Have you expanded your seamanship skills gained through boat angling?

The Jones crew sailing up from Sivota to Corfu Town


A few years ago now as a young family we completed an RYA Competent Crew Sailing Course. This was necessary, I thought, as we were due to go on a holiday in Greece, sailing within a ‘flotilla’, around the Greek Islands.

Believe it or not for a family of five that included flights, yacht hire etc with the package totalling £2300 for an early November slot. We took advantage of early booking the late season dates at the Southampton Boat Show. The only problem was we didn't known how to sail. So we decided to enrol on a three weekend Competent Crew course. What an experience. It was exhilarating to say the least and I can now appreciate why these WAFI’s (Wind Assisted Flipping Idiots, polite version) chose to sail. How many boat anglers try sailing? Not many and probably the reason for the ‘great divide’ between us.

Anyway, I have had a glimpse into the dark side and those WAFI’s out there really despise us fishermen. Trawlers, Potters, Rod and Liner’s and Anglers, are all fishermen in their view and we are genuinely hated by some and unfortunately completely misunderstood. That's a pity really, as we are all in a boat if not the same boat.

Through years of experience added to my shore based ‘Day Skipper’ (years ago) and Coastal Skipper (2006) courses, the yachting terminology came fairly easily, whereas the rest of the ‘skills’ came fairly naturally because as a regular motor angling skipper you are always aware of wind and tide.

You know what it's like in your boat doing say 20 knots up or down a busy channel; you watch out for one or two WAFI’s cutting across your bow, which you should give way to, watch for the odd hazard and the odd bit of wash, not too exciting once you have got used to the speed (it is the fishing that is the best bit anyway).

Now try to imagine you have a F5 and the sails are pushing you across the same channel at anything between 5Knts and 8Knts. You can’t sail within aprox 45 degrees either side of the wind as the sails collapse and then all forward momentum is lost so you can’t sail directly to where you want to go to. So you have to tack back and forth across the marked channel. Now add the following potential hazards that will be on your tack; Ferries, more WAFI’s coming the other way but running with the wind and possibly now a stand-on vessel. Sailing boats giving way to me, it was great. Then we had Tugs, Pilot Boats, the Harbour Master launch, Motor Boats, Anchored fishermen, Work Boats, Pot Buoys, Mooring Buoys and a shelving beach at the end of both tacks. Great fun!

Now this can only be achieved safely if you and everyone else, firstly, know how to sail and secondly, know the ‘rules of the road’. These are also known as the IRPCS (International Rules for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea) or more commonly referred to as the Collision Regulations. Luckily we and nearly everyone else we came across actually seemed to know them. Apparently in the summer months this bit becomes a lot more challenging as the ‘grockles’ that take to the water do not know the Col Regs and make it a lottery as to what you should actually do. You must avoid collision obviously even though certain helmsmen ignorantly keep driving through the no go, ‘virtual red lights’!

First weekend

In the first weekend we went down Southampton Water towards the Hamble. We gibed on a ‘Broad Reach’ in a F4 NNW while running with the wind. The next day we came back, tacked while ‘close hauled’ and ‘beating’ in a fresher NNW wind, a F5. Back from the Hamble River to Ocean Village. It was quite exhilarating with the kids almost scared as they are not used to the boat being permanently heeled to one side with no sides to it. I felt a bit uncomfortable as a sailing boat is one big trip hazzard.

The team work required between the skipper, helmsman and crew is a good thing to practice as a family. It is a real tester getting the kids to actually do something when you tell them too, all the time!

Middle weekend

The middle weekend was very, cold and windy with a F6 – F7, although in a safe direction for Southampton Water, from the NE – E. We started the weekend with a walk around Southampton trying to find something suitable for a family at 9pm on a Friday Evening.

On Saturday morning we sailed up and down Southampton water with winds of 28 knots at times. We started with a couple of slabs reefed in to make the boat go a little slower but we still flew along at 8 knots. Then after nipper got a little alarmed at the heel angle we tried a few other things after anchoring for lunch off Netley. It was interesting practicing with either just the mainsail or just the foresail, it made for a much more gentle day in fairly blustery conditions but still controllable. On the Saturday night we berthed in Hythe Marina and were just 4 miles from home! Sunday was a lovely day with sunshine all day and plenty of wind (F5) for sailing.

In reflection I have enjoyed the middle weekend but not learnt as much as I would have liked to. It is only the sailing part that I am really interested in learning. However, watching the family become more confident at helming, working the winches, tying knots and preparing for casting off and berthing has made it all worthwhile. I am already happy to go on holiday with what we have done so far and actually do some sailing. I would like to have done a lot more manoeuvring while gibing and tacking when set a course to sail but it never came. We have finished early two weekends in a row which was not good and I felt we were being short changed. On the Sunday we learnt to ‘Hove to’ without the sails flapping while we ‘drifted’ during our lunch, presumably to save anchoring. We also picked up a MOB and I helmed back to a MOB.

Last weekend

At least we made it to the IOW this time. The winds were now SW F6-F7. We had a good time and established the basics again. We all came away with a Competent Crew Certificate the kids were chuffed and they thoroughly deserved it. The wind was too lively to learn basics but we know now what we can expect if it gets breezy out in Greece.


I would thoroughly recommend that you have a go at this sailing game, just so that you appreciate the ‘dark side’. I can’t say it beats catching a 25lb Cod or a 10lb Bass or a 3.5lb Black Bream or a 40lb Conger or a 25lb Blonde or a 30lb Stinger or a 4.5lb Plaice or a 2lb Sole or an 15lb Hound but you get my gist. This was certainly a good experience, good family bonding and a good way of ‘teeing up’ the autumn sailing holiday. I have this wild imagination that is allowing me 24 hour access to the sea where I can try my hand at fishing the waters around the Greek Islands. We’ll have to see what the Mrs actually says about that when we get there!