I needed to brush up on my sailing skills to be comfortable handling the boat by myself, specifically not taught by John (to save the marriage) so John arranged 4 days of sailing lessons with a local American Sailing Association (ASA) instructor, Tony Wall. We had fabulous sailing conditions for the week – nice strong breezes so I could really get a feel for how the boat handled. As well as a day of calmer winds just in time for docking practice. The training was a great mix of practical hands-on sailing to demonstrate that I knew what I was doing, along with navigation, systems checks, weather, and safety.
Our first day we headed south from Dania Beach along the Florida Coast to Biscayne Bay where we anchored at Marine Stadium just in time for a gorgeous sunset. Entering the shallow anchorage we were thankful to have Tony along with his local knowledge. This was a nice protected anchorage and offered a great vantage point for Miami lights.
The second day we spent practicing various sailing techniques and maneuvers in Biscayne Bay. After passing through the Feather Banks, we headed for Elliott Key for another peaceful anchorage. We anchored about 300 yards offshore so John & I decided to adventure over to the little beach in our dingy…and quickly left when massive swarms of mosquitoes greeted us! We were shocked at how thick they were! The Deep Woods Off barely deterred them. Thankfully the dingy outpaced the mosquitoes back to the boat! After a quick swim I wrote the ASA 101 exam and passed with flying colours! I had already taken similar courses through Royal Yachting Association (RYA) in the UK and Canada Power and Sail (CPS) in Canada so this was just a review of the basics.
The next morning winds had calmed significantly so it was great conditions for me to practice Man OverBoard (MOB) drills in the bay and then docking in No Name Harbour along the seawall. I started by doing several pirouettes and once I was comfortable with how the boat handled, I docked along the seawall a couple times. There was an unfortunate moment where the instructor didn’t get a fender in place in time, and the “concrete” seawall gave Low Flite a bruise. Yikes…good thing we know a very skilled gel coat guy!
That night we anchored off Nixon’s Beach (yes that Nixon) along the north east end of Biscayne Bay. We had views of beachfront mansions and another great sunset as I wrote my ASA 103 exam. Tony reviewed the material through practical exercises during the day and then provided a quick review of the theory so I felt well prepared.
The final day we lifted anchor and motor sailed to Dania Beach…back to the boatyard to finish work before heading off to the Bahamas for the winter. After 4 days of hands-on practice with lots of guidance (and patience), I feel much more confident about taking the boat offshore and would highly recommend this approach to anyone who wants to improve their skills and knowledge.