Monday, April 06, 2015

All Aboard! It's Sailing Time!

Sure took me that long to finally post my sailing experience - Right well technically speaking, that sailing race I was on in San Diego was my first sailing experience but I was more a spectator than a participant.  But I knew I had it in my blood that I wanted to try sailing.  Heck I took my PPCDL (power boat) 2 years ago and have been talking about taking up sailing courses since then!  Finally, I decided not to wait anymore and went at it on my own.
There are so many sailing courses on offer at all the marine centers in Singapore but most, if not all, of them are offering their own kinda in-house courses that are just a 2 day event - each a half day of theory and half day of practical and you go away upon completion being kinda 'certified'.  After much searching, I finally found one that offers RYA certified courses! Keppel Bay Sailing Academy is the only one I've found that offers RYA courses and it is so much more worth it than those 2 Day ones elsewhere.  On this competent crew course (which I took), you spent 5 days onboard the sailing boat, really experiencing life on a boat. You eat, sleep, and live on the boat, even having to use the potty (called head) when out at sea (which is most of the day).  The course outline is such that we spend half the time in Singapore waters and the other half in Batam waters, and anchor at night at the marina - which means shower and proper toilet facilities when we are anchored at the marina.  Food are all prepared onboard - so we had provisions kept in the boat, except for the 2 nights in Batam where we ate out (mostly due to lack of portable clean water to cook with).
Our sailing boat Venture with Nicky
So how was the course?  I really enjoyed it very much! It was labour-intensive - so whoever said sailing is relaxing, you are soo wrong! Ok, well I mean when you are on course or racing, it is obviously more intensive than leisurely sailing.  And I really think this course is very informative and teaches you by practice instead of purely classroom based theory lessons.  You get to feel, touch and be in sailing conditions, you get to helm the boat and practice everyday tacking and gybing and reefing and winching.  Everything you need.  And with 5 days out in the sea, that translates to plenty of practice time!  The course takes in maximum 5 people onboard each time, and there are 3 bunkers in the boat.  Note that the day skipper course is also conducted together with competent crew course, like mine did, which is kinda good if you happen to be on one with skippers onboard.  You get to learn what skippers have to learn, though the condensed version. 
And given the really hot Singapore weather, be weather prepared!  I was really sunburnt at the end of the 2nd day.  It was just sooo hot!  Long sleeves are recommended unless you really want a T-shirt tan.  Long pants too if you don't want your legs to look amputated.  Mine did at the end of the course, and I ended up with sunglasses tan too! 
Exhausted after 2 long days
Anyway back to the course.  It was more of a knowledge course than just teaching you the theoretical stuff about sailing.  Of course there are theories but more of application of the theories to actual situations.  So our theory lessons were kept to a minimum with a lot of practice out in the open sea.  In Singapore, it is more theoretical in terms of the navigation signs and rules as we are an open port with a lot of heavy traffic due to container ships and such.  I got to helm the boat several times and for long and that was fun!  I was a pro at it.  And let me tell you, helming is no easy task.  It is not just standing pretty and steering the wheel.  It requires a lot of concentration and core strength to steady yourself at the helm and handle the wheel, and especially when the tides/currents/wind are strong, you need some strength to control the wheel.  We learnt about rope knotting as well, and that was good knowledge!  Now I can tie knots a dozen different ways!
Just before the night sailing
We did a lot of tacking (when the wind is coming from the bow and you turn into the wind) and gybing (when sailing downwind - wind coming from stern).  It was pretty fun getting into the groove of things, shouting the commands or just basically winching it.  Of course, we did MOB (man over board), was not much fun but we learnt how to completely stop the sailing boat and I did it twice!  And we had one night sailing - that was so tiring.  The day was so long, we ended at 1am!  Night sailing is something of an experience.  So quiet and peaceful, but you become kinda blinded by all the lights from the ships and they sometimes mesh into one big beam of light that it becomes difficult to identify the different lights and the type of vessels.  It was a little stressful for me sometimes to clearly identify the vessels.  And when the wind kinda really picked up,  it was kinda exciting and strangely nerve-wrecking as well.  I didn't skipper at night but I guess it must be quite something to skipper at night, especially in unchartered waters.  I would love to sailing at night in the open seas without so many obstacles just to experience a truly purely sailing experience.  I think I would love it a lot more.  I like night sailing, but with less obstacles.
There are no tests at the end of the course.  It is just a competent crew course for us, and our instructor would kinda 'score' us at the end of the course.  Our instructor was Nicky, she's British and really great instructor.  She has her own way of helping us remember things easier and it was a lot of fun learning from her!  I loved it.  It was a huge expense burning my pocket but no regrets!  I would love to go on more sailing trips, and real sailing trips outside as well!  No doubt about it, I and water have a tight relationship.  I'm attracted to anything water-based/associated, and I just want to do it all!  Canoeing, kayaking, sailing, wakeboard, windsurf, surfing, swimming, diving etc.  I need to try SUP soon. 
Oh we have to do a dingy test at the end of the course
Standing proud with our certificates
And did I mention this course is a very effective weight loss programme?  I lost 2kg at the end of the 5 Day.  And I think my course mates too.  Why?  The exertion over the 5 Days, the extreme sun, and well we didn't eat as much or as well onboard the boat actually.   
Check out the website for more information on the courses and also other sailing activities they have on offer - twilight sailing, corporate sailing, and Simply sailing etc.