Friday, September 6, 2013

Sail (Instructor) Now at the Center For Wooden Boats - Lake Union, Seattle

I bought the student book from Amazon so I could read exactly what they are reading to be a more effective Instructor. I like this book much more than the one that comes with the ASA 101 class below.

Just by the covers you can see a difference in culture, they show the San Francisco Bay on the cover here but it should have been Tampa or Corpus Christi Bay

You get to eat well between

This is my second visit here and I was better prepared!

My daughter ordered for R's Team at Amazon and I got in on the Action...... Non better

Just back from Observing Alex teach the 5th lesson on this Blanchard Jr.

Blanchard Jr. Knockabout's have a history, These are perfect Learn how to Sail sailboats.

Three CWB vessels preparing to dock, the fairway along the dock is busy with boats coming and going.

Add some Paddle Boarders to the mix

And the ever present Seaplane

Throw in some private vessels

A motor yacht and a big ketch coming in to their marina.

Two or more large Commercial Passenger vessels transiting the lake

I drew the right card.....I got Charles to check me out for my Livery Card!

After the Livery checkout Charles asked me to help him move the Schooner Lavengro, Yeah Buddy! It was just a a short trip but I loved helping Charles move this vessel to her temporary mooring...see  

This is the Student Log Book
The Checklist runs several pages

R&L taught us early where to get the best in Seattle.....know this town drinks more coffee than any city in the US. This is where it's at!

I knew I needed to get out and single hand a Blanchard before my appointment with Mindy to see if I could fit in and be a volunteer Sail Instructor at CWB. Unfortunately the winds were excruciatingly light, In fact I did not want to get to far from the CWB in the event I had to Row back to the dock.  I ghosted around and occasionally enjoyed a 5-8 mph gust. I planned on staying out for 2 hours but I tacked for the docks just after an hour. I put all the sails away and got the boat ready to sleep for the night. Just as I stepped off I looked up and there was a fresh breeze all the across the Lake!

Mindy, A fine product of the PNW, the Wooden Boat Center is Lucky to have her!

Our primary purpose right now is preparing to be Grandparents for Little Baby Drew and is all about supporting out Daughter and Son in Law which primarily requires knowing how to Live in and Navigate Downtown Seattle. But there is plenty of time within all that to keep our connection to sailing and the water. I know there is a vast knowledge of Sailing that is very different from the Gulf Coast here. On our several visits to the Pacific Northwest I immediately recognized the intensity of the boating culture here. It is much more formal and less casual than the Sailors in the South. I can only assume it is due to the History of sailing in Northern climates and the demands of being prepared to safely navigate in cold waters where tides, currents, fog, and challenging weather conditions require a much more serious approach to the education end of the culture.
After visiting the Center for Wooden Boats a few years ago during their Wooden Boat Festival I knew this was the place to be for me when we arrived here. I had already turned in my volunteer application and scheduled an Orientation which I attended with about 30+ other interested people from every corner of Seattle. At the Orientation they revealed all the various areas for volunteers to contribute and I was most interested in anything that would get me in and around the sailboats. So I did the Livery training that would lend itself to eventually become a volunteer Sail Now Instructor. 
Being responsible and Libel for individuals that may know nothing about boats is a serious endeavor for sure. I spent a summer working at Just For Fun at Lake Travis in Austin primarily to work commercially as a boat Captain and earn "Sea time" to gain a USCG Captains License. I earned the License but in the effort I certainly learned the incredible responsibility it is to Captain a vessel with up to 50 persons aboard who know little about the water and boating, and on top of that they were often young (or OLD) and intoxicated. I circled this idea of being a volunteer sail instructor at CWB like an Osprey. 
I turned in my interest form to Laura on the idea of being a Sail Instructor but I knew there would be several hoops to jump through and I would could easily drop it if it looked like more than I wanted to be responsible for. A new Sail Class was forming so my timing was good, the next Saturday I attended "Shore School" to monitor the class with the next class of 25+ adult students eager to learn to sail see . 
I was Impressed with the Sailing Education Director Mindy. She did the 2 hour class and efficiently went through the basic beginning fundamentals. She smiled a lot and was obviously having fun teaching the class and she taught me three things that I was glad to learn. The atmosphere in the class was all positive and kept the students engaged (that means their smart phones were off and in this town that is not easy to do). I wondered when the next classroom session was, I definitely wanted to attend that also even though I did not hear anything mentioned about those of us interested in being a sail instructor being invited to attend. Turns out there was no other class, everything else is done in the boat and on the water! My level of concern went up a few notches. How on Earth can these guys be prepared with just two classroom hours? I begin to relate it to our first instruction in a American Sailing Association Basic Keel Boat Sailing 101 class where we had about 8 hours classroom including written test and 8 hours on the water sailing all in one weekend. That weekend was good enough to get us started but it would take a year of sailing every weekend before we were actually safe to be on the water and three years before we were competent sailors with our 25'  Catalina. 
I volunteered the next two weeks at the Livery and stayed after my assignment was up to hang out on the sailing dock to observe the instructors and students coming and going and the instruction happening. No one looked like they were gonna die. The students are taught in wooden sailboats, mostly 20' Blanchard Jr. Knockabouts in a very busy inter-city lake where there is lots of activity from paddle boarders, to large commercial power vessels and craziest of all lots of Sea planes landing and Taking off. Level of concern goes back up. The instructor not only has to take newbies out into a sailboat to teach them the fundamentals of sailing which here includes sailing on and off the docks since there are no outboard motors, but also has to keep everyone safe in a very busy environment. 
The next step was to go out with a instructor and observe him/her with two students. By email Mindy assigned me to go out the following Saturday with Volunteer Instructor Alex and his two students. So there would be 4 of us in the cockpit of the 20' boat on a very busy Saturday. I could not wait to observe this and experience sailing in one of these 20' vessels. I met Alex at the front desk and he immediately started taking me through the routine of checking the students log page to see what steps they had completed with other instructors and plan what he thought he would cover in the two hours he would have with them for this 2 hour lesson on the water. Here I learned that the students are generally finished at the end of the 6th lesson and with successful completion of the checklist in the "Sailing Lesson Log Book" they earn a Livery Checkout Card and 2 free hours of checkout to work on their newly acquired sailing skills. Ok so that means as an instructor I have to get two people ready to be independent in just 6 two hour lessons. I again thought back to our ASA Sailing 101 class and even though we were out on the water for 8 hours we only actually had the helm for 2 hours and observed the other students the other 6. Here each student would be on the helm maybe 5 hours each and observe 5, the other time is taken up at the dock rigging etc. Ok so I can now begin to see how this is working and even though my level of concern is still up due to all the activity on the lake I am good to see the next part on the water.  
The students were a couple in there early 30's making  their 5th lesson. After quick introductions they rigged the Blanchard, and after a few short remarks by Alex I took a position forward as much out of the way as possible and even with incoming small vessel traffic we were soon shoved off and the female student took us out into the main body of the lake. I was impressed with her steady course in the 5-10 winds and I told her how good she was doing. I then remembered I should just keep quite since I was just supposed to be here observing! The lake was busy, we sailed through rowboats,canoes, paddle boarders, kayaks, other several students sailing in the same area of the lake, planes landing and taking off, and a couple of large commercial passenger vessels coming and going. I was immediately impressed at how nimble the Blanchard was, she can tack in a very small area and come to a stop in 50' or less. I have sailed small sail boats but not very much. 99% of my sailing has been on 25' or larger and of course our 42' loaded down for cruising with about 30,000 pounds of way on will not come to a stop in fifty feet or less without the help of the auxiliary. I was still concerned but it was starting to feel manageable. I was witnessing two people with 10 hours of boat time successfully manage without any panic this 20' sailboat and have fun doing it. They were smiling and laughing and just enjoying the beautiful sunny Seattle day.The Gene pool around here is pretty good so they learn fast. I did feel these two together had acquired enough experience to keep them safe and what an environment to learn in as the rules of the road are constantly in your face. Believe it or not there is enough lake for all this activity to co-exist in a Inner City Urban environment, I am not sure where else it exist in the world quite like this? Certainly not on the Gulf of Mexico Coast. Alex the instructor provided the students with one challenge after another with constant and immediate feedback. I am going to have to,  in my own mind, divide up the curriculum checklist into five 2 hour segments to help manage the amount of information taught in any 1 session to insure quality over quantity. The final session is seen as a check out or demonstration of competence on the skills in the students log book.
The best part is I get to learn to be a better sailor right along with them. You always learn it better when you are teaching it.The next step was for me to schedule a Livery Checkout. Since I had several volunteer hours I was ready to start using my free hours earned to check out a sailboat and begin to learn Lake Union on my own. I scheduled my checkout on Wed. when it is not so busy on the Lake. Charles Fawcett was the skipper supervising my checkout on the Blanchard Jr. (see his website at ) He put me through the same paces that are expected of the students final checkout. I was grateful to have more than one opportunity to practice docking under sail as the first time I came in to the dock a bit fast. I was unsure just how much way the vessel would keep once I turned her into the wind at the dock. The second docking was the charm. I need to practice this a lot more in various wind conditions but I am sure I am good to go without smacking the dock. Charles has tons of sailing experience, I hope to buy him a fine IPA some day to just chat. Check out his web site.
My next step was to check out a Blanchard to Singlehand. I planned on two hours so I could really get the feel of the boat and practice a few things on the students check list. The last thing I want is to get two students in the boat and not give them a quality experience. I need to be competent in all the skills in this boat. I can easily and confidently teach these things in our E42, or a C30 or a C250 in any wind condition (they all have auxiliary's to leave and arrive at the dock!). I enjoyed the sail but I was disappointed since the winds were so light and I could not really test myself. I cut the sail short after an hour and returned easily to the dock and put her away for the evening. As I was stepping on the dock I looked up and the winds filled in across the entire lake.
Wed September 4th was the magic day. I Met Mindy in the CWB to start the Sail Instructor training. Her first words were "are you ready to go Sailing?" Well sure. We spent less than an hour just going over stuff and then 20 minutes or so going over every detail of the Blanchard Jr. (we found a couple of small items like screws needing attention which she solved with her Leatherman.) She put me on the Helm and we were off the docks spending the next 2 hours going over teaching details of every part of the Students checklist. She had a pocketfull of teaching aids she shared and I will completely adopt, they are So PNW! There are times my brain gets lost in thinking about my new learning and I stop listening and just fantasize about what I have just learned,I was having fun and when we got to the part of steering with the sails I did not want to stop. This boat is so responsive compared to most anything else I have ever sailed that I wanted to just do this. I learned to steer our Catalina 30 with the sails leaving the helm entirely alone for hours but this was way more fun and challenging. This boat responds to the crew weight as well where in a bigger boat it is much less evident to non existent. She filled my head and I was done so I was ready to spend the rest of the time just sailing. she was not done with me though. We started in and she continues to detail the need to tack around the docks looking for the best moment to enter the fairway and proper approach to the dock. I sailed us in and docked the boat.She was not satisfied. She sent me out again alone to do it again and this time without the distraction of the master I docked the boat to satisfaction and I had jumped through one of the last remaining hoops. the final step was to put the boat away properly and here I learned two new knots that I should have known all these years anyway. But that is why I am here....I need to learn something!

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