Finding myself with a week off work and unable to travel overseas due to covid, I frantically searched to find a UK based adventure. Learning how to sail is something I’ve always wanted to do and Solent near Southampton was the destination.

The appeal of sailing has been a bout conquering the high seas. Bob along on the big blue. The TV show Below Deck had sold it to me.

I found Solent Boat Training and signed up for the Competent Crew course, not quite knowing what to expect.

Is learning to sail worth it?

I am so pleased that I learnt to sail on the solent. I have a lot still to learn, but it sparked a new found passion for me and I can’t wait to learn more! Technically, in the UK, you don’t need any sort of qualification to buy or sail a sailboat. But, it certainly gave me more confidence to know how I might deal with any tricky situations when crewing a boat. I would highly recommend this course to anyone with a keen interest in sailing.

Is the Solent good for Sailing?

For me, this was a great location. Not only was the sailing course close to London and accessible. But the location was really great in terms of the different areas that we could visit. We sailed across the Isle of Wight which felt like a fun adventure! The solent is also a complex area to learn to sail, making it really popular for students wishing to craft their sailing.

How much does sailing school cost on the Solent?

For a 5 day competent crew course with the school that I used, the price is £399. This includes accommodation, but not food. I found that prices at other schools varied, with most being more expensive.

Does the Solent get rough?

In my experience, the sailing wasn’t particularly rough. But my course was in May during a period of beautiful weather. In fact, there was one day of the five which such gentle wind that it was impossible to sail.

I suffer from sea sickness and pre-emptively took some sea sickness pills, which definitely helped with the conditions.

Why learn to sail on the Solent?

I picked this company and the location quite at random as it was last minute. But I’d highly recommend both. The Solent can be a tricky beast with some confusing tides and wind direction. Apparently, if you can sail the Solent, then sailing elsewhere will seem easy. Or so I hear.

Learning how to sail on the Solent, also means you can cruise over the Isle of Wight. I loved this. It’s a Sailers paradise and pulling into Cowes for the first time on a boat is magical. Despite being a bit of a newbie, docking in Cowes made me feel like I was already part of the yacht set and didn’t ever want to leave.

You’ll also get to see Portsmouth and bits of Southampton from the boat, as well as beautiful Beaulieu. The added bonus of this location, is that it’s really not far from London either.

What is the competent crew course, and how important is it to learning how to sail?

Learning how to sail on the Solent begins with a 5 day intensive sailing course aimed at those who are new to or returning to sailing and want to be able to crew a sailing yacht. You’ll cover knots, safety, docking and departing as well as getting a chance to helm, rig, raise and adjust the sails. We even did a night sail, which was a highlight of the course for me.

It’s a follow on to the Intro Sailing course (although this is not a pre requisite of doing competent crew). You must complete competent crew in order to later complete RYA Day Skipper. However if you are serious about learning how to sail on the Solent we recommmend it.

What can you expect from life on board a sailing boat?

Learning how to sail on the Solent I teamed up with four other crew and the skipper. There were three cabins and some sofa beds in the main lounge area (saloon). Living space is cramped but you spend most of your time on deck or on shore having dinner. That said, the weather was lovely for my week on board. If it had been raining, I did wonder if things might feel a little different.

There is a basic kitchen and a toilet (head) to be used at sea. When you dock in the evening, you’ll get access to electricity and land based showers and toilet blocks.

One of the things I was most nervous about learning to sail was being in such close proximity to strangers. But by the end of the week we were deftly navigating around each other and fast became sailing friends.

And the big question, am I really competent?

I passed the course. Which is not guaranteed. You do get assessed during the course of the week and could fail. My instructor gave me some sound advice for areas to focus on if I really wanted to keep sailing. I do feel I could board a yacht and remember most of what I learnt, but so far my skills havent been put to test. 2022, watch this space.

Intested in learning how to sail on the Solent? You can find more info here – inc prices and availability. The RYA site also has a long list of other locations that run Competent Crew courses.

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