Competent Crew Sailing Course
Reviewed Sep 2017
My first contact with Sunshine Sailing School was a meeting I had with John Bankart to discuss the various courses available. I’m over sixty years old and knew nothing at all about sailing, so I didn’t want to embark on something that was beyond my capabilities. Since reading several books recently written by round the world sailors, I have started having crazy thoughts about doing some ocean sailing myself in the future. I needed to start at the very beginning and learn the basics – so I went down to Mooloolaba to talk it through with John, half expecting him to tell me I was past it! I knew he would give me sensible advice, and an honest appraisal of my belated ambition – and on talking to him I realised it was well within my capabilities to learn to sail a keelboat at this stage of my life. I booked in for the 5-day Competent Crew course based around the Whitsunday Islands, Queensland.
I have just returned from that course which was extremely enjoyable – it just got better and better. There were three of us plus our instructor whose name was Drew. On arrival at Hamilton Island on the Monday morning the programme for the next five days was explained, the order of which was always going to be dependent on the weather. Our first job was to make a shopping list and go to the supermarket to get the supplies that we would need for our five days on the boat. Each of us had input into this, so all our likes and dislikes were well-catered for. We took it in turns to cook the main meal in the evening.
Drew kept a constant watch on a number of weather forecasts, so our sailing was always safely within our capabilities and enabled him to plan the best day for activities that could be undertaken when the wind speed was low (e.g. knot tying, mooring to a buoy etc.) and sail on the most suitable days. There were a couple of guys on the boat who were doing the Day Skipper practical course, and this turned out to be an advantage for me because I was exposed to many other aspects of sailing that I was not expecting to do on the Competent Crew course. It worked really well having the two courses running concurrently, and Drew did not mind me asking questions regarding any aspect of the Day Skipper activities that I didn’t understand. He was one of the best instructors I have ever come across in any field of learning, and I’m an ex-teacher myself so I know! He was patient, extremely knowledgeable and experienced, witty, relaxed, encouraging, great fun to sail with, always in control of what was going on and very alert to anything that impacted on safety or needed explanation or demonstration. His explanations were always very clear and every activity was well thought out in advance. We even managed to do a night sail on the final day, starting at 1.30am which was an amazing experience, with varying sea states over the nine hour voyage around the islands arriving back at Hamilton Island mid-morning. The forty-foot Hanse sailing vessel is a wonderful boat, without a non-furling headsail so I learned about hoisting and controlling a headsail and a mainsail and all the associated work to hoist them, take them down and pack them away.
I highly recommend Sunshine Sailing School at Mooloolaba – they have many different sailing courses available, and I will soon begin my Day Skipper theory. You can be assured that this company has very high standards, not just in terms of safety/risk, but also in terms of ethics and organisation.