Practical Sea School

Practical Sea School

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Operating as usual

Photos from Practical Sea School's post 07/01/2024

Grateful for some winter sun. Thanks to the brilliant help from friends we were able to make the most of it. Thatโ€™s a wrap on a very busy weekend of boatworks on Jalapeรฑo - getting ready for a full year of sailing ahead!


You know a refit is getting serious when you have to order big lumps of bronze from the States! This isn't Tim mimicking Angela Merkel's power pose - this is the new steering quadrant for Jalapeรฑo, one of the last bits of the puzzle.

Wishing you all a very happy New Year. We are mightily excited about 2024.


Now that our Christmas gift cards have been received we can share one with you. Tim enjoyed getting his calligraphy pens out for this, although claimed he was rusty! Of course the dodgy sail trim is for dramatic effect. ๐Ÿ˜†
Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. x

Photos from Practical Sea School's post 16/12/2023

By popular demand we are running some TASTER DAYS this coming spring and summer onboard our recently refitted sailing boat Jalapeรฑo. ยฃ120 per person. Bring a pack lunch.
A great Christmas gift for a loved one wanting to try stepping on a sailing boat, or the perfect group activity with family and friends. Book now before they fill up!

Free hand written calligraphy gift card included if purchased before 1st January.


Practicing helicopter rescue in the Solent today. Thank you for offering to drop in, and for the excellent piloting.

Photos from Practical Sea School's post 17/11/2023

Weโ€™re so excited about going to Scotland this summer. If you want to learn to sail while having a big adventure, eating delicious food, have a look at our sailing voyages.

LEG 1 West Country Cruise
LEG 2 Falmouth to Oban Mile Builder
LEG 3 Oban to Stornoway Cruise
LEG 4 Stornoway to Oban Cruise
LEG 5 Caledonian Canal Cruise
LEG 6 Inverness to London Mile Builder
LEG 7 London to Chichester

Look forward to seeing you onboard. โ›ต๏ธ๐Ÿ’จ


Our 2024 courses are now live! As well as our RYA courses we will also be voyaging to Falmouth, The Hebrides, The Caledonian Canal and London on a UK circuit with our Standfast 43 sailboat, Jalapeรฑo. Go to our website for more details or get in touch to see how we can help you fulfil your sailing ambitions in 2024. Look forward to having you on board!


Nothing like some autumnal black tieโ€ฆoff to the Yachtmasters 50th Anniversary dinner tonight. Thanks Phil for lending me your penguin suit!


Two places have just become available on our Autumn half-term course for RYA Competent Crew or RYA Day Skipper.

We start at Itchenor in Chichester Harbour at 9:00am on Monday 23rd October, finishing 4pm on Friday 27th October.

If you'd like to come sailing on this half-term week you can find full details on our website or get in touch [email protected]


***๐‚๐ฅ๐จ๐ฌ๐ž๐ ๐›๐ž๐ซ๐ญ๐ก ๐ฌ๐œ๐ž๐ง๐š๐ซ๐ข๐จ ๐š๐ง๐ฌ๐ฐ๐ž๐ซ***

Thank you to all who responded to this, loads of good ideas and consideration given, with most of you recognising that this is a spicy situation.

I have adjusted the drawing slightly so that it looks more realistic in terms of marina spacing and boat sizes, although this had no bearing on the answer to the actual question (copied below).

๐ด๐‘  ๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘ค๐‘Ž๐‘ฆ๐‘ , ๐‘คโ„Ž๐‘’๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ฆ๐‘œ๐‘ข ๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘š๐‘๐‘ก ๐‘ ๐‘œ๐‘š๐‘’๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘™๐‘–๐‘˜๐‘’ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘™๐‘™ ๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘๐‘’๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘ฆ๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘“๐‘–๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘›๐‘๐‘’ ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘กโ„Ž ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘Ž๐‘ก โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘™๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘“๐‘Ž๐‘š๐‘–๐‘™๐‘–๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘ฆ ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘กโ„Ž ๐‘ฆ๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ฃ๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘™, ๐‘ ๐‘œ ๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘™ ๐‘คโ„Ž๐‘œ ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘ค๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘‘, โ€˜๐‘›๐‘œ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘˜๐‘ โ€™ ๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ โ€˜๐ผโ€™๐‘‘ ๐‘ค๐‘Ž๐‘–๐‘ก ๐‘“๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘‘๐‘’ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘”๐‘’โ€™, ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘กโ€™๐‘  ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘š๐‘๐‘™๐‘’๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘™๐‘ฆ ๐‘“๐‘Ž๐‘–๐‘Ÿ ๐‘’๐‘›๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘”โ„Ž ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘๐‘™๐‘’ โ€“ ๐‘ฆ๐‘œ๐‘ขโ€™๐‘ฃ๐‘’ ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘๐‘œ๐‘”๐‘›๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ก ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘›โ€™๐‘ก ๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘–๐‘”โ„Ž๐‘ก๐‘“๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘ค๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘‘ - ๐‘คโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘โ„Ž ๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘๐‘ฆ ๐‘“๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘š๐‘œ๐‘ ๐‘ก ๐‘–๐‘š๐‘๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘ก๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘ก ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘›๐‘”.

But if you were considering going for it letโ€™s start by breaking down why this is so tricky:

1. Itโ€™s a closed berth and there isnโ€™t any room to make it into an open berth*.

2. Judging by the 2 knots of tide outside the aisle it is with the tide - so stopping is going to be much harder than if you were going against the tide into the berth.

3. The wind is blowing you off the pontoon you ultimately want to go alongside.

Finally - going in forward, to get better shelter from the gale, means that you are reliant on reverse to stop against the tide. If there was no gale coming, going in astern and using forward to stop yourself against the tide would be more positive in this scenario, as itโ€™ll give more control (especially with the folding props our school boats are fitted with, which have much less punch in reverse).

Of course, this is assuming the boat goes in astern nicely โ€“ which is why I โ€“ or rather the encroaching gale - removed it as an option. (Anybody who sails close to the Arctic circle, like we do, will generally always berth with the bow into the weather for better shelter, itโ€™s miserable otherwise. Sorry if the sybaritic Med sailors amongst you found this logic implausible!)

So, in short, everything is stacked against you.

To make a success of this manoeuvre something has to give. The simplest thing to change is the goal posts; by deliberately rafting up against the yellow boat you transform this berth into an open berth, and it all becomes a lot more possible.

***๐’๐จ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐š๐ง๐ฌ๐ฐ๐ž๐ซ ๐ข๐ฌ: ๐€๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐ฅ๐ข๐ง๐ž๐ฌ ๐š๐ง๐ ๐Ÿ๐ž๐ง๐๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ ๐จ๐ง ๐ฌ๐ญ๐š๐ซ๐›๐จ๐š๐ซ๐ ๐ฌ๐ข๐๐ž, ๐ข๐ง๐ข๐ญ๐ข๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ฒ.***

Why? because youโ€™re probably going to end up there anyway โ€“ so you may as well make it look deliberate!

I didnโ€™t define the exact number of crew you had, but youโ€™re not shorthanded so you have enough for one roaming fender. If somehow, we did come close to the pontoon on the port side (unlikely given the conditions) we can avoid damage from that using the roamer. Itโ€™s always a good idea to have a roaming fender if youโ€™ve got the crew. If you have extra crew have all of them roaming in this scenario!
Once ยฝ your boat is adjacent the yellow boat Iโ€™d be hitting full astern to stop and get a line on the yellow boat. As soon as we stop the bow will blow us off and onto the yellow boat. Iโ€™d stay on the helm giving short bursts of reverse to stem the tide until lines are secure.

If I didnโ€™t have enough crew for more than one roaming fender Iโ€™d definitely have an emphasis for the fenders on the starboard forward 2/3rds of the boat. There is a chance that we could overcompensate for the tide and stop early (especially if itโ€™s slacker in the berth โ€“ more on this below), before fully in. The risk here is that the stern then gets blown around, so having the roamer briefed to come to the starboard quarter as soon as weโ€™re stopped is a good idea.

As ever with rafting alongside the aim is to get a short midships line on as quickly as possible. I would also have a bow spring (from our bow) ready in case the alignment of the midship cleats meant that the short midships line didnโ€™t prevent the bow from being pushed onto the pontoon by the tide. This line will also help to spring the stern out, away from the yellow boat.

Apart from these two lines the wind and the tide should do the rest. If the tide is still really strong up at the berth then having a stern line ready stop the stern being pulled around to port by the flow of tide would be prudent, although with that wind it probably wonโ€™t be needed.

With your boat safely alongside the yellow boat you can then re-arrange fenders and pull across to the finger pontoon on the port side. Using the winches to help with this reduces the effort.

๐‘‡โ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘ ๐‘’ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘ž๐‘ข๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘’๐‘›๐‘๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘”๐‘’ ๐‘ฆ๐‘œ๐‘ข ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ ๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘“๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘ข๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘š๐‘๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘™๐‘ฆ ๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘™๐‘‘ ๐‘ฆ๐‘œ๐‘ข ๐‘“๐‘–๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘ฆ๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘™๐‘“ ๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘กโ„Ž ๐‘Ž ๐‘๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘กโ„Ž ๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘ข๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘™๐‘–๐‘˜๐‘’ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘’. ๐ผ๐‘“ ๐‘‘๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘’ ๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘™๐‘–๐‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘™๐‘ฆ ๐‘ฆ๐‘œ๐‘ข ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘› ๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘ฆ๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘Ž๐‘ก ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘ ๐‘ข๐‘โ„Ž ๐‘Ž ๐‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘กโ„Ž ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘กโ„Ž ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘ฃ๐‘’ ๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘ ๐‘’. ๐ผ๐‘“ ๐‘ฆ๐‘œ๐‘ข ๐‘ก๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘”๐‘’๐‘ก ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘œ โ„Ž๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘กโ„Ž ๐‘™๐‘–๐‘›๐‘’๐‘  ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘“๐‘’๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘  ๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘ก ๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘‘๐‘’, ๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘š๐‘–๐‘›๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘˜ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘ฃ๐‘’๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘™๐‘ฆ, ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ข๐‘™๐‘ก ๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘™๐‘–๐‘˜๐‘’๐‘™๐‘ฆ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘๐‘’ ๐‘Ž๐‘ก ๐‘™๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘ ๐‘ก โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘”โ„Ž ๐‘‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘š๐‘Ž ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘™๐‘ฆ ๐‘ž๐‘ข๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘’ ๐‘’๐‘ฅ๐‘๐‘’๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘ฃ๐‘’.


Many responses concentrated on the approach, rather than the simple fenders and lines question. Iโ€™d already defined the approach as going in forward due to the gale later that day, so this was given.

There is an assumption inherent with this though that some of you did pick up on: If the tide is still running at 2 knots at the actual berth this all becomes a high-risk manoeuvre. This is unlikely though. Normally the tide slackens considerably as you get in amongst the pontoons, due to the piles and boats, and it is often shallower closer in. Itโ€™s not uncommon for there to be a back-eddy, so by the time youโ€™re close to the berth the tide could be going against you โ€“ making this scenario a lot easier and actually preferable in these tidal conditions.

However, you can never assume this will happen, therefore unless you know the marina and its quirks โ€“ and even if you do in these conditions - a dummy run to see how fast the tide is running close to the berth is essential. If youโ€™re boat allows it Iโ€™d do this dummy run in reverse so that I could quickly power out in forward if it all goes Pete Tong . The specific aim of the dummy run is to see how much of a ferry glide I had to maintain up the aisle to the berth, so it doesnโ€™t matter too much whether you do it in forward or reverse.

If it was still running at 2 knots close to the berth and you had to ferry glide all the way going forward (with the bow pointing to the right of the image to stem the tide), you would have to turn out of that ferry glide and into the berth. This would be a big turn and would require quite a bit of speed and very good judgement. As I said โ€“ high risk and best avoided.

Therefore, as many suggested, you may be better off reversing up the aisle getting your stern into the top right of the aisle then going forward into the berth. The risk here is always the transition between reverse and forward and the bow being blown off while static without steerage, so again, good judgement required and the change from reverse into forward would have to be very snappy.

Of course, the above all now depends on the handling characteristic of the boat โ€“ which is why I took it out of the equation for the original question. Nor does it change the answer: whether you go forward down the aisle or astern, I would still have lines and fenders on starboard side. Even though the reverse down the aisle approach does make this a slightly open berth, with these conditions itโ€™ll still be a lot easier still go against the yellow boat initially, and thereโ€™s still a good chance youโ€™ll end up there anyway.

If youโ€™re not quick with your transition from reverse into forward, youโ€™ll end up along the shoreside pontoon, directly in front of the yellow boat, probably after scraping your anchor and pulpit down the side of it!

๐—ข๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜€:

Some of you suggested rafting up on the boat on the hammerhead and going to speak to the yellow boat beforehand, perhaps adjusting their fenders, visibly checking the tide at the berth beforehand โ€“ mainly because you sail long keel boats that make a dummy run unappealing. This was all sound and showed a really good understanding of the situation.

Thank you agian to everyone for their contributions, loads of good ideas and discussion from this one.

*Knowing what is an open berth and a closed berth is crucial to understanding of how to park your boat. Itโ€™s quite possible you know it intuitively without knowing the names. For an explanation of open and closed berths see previous posts. To practice parking in such scenarios get in touch!

In case you missed the original question โ€“ here it is:

๐‘ธ ๐’– ๐’† ๐’” ๐’• ๐’Š ๐’ ๐’ . . .

See image're the skipper of the red boat. You've been told to go into the berth adjacent to the yellow boat.

Alas, due to numerous failed SOB* drills earlier in the day, you only have 4 fenders available.

The shipping forecast says that the wind will veer 90 degrees and build to a gale with heavy rain later in the evening. Therefore, you've sensibly decided to go in bow first to shelter the cockpit with the sprayhood.

๐๐ฎ๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง: ๐‡๐จ๐ฐ ๐ฐ๐จ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐š๐ซ๐ซ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ž ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐ฅ๐ข๐ง๐ž๐ฌ ๐š๐ง๐ ๐Ÿ๐ž๐ง๐๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐š๐ฉ๐ฉ๐ซ๐จ๐š๐œ๐ก?

I'll post the answer and explanation on our FB page this coming Monday.

*SOB - Skipper Overboard - its wise to assume the most experienced sailor is the one that isn't available if someone falls overboard; so that's what we call it, and that's how we always drill for it. Although, in this scenario the crew obviously need a bit more practice


Ahoy PSS Crew! There are still a few places on our next Technical Sailing Weekend - leaving from Itchenor on the 20th May. For this one we'll be focusing on sail trim, spinnaker handling and night nav. If time allows we'll also do some close quarter sail manoeuvres. It's a great way to kick start your sailing season. Full details here:


Spring has sprung!โ›ต๏ธIf you want to take a deep dive into an area of sailing that you want to improve and refine before the season begins, we have some technical sailing days available. These may be focussed on sailing onto moorings, night nav, spinnaker handling or a sail trim workshop - you decide!

If you want to come on a bigger trip this summer do have a look at our sailing voyages.

We look forward to seeing you onboard. โ›ต๏ธ๐Ÿ’จ



Sorry it's been a while since we posted one of these, we have been very busy getting a new 43ft school boat and planning the conversion of this to electric auxiliary.

We came up with this question after seeing a collection of amazing talks by Pacific Navigators last month at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, organised by the The Royal Institute of Navigation . The videos of these talks have just been published on the RIN YouTube Channel.

Here you go...

It's 4th April 2023. You are sailing from Gibraltar to Sao Miguel, Azores in a small 27ft sail boat. The wind is coming from the NE F4 and you are making brilliant progress. There is a distinct northerly swell.

You are approximately halfway when your vessel is caught in an electrical storm and is directly hit by lightning. All electronics stop operating. You have no GPS. As well as your GPS, your EPIRB, sat phone and your VHF no longer work.

Your last known position, from your logbook, is 37ยฐ10 N, 17ยฐ25 W, which leaves you 370 NM to sail - so around 3 1/2 days. From your paper chart you measure the bearing to Sao Miguel to be 278ยฐT.

You take the cover off your compass so that you can steer a compass course. However, you have neglected your compass over the last 10 years of GPS navigation and discover that all the oil has escaped and the card is seized. You can't find your hand bearing compass. You have no sextant or astronomical almanac.

You do have a full REEDS almanac onboard.

You are reluctant to turn back as the wind was forecast to remain NE for the foreseeable future with fine weather. You therefore decide to continue.

How do you navigate to the Azores?

First one to post the correct answer on our page will have a pack of Cornish Sea Salt sent to them by us - as they have proven themselves especially salty!

The full answer will be posted on our page early next week.

Photos from Practical Sea School's post 17/03/2023

Big Announcement! We have taken the bite and are getting the 43 ft sailing vessel Jalapeรฑo for PSS. This has been all consuming these last few weeks and itโ€™s meant weโ€™ve been very quiet online. We are immensely excited about this, and the electric conversion we have planned (more on this below). This is going to make this one hot school boat, right up there on the Scoville scale!

The extra capacity Jalapeรฑo gives us means we have been able to review and reduce all our prices, which we hope will help people keep sailing despite rising electricity and gas bills. For our updated course schedule go to

We have included some technical sailing days in this new schedule; the first couple of these are on the weekend of the 15th and 16th of April. We plan on sailing onto some moorings then doing some night navigation. These days are open to whatever you want to focus on โ€“ perhaps spinnaker handling or sail trim workshops. Contact us with what you want to take a deep dive into and weโ€™ll let you know which day would suit best: [email protected].

The one thing that was holding us back from getting Jalapeรฑo was the engine. The solution is simple โ€“ we are removing the old Perkins engine, hydraulic gearbox and the V-drive and replacing it with an electric motor and substantial battery bank. No more oil leaks! We plan to convert all our school boats to electric by 2027, but its great to be doing this to our biggest boat first.

Weโ€™ll be back to posting our normal Monday questions from now on!

Photos from Practical Sea School's post 20/02/2023

Our minds are blown. What an incredible life affirming afternoon yesterday with traditional Pacific navigators organised by The Royal Institute of Navigation at the Royal Museums Greenwich. We feel so privileged to witness one of the first times these remarkable knowledge holders and master navigators have been together to share how they pass on their ancestral knowledge to the next generation, protect the environment and how they need to be better supported to keep this essential work going. All of this occurred at the centre of the western navigational paradigm (Greenwich).

We are still processing this experience and it will certainly influence how we include a more holistic approach to our sailing.

โ€œListen to Henora. Learn how to make a crew. Learn the 100s plants that are involved in making shipsโ€ and as Captain Luke Vaikawi reminds us "The Ocean is part of our family".

Please share and promote these organisations. They are all building amazing traditional vessels and making ambitious voyages to sustain their different cultures in an increasingly challenging environment.
The Vaka Taumako Project
500 Sails & Dolphin Club Saipan
Drua Experience
Pasana Group


Wishing Kirsten Neuschรคfer the very best of luck for the final leg of her GGR. It's been almost half a year now since the start of this race. All the remaining entrants, in fact any of them who even got to the start line of this race, are extraordinarily tenacious sailors.

This is one of our team's favorite photos of Kirsten Neuschรคfer's "hello" to the Falkland Islands shared today by FIGAS pilot Tom Chater.

Thank you for sharing this with our team!

Photos from Practical Sea School's post 17/02/2023


We have two places available for a special Competent Crew (CC) course, starting Monday 27th February This CC course will be held during the sea trial of our new 43ft training vesselโ€ฆ

A lot has been happening at PSS recently. Last month we were offered the use of a large training vessel called Jalapeรฑo (pictured), a Standfast 43 built in 1972 as an ocean racer. Jalapeรฑo has crossed the Atlantic countless times. This sailboat is wonderfully built, with loads of character, reminding me of the Swans' from this era that Iโ€™ve sailed often. These have a wonderful sea kindly motion, but will easily sail at 8 knots.

We had some initial concerns that this 16-ton chilli pepper was going to be too hot to handle (especially in terms of additional overheads), but after we carried out an initial survey earlier this week, and did some recalibration, we are now on the cusp of taking the first big bite!

Before we do though we are going to go out for a 5-day shakedown. We figured that a Competent Crew course is ideal to do during this voyage. As we get familiar with Jalapeรฑo, the students will too, and we can see how they get along with learning the ropes on the new boat. If the weather permits, weโ€™ll do a channel crossing. In return for the price-drop we want the students to give comprehensive feedback on the boat so that we can budget for the necessary improvements in March. You can book here, itโ€™s the first date available:

Or give us a call on +44 (0)1243 974 967. Office hours are 9am โ€“ 5pm GMT.

We are just putting together our Competent Crew homework video that includes the 7 basic knots, this will be going out to all our CC students tomorrow.

Of course, if you know someone who might be interested in this offer do please pass it on.

Cheers, Tim & Colette



Thank you for everyone who responded to this. First off โ€“ sorry that the pictures werenโ€™t clearer, Iโ€™ll make sure that a hand and a boat are visible for greater context for the book! Thank you for the constructive feedback.

We should also clarify that we are not advocating leaving the boat tied up in this way. If we are leaving the boat we will use a bowline, or round-turn and three half hitches, onto the pontoon cleat and cleat off on the boat so that we can easily adjust lines from the boat and avoid any untidy lines on the pontoon. This question is about how you start cleating off โ€“ whether this is a on a pontoon or back on the boat is irrelevant.

Assuming you are using an appropriately sized line for the cleat there are two issues to bear in mind for this: The first is the problem of the line getting jammed under itself. This can occur when a full turn is used to begin with, as in A & D. The trapping of the line under itself will only tend to occur if the angle of the line is coming from higher than the cleat (which it usually is). If it does get jammed it can be impossible to release, or may suddenly release, so this is well worth avoiding. The compressive load can be massive and can even break the cleat itself.

There is a lot of conflicting information out there about whether to use a full turn when starting to cleat off. Some RYA books even have a full turn. So, if you remain sceptical, I understand. Permit me to put it another way โ€“ Iโ€™ve spoken to few tugboat companies about this. They are regularly cleat off lines that are going to be loaded up with many tons of load. If you ever did a full turn on a tugboat cleat, youโ€™d probably lose your job. Interestingly as well they donโ€™t use OXO or a hitch to finish off โ€“ but more about that another time!

Iโ€™ve included a picture of how a line can be trapped if you do a full turn.

If we accept that a full turn is best avoided (so A & D are out) and that the way the cleating off works is friction of the line on the metal upstands of the cleat (at least initially) then it becomes really important which side of the cleat we go onto first to maximise this friction and therefore increase control.

Therefore, B clearly maximises this friction by going around the far side first on the front of the cleat, meaning there is simply more line touching the metal cleat that way around. By going to the right side first and the back of the cleat โ€“ as in C โ€“ you lose a lot of friction because there is much less line touching the metal cleat on the first turn.

Combined with the knowledge that we should be avoiding a full turn then B is clearly the only way to go. This is assuming the line is coming from an acute angle to the cleat (which again โ€“ they usually are).

Following this logic though - if the line is coming from directly perpendicular to the cleat it doesnโ€™t matter which side you go on, likewise for if the line is coming from a direction that is directly in line with the cleat. Anywhere in between though there is a clear advantage to starting to the far side first.

Why does it matter? For weekend sailors and the size of boats that generally use 14mm lines such as this to tie up โ€“ say up to 40ft - most of the time youโ€™ll get away with any of these. Once youโ€™re slipping lines in heavy winds or strong tides, as we often do, it becomes crucial - even on smaller boats - to get this right. Of course, on bigger boats the loads grow exponentially with size. Certainly, if Iโ€™m sailing with new crew this is one area I pay close attention to in evaluating their competency.

Royal Institute of Navigation 14/02/2023

We are really excited to be going to this on Sunday afternoon at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich: organised by the The Royal Institute of Navigation . Perhaps see some of you there?

Royal Institute of Navigation Traditional Pacific navigation skills and approaches have, for millennia, been used effectively for inter-island voyaging. The relationships between winds, swells, stars, plants, animals and lights at sea all play a part. The RIN and Pacific Traditions Society, with the support of Royal Museums Gree...



Back to basics this Monday! A,B,C & D are all different ways you can start making a line fast to a cleat. They all stop after the first part of the X.

Of course, where you go from here is often fiercely debated, with some using hitches and some advocating OXO. This controversy means that how you start cleating is often neglected, but it's just as important, perhaps even more so.

Whether you are going on to use OXO or a hitch, which one of these is a secure and safe way of starting making fast to a cleat?

Remember that the purpose of cleating is to enable you to be able to release the line under load with control.


Our most recent training video is all about your responsibilities as skipper. This is for all private as well as commercial skippers. Hopefully what we are managing to get across in these is that protocols are no replacement for ethos.

YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS SKIPPER This is the first video in our Practical Application of Theory (PAT) series. In it I go through some basic principles that should guide your decision making ...



The purpose of this question was to start a discussion about what appears to be a worrying trend. Weโ€™ve seen several well-known YouTube sailors undertaking long offshore passages in boats that are clearly not equipped for the voyage. Yet, they have often paid for โ€“ or been given โ€“ subscriptions to weather services.

This boat wasnโ€™t ready for a channel crossing, let alone a Biscay Crossing. Batteries obviously need securing, the skipper needs to go up the mast and do a rig check, and probably tune. For offshore sailing you need storm sail options other than the ubiquitous 110% genoa on a furler, the life raft needs servicing. Yet these are the kind of jobs that appear to be frequently overlooked.

The answer is A

Well done to all who also mentioned the steering, which is obviously wheel, probably with wires on this size of boat. The skipper should service this before sailing offshore as they are prone to failure. A reliable emergency tiller system is a must. Also, very importantly, with a crew of just 3 is the autohelm and how reliable this is.

Spending money on fancy weather apps and sat comms, or even specialist forecasting services, does not magically make you a responsible skipper. They should not provide you with the ability to โ€œsail with confidenceโ€ as the ad claims. Once these companies start offering weather quotes, that they are certain will be 100% for the period they are issued for, then weโ€™ll review this.

No forecasts offer even a 24h guarantee, but generally we can plan using a 12-24 hour forecast โ€“ (after all โ€“ by monitoring at the barometer and reading the clouds we can be pretty sure of whatโ€™s coming in that time frame). This means that if you are more than 12-24h from a port of refuge you really need to be prepared for anything. Obviously, that means the crew as well as the boat. If I was this skipper with this experience Iโ€™d want to break it down into shorter legs, so that you could do La Rochelle to Santander - and be prepared to wait for a while at each for a weather window at that time of year. Or alternatively bring someone more experienced along if you want to do it in one โ€“ but only once those jobs are completed.

An EPIRB would be reassuring for any offshore passage such as this. Also, some way of updating the forecast. This area is well covered by NAVTEX so this would be the most affordable option (served by Cross Corsen, France and Coruna, Spain.) Having said that Iโ€™ve done this voyage many times without either โ€“ just VHF and a little Sony LW radio. Once too far south for LW Iโ€™ve got updated forecasts from passing ships. The boat was ready for anything though โ€“ thatโ€™s what really matters.

Send a message to learn more

Photos from Practical Sea School's post 06/02/2023


Itโ€™s September. You are planning a crossing of the Bay of Biscay, departing from Falmouth UK to La Coruna, Spain - 450 NM in total. You want to get your boat to the Med for the winter. There are a few jobs outstanding, but you know that if you leave it much longer you'll have to wait until next year.

The Met Office Shipping Forecasts predicts light westerly winds for the next 24 hrs, due to this you expect the voyage will take around 5 days. On your weather app a strong westerly gale is forecast in the English Channel in 5 days time. However, youโ€™re certain that youโ€™ll be well south of this by then, close to the North Coast of Spain, where your weather app forecasts itโ€™ll be a pleasant NW F4 in 5 days.

Your 35ft boat (drawn) and 2 crew have done a few channel crossings and generally go day sailing in anything up to F4, sometimes F5, but have little experience of sailing in anything stronger than this.

Considering this scenario, how much confidence would you put into a weather forecasting app in making your decisions?

A: None! We should only use the official shipping forecast in making our decisions as a skipper. The boat and crew need to be prepared for any weather they may experience beyond 24hrs.

B: Up to 48hrs is reliable, so I'd stay closer to the French and North Spanish coast rather than going directly across the Bay of Biscay. This way I can always get into a Port of Refuge within 24 hours, even though this will add considerable time to the journey.

C: Up to 4 days is reliable, but I would get close enough to Brest to get mobile data and update the forecast on my app.

D: Up to 7 days is reliable, I'd happily make the voyage with this forecast.

So that everyone interested can find it, our opinion on it will be posted on the PSS page tomorrow evening.

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Videos (show all)

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