Morgan McCarty, Further Education student at UKSA, gets to grips with theory

Published 19/12/2022

As much as I wish I could say my course is all fun and games, there is always room for a theory lesson or two… At this stage of the course, we are looking to achieve our day skipper qualification. The day skipper qualification will allow me to skipper a small yacht in familiar waters during the day.

During this course section, we are looking at navigation, so the charts and dividers come out. Even with all of the modern technology we have that can plot our courses and tell us exactly where we need to be and when we need to be there, it is essential to remember and honour the roots of sailing, not to mention that technology’s unreliability could let us down.

We have also been looking at the correct practices on a VHF radio, and I can safely say that we all managed to pass our VHF test.

When we are out on the water it is critical to understand the correct vocabulary to use if we need to use it. MAYDAY calls are the type of transmission we use when there has been a life-threatening incident onboard a vessel. Having an understanding of these procedures means the coastguard can receive all necessary information and could make the difference too a casualty’s survival.

The last and more basic subject we have been looking at is meteorology. Of course, for sailing we need wind, although we also need to be able to understand when there is too much wind, we could be putting ourselves and our crew in danger by not planning appropriately.

Sail planning

When planning to go sailing, there are a few key things to look at to ensure the complete safety of yourself and the crew. Weather. What is the wind doing? Where is it heading? The wind can tend to switch and change as it moves around headlands, this can catch the most experienced sailors off guard. The tide. The last thing any skipper wants is for their keel to be laying on the sea bed. So, is there enough water depth for your vessel to move safely the entire time you’re out? One of the biggest mistakes made is anchoring up without checking the tides and returning from your lunch with a surprise waiting in the form of your vessel aground.


Equipment goes hand in hand with the weather. You may need to prepare for some nasty weather coming in –  this could be reefing your sails, ensuring all hatches are closed and everything is secure. Appropriate clothing is also required, again, this can fall nicely in with the weather – all this needs is some common sense and understanding of what temperatures you like and those you don’t. For hot, summer sailing, a hat, sunglasses and sun protection is highly recommended as you could be exposed to the sun throughout the day. For colder, winter days, a pair of salopettes, a waterproof coat and layers can sure keep you warm!

Unfortunately due to torrential rain, flooding and high wind speeds, I have not been able to sail as much as I would have liked this month. Although this means when we do manage to get those sails up we make the absolute most out of it. The adrenaline I get when I’m forcing the tiller away from me steering into the wind and tacking around smoothly, with the crew winching and tightening the jib, is purely unmatched. Those sailing blues sure are coming back.

Clean beaches

Even with the countless flood warnings and gale-force winds, we still managed to find a clear day to do our annual beach clean. Taking our walk down to Gurnard beach, pickers and bin bags in hand, although relatively clean, the Isle of Wight has shamefully become a hotspot for overflows of sewage pipes during heavy rain periods. This type of pollution has become all too apparent to Isle of Wight residents. It’s not all gloomy though, Island MP Bob Seeley has begun to take a stand against Southern Water to do better saying “water firms have spilt too much into rivers and beaches, they need to clean up their act”. A glimpse of hope for a clean and hygienic future for the Island.

With a dry-looking December, I can only hope for more sailing-friendly days ahead, I’ll consider it an early Christmas present I think …..

Follow my journey at UKSA through my monthly blogs here.

Morgan McCarty

More information on Further Education Courses at UKSA