Month: July 2015

ASA103: Basic Coastal Cruising

This weekend we went on a two day (but not overnight) cruise around Fisher’s Island Sound. This time there was less classroom instruction on the finer points of sailing, and it was more focused on things like checking the engine oil and belts, making sure the battery banks are set properly for engine start/running and sailing, checking the bilge pump and making sure the automatic switch is working, toilet and holding tank and valve checks, how to properly start and stop a Deisel engine and other pre-sail safety checks. In addition to those technical safety checklists, we learned about navigation and how to use charts and dividers and why knowing the tide is important not just in navigating the bottom but also knowing the direction and force of the currents during ebb and flow. In places like the Race of Long Island Sound that can mean the difference of almost sailing twice as fast, or just stuck in place sailing against a 4-5 knot  tidal current.

Markers was another topic we covered, obviously we learned about red and green markers, bouys and bells, but this time we covered bifurcated markers, and obstruction markers as well as those yellow special purpose markers because we happen to have one in Fishers Sound used by UCONN for taking measurements of this and that.

So after that was done we had mostly a day and a half of sailing and performing drills.

Day 1: We sailed through Fishers Sound and back taking turns at each station as helmsman, and grinders on the primary (Jibsheets) and secondary (mainsheet) winches. We each sailed in circles around all points of sail as well as sailing in figure eights for the same reason just a different sequence of sail points. As helmsmen we had to follow the channel markers including the bifurcated prefered channel markers and staying clear of the obstruction markers (black over red with two black circles on top)


Getting ready to Jybe

Getting ready to Jybe

Day 2: We returned to fishers sound and practiced anchoring once we reached a suitable anchorage, and once that was done we ate lunch at anchor. Then we sailed into the Thames River between new London and Groton and practiced Crew Overboard drills. I voted for the captain and lead instructor to be thrown overboard, but it seems he thought it would be better if we just used a throwable PFD. So the skipper threw the PFD while one crew member
stays on point, always pointing at the overboard Crew Member and calling out estimated boat lengths. Once MAN Overboard was called, we fell of the wind into a broad reach, and when the MOB was about 4 boat lengths away, tacked beam-a-beam which is to tack from the broad reach right into the other tack in a beam reach. We then sailed to downwind of the MOB and let loose the sheets to lose power as we approached the MOB coming up into he wind and picking up the PFD with a boat hook. On one of my turns I accidentally jybed instead of tacking…oi, that was embarrassing.


I dont know what we were all looking at, but I grab the binnicle like that and pinch the wheel so we stay on course while looking to the side. It helps prevent unintended steering into or away from the wind.


Afterwards we took the written test. Elyse scored a 90% which is great, and the ones she got wrong even I had to read the questions a few times because they were those lovable trick questions with double negatives or looking at a diagram to pick the right answer but the diagram itself is intentionally and misleadingly wrong to see if you’d get tripped up. Not enough of those to fail you if you got the straightforward stuff correct, but enough to keep you from scoring 100% if you didn’t parse the question properly.

One of the instructors, Jeff asked why I was taking these classes since I clearly already have a lot of experience sailing, and I told him both answers, which are true:

  1. Elyse wanted to learn to sail, and teaching your partner to sail yourself can often be a bad idea, and I asked if she wanted to go by herself or do it together. She wanted to do it together. Plus it would give her the added confidence that she knew I also know how to sail. Until we started taking lessons together she’s only heard me say it.
  2. I told him about my plans to build a schooner, become a USCG Master of Vessels, and ASA Instructor as part of my plans for Schooner Camp. It’s part of my development as an instructor to not just get certified as an instructor but also go through the program as a student so I have that experience too as that added assurance to parents that I am qualified to care for their children on the high seas.

So there we go. We are now both certified in ASA103, and with the SeaSprite23 I acquired a month ago and is almost ready to sail, we’ll have plenty of time to practice and just go sailing for fun rather than just going through instruction and drills.

I want to thank both Captain Dave and Captain Jeff for providing an excellent program and service. They are both fine sailors and they have a lot of experience to offer to new sailors in the New England area.

You can find them at American Sailing Academy based in New London, CT.