competent crew sailing yacht learn to sail

Complete Novices to Competent Crew | Learning to Sail Course


A bright and sunny October morning greeted us at the Rosslyn Bay yacht club where we would begin our our RYA competent crew passage down the East Coast of Australia. Our learning to sail journey was finally starting. We met our instructor and other aspiring sailors and made our way down into the marina to meet our vessel and home for the week. First thing we noticed..

This boat is huge!! I mean it’s booty was massive! 

Being the first time we had really set foot on a 40ft yacht, not going to lie, it was pretty cool. They are so wide and really do seem much bigger in person. I think we quickly started imaging our own boat and what it would be like to call one of these big ol’ things home.

Crew introductions…… check!

Quick tour…… check!

Claim your cabin…… check!

Safety briefing…… check!

And with that we we’re off!! Hopefully someone on this boat knows what they doing!

The Passage

That once bright and glorious morning quickly turned into stronger winds (which we weren’t mad about as we were there to sail after all!) and gloomy skies (those we could have definitely done without). Before we knew it we had motored out of the marina, hoisted the mainsail, had Keppel Island in our sights and I was first behind the wheel.

This steering wheel had to be the biggest wheel I had ever seen. It was massive!!

Massive for reasons I now understand but at the time I felt like a 2 year old at the wheel of a monster truck! Nevertheless, we were SAILING!! We were finally are going to put all those youtube videos and books into practice!

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That first sensation of taking the helm was awesome! With the exception of a hobie cat, I had never sailed before. I have no idea how I became so in love with the idea without having experienced it but so far it is living up to expectations. A week learning to sail a big yacht sounded pretty good to me. Being able to travel somewhere by wind is the most incredible feeling – no sound of a motor, just the ocean lapping the sides of the boat and some ramblings of the crew.

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This competent crew course exposed us to plenty of variety over the course of the week. We had days of rain, days with no wind, cloudy skies, clear skies, no swell, 2 metre swell and much more in between.

It is all just a reminder that this way of life leaves you completely at the mercy of the weather.

This was also the case for our crew… We had a one week window to complete the passage but due to impending severe weather we had to hurry down the coast reaching Mooloolaba in 5 days.

We were constantly on the move. Each crew member taking 1 hour shifts at the helm while the others took the time to rest or adjust our course. The first couple of days were spent familiarising ourselves with the workings of a sailboat and also trying some man overboard drills.

The crew were becoming more competent by the minute.

By the time we were nearing Hervey Bay we were in our groove. The weather had also cleared up and we had the most picture perfect conditions cruising towards Fraser Island.


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It was at this stage where were so far off shore we could no longer see land. I think that was a highlight for me as I really didn’t know how I would react.

Could have been a complete panic attack but let me tell you, I loved it!!

All it did was make me want to go further!

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The perfect weather continued.. A calm, glassy ocean with a light breeze. The crew definitely would have appreciated a little more wind but looking around, you really couldn’t complain about the conditions.


Our now competent crew actually navigated the sandy straits (the area between Fraser Island and mainland) at night which was a pretty cool experience. Motoring through the narrow straits by the light of the moon. Lining up your course with the port and starboard markers that were scattered in front of you.


We arrived at our anchorage where we spent the remainder of the night, waiting until morning when we would cross the notorious Wide Bay bar. Lucky for us, it had saved it’s notorious reputation for another day and we crossed with no dramas.





The last day was by far our favourite. The weather was perfect! The morning started with a breeze from the north which just pushed us along. We had the sails “wing-on-wing” and it was incredible. As we neared the Sunshine Coast, winds and swell picked up a little and we had what they call “classic trade-winds sailing”.

Now we are talking! This was the stuff we were after!

Keeping great speed, surfing down the waves as we cruised past the coast. By now all the crew were confident (and definitely competent), having a ball and we were on the home stretch.


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This was also the day there seemed to be whales everywhere we turned. We saw them breaching at all distances and were even lucky enough to have two surface right beside the boat! Their size and beauty is just incredible but it is when they go back under you get a little nervous as to where they will pop up next!

The week was definitely not a relaxing holiday.

We came home EXHAUSTED as two very salty, grotty yachties.

A lot happened in those 5 days and as our first time I think we nailed it! Learning to sail gets a big tick off the list!

This was the RYA competent crew course which overall was a great introduction to handling a yacht. We are now officially competent crew members with an internationally recognised qualification – but where to next?

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This is just part of phase one in our preparation and journey towards the sailing dream. We are saving our pennies and are hoping to have many more sailing adventures soon!


Until next time.



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