We wrapped up our American Sailing Association 101 and 103 courses, with the Victoria Sailing School, a couple of weeks ago. What this entailed was taking our last practical lesson, which was on a J/30, so it was about eight feet longer than the other boats we’ve been on and taking our two tests.
First the sailing lesson. We had some wind, not a lot, but just enough to get the boat moving without the aid of the motor. The mainsail and the jib were out and had beautiful form. They were pulling the boat along nicely, not fast at all, while I wasn’t clocking it, I wouldn’t guess we were going more than about 3 or 4 knots. Just enough to know that we were sailing. It was actually a great end to these practical lessons, and at least for me, it gave me more of sense of desire to have the wind be my engine.
This final lesson was not so much about learning new skills, but rather about applying the skills already learned in a new setting. It was about practice and being able to put those skills to the test. I will say, it was a little bit of a challenge at first for two reasons. One, we hadn’t been on a boat since October. Sailing is like anything else. You need to use the skills to keep them fresh. I learned that when trying to tie a cleat hitch…I still need to practice that some more.
The second thing that really made the application of the sailing skills a little challenging was the new systems. The jib was on a furler, so it unrolled as opposed to being hoisted. The winches were self-tailing two speed winches meaning you locked your line into the winch and then you ‘pull’ at a couple of different speeds. We had an inboard diesel as opposed to an outboard four-stroke. The reality was though, that even though many systems were new to us, once we got the sails up, we were just sailing. We needed some reminding, but we got the boat moving under the power of the wind.
Then it was time to take the tests. Each course had its own test, each was 100 questions. We spent a lot of time reviewing the videos and our notes. Really trying to make sure that we didn’t need to retake the test. It was a little nerve wracking to say the least. If you don’t get an 80% or better you don’t pass. One of the things I thought I would struggle with was the diagrams of the boat. I can identify the transom, the battens, the bowsprit on an actual boat. But, put it into a 2D diagram, you have to make sure that you are able to figure out exactly where the line is pointing to, or you’re going to identify the wrong part and get the question wrong.
We sat down, each of us with a pen in hand, and started down the road of the test. The studying, reviewing, and yes cramming, paid off. As we each were answering questions, I think we all had the same basic thought of, “This isn’t too bad” going through our heads. There was obviously, some second guessing about what some of the questions were asking, and even a few things that I just was at a loss for, but eventually I figured out what was being asked. But overall, when I left, I felt pretty confident. I think the key thing that I took away from the testing is something that the owner of the school said, which was, “You can pass this test, and you most likely will, but the key thing is to be able to apply it on the water.”
He’s right. I could identify on paper, the proper route for a boat to go through a channel, but when I am faced with that situation later this summer…can I do it? I think so, but until you are faced with it, you don’t really know. Really this is true of a lot of things life, being able to see things on paper is one thing. Being able to handle the situation in real life is another.
It was exciting though the next day when he emailed us our results and we all passed with flying colors. I was pretty excited, now we are just waiting for the little seals to go in our log books that shows we passed. So…now that we have passed the basic keelboat and basic coastal cruising courses, what’s next? Next is the ASA 104 Bareboat Cruising course. This certification allows you to charter boats and stay relatively close to land. You learn about passage making, provisioning, knots, etc. The basics of being able to handle a boat on your own. We have a few weeks until that course. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes and how we applied our 101 and 103 skills to the largest boat yet…
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