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Captain’s Log: Tricks of the trade

Go Sail Virgin Islands

Captain’s Log: Tricks of the Trade | Go Sail Virgin Islands

In this week’s Captain’s Log, Captain Trevon works with a student through some issues new sailors commonly face and gets the student on track to pass their ASA courses. Learn about Captain Trevon’s tricks of the trades and the common issues to avoid when learning to sail in this Captain’s Log:

The Basics

The boat: Sweet and Salty, a 2018 FP Helia 44’ 

Crew: Captain Trevon (instructor) and first mate Stephanie

ASA Students: Donald and Rachel

Others aboard: Shelly and Tom, friends of Donald and Rachel

Courses Completed:  ASA 103 (Basic Coastal Cruising), ASA 104 (Bareboat Cruising), ASA 114 (Cruising Catamaran)  

Day 1: Sharing past experiences, future goals

Friends Donald, Rachel, Shelly, and Tom all step aboard Sweet and Salty with a mix of sailing experience. Donald sailed Hobies in college but hopes by the end of the week to have enough knowledge to bareboat charter a 40’ Catamaran, a boat similar to the Helia 44’ catamaran. On the other hand, Rachel doesn’t have any sailing experience but is eager to learn how to be a good crew member.

Their friends Shelly and Tom are just along for the ride! However, Shelly already has ASA certifications from a local club on Lake St. Claire in Minnesota. 

Day 2: The fun begins

In the morning, the group goes through the boat systems at check out and then departs Compass Point Marina. The winds brought no surprises, with the predicted easterly winds holding steady at about 20 kts. It’s ideal conditions to practice boat handling under power as the crew works their way out of Cruz Bay. From there, the crew raises sails to the 2nd reef position and spends time getting a feel for the boat’s maneuvering ability, including through upwind points of sail. 

Rachel and Donald both practice tacking until arriving in Caneel Bay. Now, the work is over! The group snorkels, grills Mahi, and enjoys the USVI sunshine. 

Day 3: Lessons in “island time”

The group decides to make their way east, sailing upwind to the Windward Passage, motoring through the passage due to high winds and seas, and then by afternoon turning west to enter Coral Bay. 

Donald learned a valuable lesson in patience while sailing. At the helm, he struggled to give the boat a few moments to make the correction. This made it difficult for Donald to maintain a straight line. We discussed with Donald that everything moves on “island time” in the USVI – including the sailboats! Once he resisted the urge to seek a “now” response from Sweet and Salty and give it a little time, Donald’s sailing skill were immediately improved. 

Day 4: Exploring the islands

The group decided to make a tour around Flanagan Island on the sailboat, enjoying the views while also working through points of sail. From there, the crew headed towards Salt Pond Bay. Everyone enjoyed a day of snorkeling before hiking up Ram Head Trail. Afterwards, the group ate veggie burgers for dinner and discussed chart work as well as plotting waypoints.  

Day 5: Watch the sails, not the screen

The crew set sail for Pillsbury Bay as Donald continued to learn more important lessons, as the only member aboard the boat working towards more advanced sailing certifications. Donald had entered waypoints to enter Pillsbury Bay but Captain Trevon explained the importance of concentrating on the angle of the apparent wind, point of sail, and sail trim rather than hitting the waypoints exactly. At times, Donald found watching the sails and the water, rather than the screen, difficult, but Captain Trevon continued to remind him until this practice felt more second nature. 

In the afternoon, the crew rounded the west end of St. John in good time and spent the rest of the day discussing crossing situations, unfurling and furling the jib, practicing figure eights, and initiating man overboard (MOB) drills. The group ended the day with dinner on Cruz Bay, returning from a great evening of conversation. 

Day 6: Taking a step back

Learning to sail can take a lot of mental energy! The group decided to take a rest day with Rachel and Shelly spending some time together on the beach. While Tom and Donald originally planned to practice reefing and the use of a preventer, they decided by afternoon that a day of rest sounded like a better idea! The group motored downwind to Christmas Cove together, enjoyed some glorious USVI snorkeling, and ate a delicious pizza dinner at PIZZA PI, the pizza boat in at Great St James Island.   

Day 7: Headed home

The day has come to say goodbye! The group sets off for the three mile line south of Great St. James to empty tanks ;). From there, the guests aboard Sweet and Salty begin to readjust to being on land before heading to their airport to fly home. Until next time!