather jack lines are rigged and each crew is given a tether in case needed. Shortening sail early is discussed and he asks us to think- through putting in a reef. He always shows concern for students, making sure they are feeling okay, get breaks, warm enough in colder conditions  and having a good time. At the beginning of our 104 cruise and learn there were high winds in the strait. I’m sure we could have departed Powell River safely but Carl waited a day because 2 students were brand new to sailing. He later explained he didn’t want to chance them being too nervous the first time out. He wanted them to have positive first experience. We spent that day learning rigging and systems on the boat, practicing knots, charting and studying our books. We left the next day for Desolation Sound in beautiful weather, the start of one of our most enjoyable trips ever.

Carl is very calm and cool when things get a little dicey, as they can do when sailing. On our 114 course in the BVI, when raising the main we had the halyard on our 40 foot cat blown overboard in big gust and through the prop. Later that day both engines failed, due to dirty fuel and rough conditions stirring up the tank as it turned out. In 20-25 knot winds and having only the jib we had to short tack the narrow channel between the reefs to enter the harbour on Virgin Gorda. Even in the harbour the wind was up and we were unable to slow down enough to pick-up and hold onto a mooring buoy under sail. After 10 attempts we had to run to the other sheltered side of the bay to anchor and pray it would set the first time. Thankfully it did and then we set a second anchor to be sure. Throughout the experience, and with some nervous students, Carl was calm and reassuring. If he was nervous it did not show. He was like an airline pilot calmly preparing passengers during an emergency. 

Carl always suggests great sailing locations, anchorages and destinations. Not to mention some fine restaurants, in some pretty remote places. He knows the cruising area very well and is familiar with just about every place we’ve gone and the different routes to get there. Boats are kept in good condition, clean and equipped with everything we need.  Things are kept tidy on deck and below. Carl makes sure the boat is well provisioned and everything is included for meals aboard. We have enjoyed many great meals aboard including our favourites fresh spring salmon steaks with asparagus and maple syrup glazed carrots. 

We’ve met lots of great people on C&Ls sailing in Desolation Sound, Howe Sound, the Gulf Islands and the BVI with VSC and made new friends who look forward to sailing with us next time. Maybe it is a common interest and love of sailing, or the fact that we are all having a great experience- we’ve liked and got along with everyone we sailed with. That’s easy when everyone is having a great time- and I’m sure it has something to do with Carl’s great attitude, enthusiasm, the way he runs the courses and life on the boat.

I would recommend Carl and the VSC to anyone who wants to learn to sail, to improve their sailing skills with advanced courses or get into racing.

Steve Wilson

North Vancouver, BC

2014 Dates for Cruise & Learn - BVI are Feb 17-24, Feb 17-March 3, April 21-28, April 28- May 5 - Join Us!

 

 

This is a pretty embarrassing story for me to tell but I’m going to tell it anyway in first person rather than say “I knew a guy who once who …”. It’s pretty much a result of me getting out of the wrong side of the bed and it affected my abilities on a boat and turned a really good day out into a massive reset relearning experience for me – and a dang good blog topic. One that I really hope you devour and take to heart.

It’s about how to be an effective leader on a boat.

Being on a boat is a test of your personal management and people skills. Typically you have friends, family, spouses etc on the boat and also often, friends of friends. So as skipper, managing all those people and personalities is a challenge not to be taken lightly. The test of success is to end the adventure where people still like you because that’s more important than anything. Much of the time leadership is not a big issue especially on a day outing but sometimes and especially on a week long adventure, situations arise when you can make the biggest of mistakes with people.

He’s an example of a situation this past weekend. We all went out on my friend’s Beneteau 37. It was an awesome day with lots of wind and I was anxious to fly his genaker.

On the boat were my friend (the owner) some of his friends and some of mine. Amongst the friends were various levels of sailing experience from zero to intermediate.

My friend and I have captained boats all over the world, so stepping on the boat we made the giantest of mistakes by not setting roles and I made the biggest one of all by assuming the role of leader and completely forgetting that it was his boat

First off – a pleasure boat is not the corporate world and it’s not the military. People are on the boat solely to have a good time. They are away from the office and don’t want to be told what to do. They get enough of that in their jobs. So barking orders and using the excuse – I’m the Captain is not going to let people leave liking you.

And you’ve got to manage your own ego too. In my younger days before I realized this stuff here – I’d like to show off a little that I knew what was going on. It felt to me to raise my self worth and it felt good – to me. Note there is a lot of “me” in that. That information coming in from other people on the boat was already what I knew and I let them know that. Someone would say “watch out for that boat” and I would say “I know I already saw it”. Funny though because I’d take info from a GPS device but not from people. I also made the big leadership mistake in those days that knowledge was power and that I would gain leadership by showing knowledge which auto gave me the power. You can observe this this failing everyday in the corporate world. A boss will withhold info just to make them feel powerful and all it really achieves is that it pisses off their subordinates. So we know that doesn’t work.

What works well on a boat is the President Lincoln leadership style. Lincoln is attributed as being one of the world’s greatest leaders. He involved people to make them feel like they were part of the process. He gathered the advice and then made a decision. His Generals and others around him saw that he was taking input and thus they felt valued. When someone feels that they are valued – they will follow. They also see that you’re making a decision from the best advice at hand. Leadership is NOT about knowledge, it’s not about barking commands, leadership is about getting people to follow you from a perspective of respect in you. Respect is earned not appointed. You’ve got to be a respect ROCK and you can’t let your ego get in or your impatience take its toll or your anxiousness overtake.

This past weekend I lost my rockness for some reason. Up on wrong side of the bed? Don’t know!. The first thing that set me off was a crew member who I consider knowledgeable let go of the docklines when we were side-to in the wind. It blew us against the leeward dock and set us up for a scrape down the side of the boat.  I lambasted him for this – in front of the other crew. Now who’s the jerk? He made a fundamental boating mistake but I made a bigger fundamental people mistake. What would have been better was to say something like – “Hey John – I think I’ll pass the dock line back over you so we can start again – the wind is pushing us against the dock and I don’t want to scrape the boat. We’ll recenter the boat and then you can walk back with it as we pull out holding us away from the dock. Is that ok?” But instead what came out was “Come on John you know better than that- what the hell did you release that line for?” Which comment would garner me respect from him and the other crew?

Next thing that set me off was after we had reefed the mainsail and were heading on a beam reach, the mainsail was sheeted in too tight and so I said let out the mainsail. Two crew members  blew out the reef. OMG. So I went into lambast mode again. Now I’m looking like a real jerk again. After the lambasting they claimed that my instructions were not clear. In my mind and my language I’m going “wow if were on a beam reach and the sail is sheeted in tight – isn’t it bloody obvious that let out the main sail means let out the sheet not the reef. OMG.”

So what’s happening here? Sounds like a corporate project meeting gone wrong with a leader promoted above their abilities doesn’t it. Blame, yelling, stamping excuses.

I’m keeping this in first person, accepting personal responsibility for this and blogging this publicly because I want to make the point that even though I think I’m a good leader on a boat look who I turned into – this is not me – I’m always being told that I am the calmest captain ever – because I know this stuff – but what the @#$%. What happened was I let my self down and my internal  known leadership skills.

What should I have done in that last instance?  Well first off – there is no danger – you’ve got to accept that – next confront the fact that you are frustrated – next use this knowledge here to know that frustration is not going to solve the issue.

In Steven Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he discusses this topic. He presents that Humans have the ability to observe an action, think about it and then after they have thought about it then they can decide on a reaction – that highly effective people are conscious of this and engage this in their everyday, every moment life. It’s a good read by the way.

So thinking about it – venting frustration is not the most effective way to handle blowing out the reef. Best way to handle that is to accept responsibility for not being clear. Equally obvious is that if a crew member blew out the reef then they did not know what they were doing. They did not do it vindictively – they did it out of lack of knowledge that I assumed they had. So best way is to remedy the situation. “Whoops, I’m sorry that was my mistake for not being clear. Let’s get the boom out, bring the reef back in and then we’ll set the main sheet to match our heading.” Then perhaps ask a question to re-involve the crew and gain some interaction. “BTW does anyone have any desired direction they want to go today”. i.e. you’re showing that whilst you have the technical issues of sail set down pat, you are involving the crew in overall strategic decision making.

Next thing that set me off was that as I moved to the bow of the boat to set up the genaker with the owner, I left a crew member in charge of maintaining course (same one who blew out the reef). The boat began going all over the place, I yelled back “sail the boat will you”. Then it got worse and worse with the owner jumping in and now throwing a tissy fit that he didn’t appreciate being told what to do.

This is a signal folks. Good friends at log aheads and with the crew sitting there too shocked to say anything.

As soon as you recognize something is going on like this on a boat, you have to put on your good leader hat and swallow crow and realize that you have created the situation and accept responsibility. With the owner now spitting the pacifiers out of the cot I should certainly have gotten privately together with him and had a talk. Afterward we realized it was over something small but significant enough to set him off – but only because I had created the “set off atmosphere” and he’d been breathing the bad air.

Jim Cathcart a national speaker and author developed “The Acorn Principle”. It says that an acorn already knows that it will turn into a mighty oak. From that he developed the concept of asking yourself in any situation “How would the person I want to be – do the thing I’m about to do”. For example, how would Lincoln have solved this? Applying this then you have to ask yourself, “if I am to be the best leader of this boat (corporation, government, non profit, team, family) what should I do now.” If you know the story of Shackleton, you might ask “how would shackleton have solved this?  Almost immediately this has the effect of settling you down with the answer. At any point on that day adventure – if I had asked myself that question the day would have been completely different. The answer surely would not have been “to get frustrated and yell and embarrass crew members”. Moreover it would have been more like “To help fix the situation in a positive manner, involve the crew, make sure they are having a good time and if someone does something stupid – it’s not stupid to them”

Finally, I’m going to address the safety of the boat vs people management issue because some will say “well dang it – it’s my responsibility to save the boat and if we are in a bad situation then people’s feelings don’t matter”. To answer that I’m going to call rubbish. Not matter which way you cut it, that is bad leadership and you’ll create panic, uncertainly arguments and mutiny (ask Captian Bligh who’s been tagged as the biggest jerk captain ever). If you’ve got a sinking boat, a bad storm, a life situation your good leadership skills are more paramount than anything. Leadership will save the boat, get you through the storm and save a life. Good leadership might go like this “Crew we have a serious situation, I know what to do and I will need all your help and agreement to get us through this as a team. As a team we will solve this. Can I have your agreement?” If there is an injury then you can then ask “who is the best at bandages?”. You see, you don’t have to say I know what I am doing and take over the bandages. You’re establishing command and leadership and involving the crew. When you get a difficult crew member arguing with you it’s best to take that person aside. Put on your leadership hat lower your voice, listen and say to yourself how would Lincoln have solved this? Perhaps if you really listen to one of your crew (generals) one just might have a good idea but would otherwise be too scared to bring it up. A one minute good leadership meeting will do more to save your boat and crew than any amount of barking orders and trying to command civilians from your self appointed captain’s seat.

If there is one thing you can take from this article, please take the acorn principle “how can I be the best leader in this situation right now?”

That and make sure you get out of the right side of the bunk everyday – that goes for life too.

Like it? Please “LIKE” it.

PS – if you’re taking a bareboat charter trip please get all your crew to read this article then get them to take the Bareboat Charter Sailing Course (you too). The course is not  a repeat course on how to sail a boat – it’s more about making sure everyone has the right information to make the trip a success – after all that is what you are going for – a good time right? Who wants to have a crappy time on a sailing vacation because the crew didn’t gel? Also available in iBook format here – Bareboat charter sailing iBook on iTunes for iPad.

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