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Cruising Course FAQs


 
Q. How should I dress for Wednesday and Thursday nights?
A.

Both nights we'll be in the classroom and on the boat. On board, we'll practice docking and sailhandling, so clothing appropriate to the evening's weather is important. At a minimum, sneakers and a fleece or shell over office clothes will work. You can change at the BSC or onboard.

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Q. How should I dress for the weekend?
A. We have a complete list of recommended gear posted here. It's a generic three-season list, meant to be interpreted in light of the specific weekend forecast. Remember that it's usually 10 degrees colder on the water. It's easy to bring too many clothes, though. Most people change clothes once, maybe twice, during the trip.
Don't forget personal toiletries, medications etc.
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Q. Do I need to buy expensive foul weather gear?
A. No. There are four other options:
1. Assume you'll enjoy warm, dry, sunny weather all weekend. . . In New England.
2. Use gear you already have. Most weather-proof gear intended for running, hiking, climbing, cycling, paddling, birding etc. will be adequate for the weekend.
3. Borrow BSC student foul weather gear. It's simple and waterproof, not fashionable.
4. Buy moderately priced foul weather gear. If you plan to continue sailing, the Cruising Course is a great excuse to buy gear designed for sailing that will last you for years. Bib overalls and a hooded jacket with a breathable/waterproof fabric intended for coastal/inshore cruising are available for less than $300 total. The BSC offers the Henri-Lloyd, Gill, and Atlantis lines, at a discount to members and students.
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Q. How much stuff should I bring?
A. Space on board is obviously limited. Aim for a bag the size of an airline carry-on, plus bedding and foulies. Hard-side, wheeled luggage is very difficult to accommodate.
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Q. Can I bring a handheld GPS?
A. Absolutely. We emphasize the fundamentals of paper charts, plotting tools, compasses and sharp eyes. But the course offers a great opportunity to practice using your own GPS. The boat has a built-in GPS that we will use as well.
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Q. Do I need to bring cash?
A. All boat expenses (mooring, fuel etc.) are included. Depending on where we tie up Friday and Saturday nights, there is usually a chance to go ashore for coffee, ice cream, souvenirs for the family back home. Depending on weather, location and crew preference, we sometimes go out for dinner Saturday night and it's helpful if everyone has enough cash for that.
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Q. What about food?
A.

The course fee includes basic, healthful food that works with our storage and cooking facilities, from a midnight snack on Friday through lunch on Sunday. Friday night departure is busy. You should eat dinner ahead of time or bring a sandwich to eat under way.
Menu planning and food preparation both at anchor and underway is an important part of the curriculum.

Limitations of space and refrigeration make it difficult to accommodate every individual preference (Diet Coke/Diet Pepsi? Whole wheat bread/bulkie roll?). We'll get a sense of what the crew likes on the first night of class, and take that into account when provisioning for the weekend. Shipboard food involves some compromise.

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Q. Snacks?
A.

Our provisioning includes snacks like fruit, humus, crackers, cheese, pretzels, soup, PB&J. If there is a particular granola bar or protein shake that you can't imagine being without for the weekend, please bring it and don't feel you need to share. There generally is not room in the icebox for private snacks.

That said, if you feel like bringing a snack to share, great. It's certainly not required, but things like homemade cookies or a special cheese are always appreciated, and really contribute to crew cohesion.

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Q. I'm a vegetarian.
A.

When we plan the menu, we can tweak the provisioning to include most dietary regimes, from Indian potatoes & dal to tuna-from-the-can Atkins.

More restrictive diets, like those requiring special processing of meats, certifying the origins of vegetable, or specifically designated pots & utensils, should be discussed ahead of time with the instructor.

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Q. I have food allergies/diabetes/required medications.
A. We'll ask about this on our medical info form the first night. Please discuss the ramifications & requirements with the instructor.
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Q. When do we leave?
A. We typically get underway from the BSC around 6 or 7 pm Friday night, and get to our overnight anchorage about midnight.
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Q. What time do we get back?
A. We aim to get back to the BSC by 5 or 6 pm Sunday night. Debriefing and boat clean-up takes an additional hour.
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Q. How do we decide where to go?
A.

We start with a basic itinerary of sailing up to Cape Ann Friday night, around Cape Ann Saturday, and back to Boston on Sunday. Cape Ann offers a great variety of potential harbors, and we pick the most appropriate based on the conditions for each course.

Analysing weather and modifying plans accordingly is an important part of the curriculum.

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Q. What about bad weather?
A.

The boats we teach on, Melissa and Invictus, are built to comfortably handle routine coastal conditions. And with slight modifications to the itinerary, we can sail just about every weekend while avoiding conditions that are either dangerous, or so unpleasant that learning is impossible. A little hard weather makes for a better, more challenging course.

In extreme cases (eg hurricane), we'll reschedule the class for a weekend that best suits the crew's schedule, or let individuals reschedule into vacancies in existing courses.

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Q. Is there a shower?
A. Most harbors we tie up in for Saturday night have a shoreside shower. There is a handheld boat shower, with limited water, on board.
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Q. Do we sleep on the boat?
A. Yes. We recommend that you bring a pillowcase and a lightweight sleeping bag or a couple of blankets.
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Q. How much privacy will there be on board?
A. Not much. The head (bathroom) is fully enclosed. There are four individual single berths in the main cabin and a side-by-side V-berth in the separate forward cabin.
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Q. What are my responsibilities during the cruise?
A. The most important is to be a good shipmate -- cheerful, helpful, unselfish.
We rotate duties throughout the weekend to assure that everyone gets roughly equal time steering, navigating, sailhandling, docking and anchoring.
The best crews volunteer for cooking and housekeeping jobs equitably.
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Q. What if I can't make class on Wednesday (or Thursday) night?
A. Most classroom topics are reviewed during the weekend cruise, so you're probably better off sticking with the course than trying to reschedule. You'll start off a bit behind, but should feel caught up by the end of the cruise.
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Q. What if I need to reschedule?
A.

There are two aspects to this answer -- policy, and the reality of supply & demand.

The policy: If you reschedule before the commitment date, thirty days before the first night of class, you can rebook into any future course vacancy. If you reschedule after the commitment date, you can go on the space available wait list for any future course. You can schedule into it if there is space available the Friday before the start date of that course.

The reality: Cruising Courses are popular throughout the season, and most sell out. Rescheduling can be tough, especially on a space-available basis.

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Q. What skills do I need to take this course?
A.

The prerequisite is our Advanced Course or equivalent experience. Maybe 2/3 of students each year have taken previous courses at the Sailing Center and 1/3 take the Cruising Course based on outside experience.

It's most important to be comfortable with basic sailing skills: tacking, jibing, sailing upwind and offwind, steering and trimming to telltales. Beyond that, you should be able to read a chart, tie a bowline, maybe set an anchor.

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Q. What does the Cruising Course qualify me to do?
A.

At the Boston Sailing Center, Cruising Course graduates are qualified for Cruising 30 or 35 memberships, with navigation initially limited to the waters north of Cape Cod and south of the Maine border.
Course graduates frequently go on to charter in a place like the Virgin Islands.

In both cases you're making the move from student to skipper in waters that are generally benign, with good support infrastructure.

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Q. Do I need a license or certification to charter?
A.

Not in the US or the US Virgin Islands. Charter companies here look for experience, and they'll determine qualification through an application questionnaire or a resume and references. Formal sailing education, like the Cruising Course, in combination with some experience outside of classes is generally sufficient.

Certifications from ASA are credentials that attest to the courses taken and time spent to acquire them. On their own, these certifications don't guarantee access to a charter boat, but they do help to establish a resume.

For all Cruising Course graduates, the Sailing Center fills out a course description and individual evaluation, which we keep on file. First time charterers often use our evaluation as a reference with their applications.

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Q. Any recommended advanced reading?
A. If you have a chance, reading the chapters in Chapman Piloting and Seamanship on Anchoring and Seamanship Under Power is a nice head start. Students who come to the Cruising Course via the BSC's other courses will already have a copy of Chapman. Students who don't can buy one from the BSC office at a substantial discount.
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Q. What are my next steps after the course?
A. Go sailing. Whether as a BSC member, sailing your own boat or sailing with friends, the best thing you can do for your sailing skills after the course is to practice in a variety of conditions.
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