Ways to Learn navigation before your Day Skipper Practical Course

How to pass your RYA Day Skipper with Flying Colours

Day Skipper Practical is the next step up the RYA qualification ladder in terms of practical courses, but it is quite a big rung…..and ideally you are supposed to introduce yourself to navigation and quite a few other things before you sign up for RYA Day Skipper Practical courses. 

The Missing Rung on the Sailing Skills Ladder

After completing a Competent Crew Course, there is a temptation to skip the Day Skipper theory course and ‘have a go’ at the RYA Day Skipper Practical on your next sailing ‘holiday.’ Whilst you don’t need to have the RYA Day Skipper Theory course certificate, you do need a decent bit of navigational knowledge equivalent to this classroom or on line course to have a chance of passing the Day Skipper Practical course at sea.

Sailing Skills: You also need to be competent enough at sailing a boat for the instructor to be able to teach you skipper skills and refine your responses to possible emergencies. You don’t have to be the next Olympic hopeful dinghy racer before you sign up for a Day Skipper Practical Course at sea, just be able to tell where the wind is coming from, tack and gybe safely and keep the boat and crew safe and happy.

preparing to gybe by pulling the mainsheet in
preparing to gybe by pulling the mainsheet in

Not sure if you know enough?

As a ‘trainee’ skipper sailing near the coast you actually need nearly as much knowledge as someone aiming at Yachtmaster level, so the Day Skipper Theory syllabus is huge and takes about 40 hours to teach in a classroom. The difference between day skipper and yachtmaster theory is you are not expected to be brilliant at the new concepts your are learning …and the Day Skipper Practical aims to give you practice at using them. In time you can speed up with your fixes and tidal calculations and look like a pro.

Check out the RYA Day Skipper Theory Course Syllabus here

Day Skipper Theory Syllabus

Fast Track to Day Skipper?

If you are totally new to charts then you can buy the on line course – RYA Essential Navigation and Seamanship. Its a good introduction and a lot simpler and cheaper than the fully comprehensive Day Skipper Theory….but may leave you with a few gaps.

How to buy from us – RYA Essential Navigation and Seamanship – £95

Willing to put the Groundwork in?

A better option is to buy an on line  RYA Day Skipper Theory Course (everything you need to know) and study it at home.

It is not a requirement of that you have RYA Day Skipper Theory Certificate before you sign up for Day Skipper Practical Courses at sea, but you are expected to have same level of knowledge.

How to buy from us – RYA Day Skipper Theory Course £295

How can I improve my sailing skills first?

In terms of sailing skills you need to be happy preparing boat and crew to tack and gybe and put sails up and down safely. Dinghy sailing is good practice or sailing bigger boats and starting to get involved in watch leader type tasks where you have to lead and organise crew and sailing manoeuvres. Theses are the type of things you can get involved in on almost any Classic Sailing voyage, The smaller the vessel, the easier it is to understand how the wind, sail trim and tide is effecting the boat. The bigger the vessel, the better a watch leaders people management skills need to be….so its all useful.

getting experience as race crew is useful with the right skipper
getting experience as race crew is useful with the right skipper

Learn navigation skills whilst on a boat

If you find sitting a desk or computer to learn navigation difficult, then you can build up your navigational knowledge in bite sized chunks whilst sailing for leisure, or on one of Classic Sailing holiday voyages. Ask the professional crew or skipper if you can have a go at things like taking a fix, plotting a position or working out tides.  They generally enjoy teaching keen sailors if you pick the right moment.

If you have a sailing friend or a skipper who can teach you basic chart work, here are a few key skills:

  • How to use a breton plotter to set a course
  • How to use dividers and measure distance on a chart
  • How to take three point fixes with a hand bearing compass and fix a position on a chart.
  • How to put a latitude and longitude position on the chart.
  • Get familiar with Almanacs and publications on a typical sail training vessel
  • How to look up tidal heights and fill in a tidal curve for the day.
  • Look up tidal streams along the coast

It is great learning theory skills in a setting where you can apply them to real sailing straight away, so start notching up as many skills as you can. You are giving yourself more of a chance of passing your day skipper practical and enjoying the exercises of taking the boat from A to B. There is not time in the Practical Course to teach all the theory……and its a waste of good sailing time. You are supposed to be out there applying the skills…..

When you come to do your RYA Day Skipper Course on Moosk or Golden Vanity, the instructor is going to help you to combine sailing the boat safely with navigating….in a leader like and friendly way. If you can manage that you are on the way to being a skipper that the crew trust.

learning navigation on a tall ship is possible -Santa Maria Manuela
learning navigation on a tall ship is possible -Santa Maria Manuela

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