Learning the ropes through apps and online…

When I first met Trev, I’d never set foot on a sailing boat before. I’d never ever dreamed I’d one day be able to sail a yacht, let alone race short-handed! I’d never even heard the phrase short-handed. But if sailing was to be a major part of my life, then I’d better start learning, and start learning quickly.

I still lived in Melbourne and was travelling up to Brisbane once a month or so – sometimes a couple of times a month – and the usual way these weekends would go was that Trev would pick me up from the airport and we’d head straight out to Trev’s house, which was where the boat was. We’d grab the food and drink that Trev had already organised and we’d head out for a weekend on the bay. It was bliss, except when I was asked to do something, but had no idea what I was doing. “Tail the halyard’ makes no sense when you don’t even know what a halyard is, let alone what on earth ‘tailing’ means. It is easier to follow instructions such as ‘pull on that green rope as I pull up this sail from the mast.’ But long term, that’s going to get tedious. And worse when you go on someone else’s boat.

In order to learn to sail, I needed to not just learn the terms, but also their purpose. Ie, a halyard is not just a rope on a boat, it specifically applies to the ropes that pull sails up. And which is the main halyard, and which are the jib halyards, etc. But it is hard enough to learn these things when you’re only on the boat once a month, let alone remember them.

Trev is very particular not only about where you learn to sail, but also how you learn. He’s very much a proponent of formal sailing training, and ensuring that you learn properly. Dinghy sailing is a favourite method of his to learn and teach, and he’s also a fan of RYA teaching materials. Also a big fan of practical teaching.

I, being in Melbourne, was becoming obsessed about learning things so that each time I went to Brisbane, I’d have something new to show off. Naming the point of sail we were on, identifying the cardinals, and anything that would make me more useful on the boat instead of just being moveable ballast.

Every day I had a half hour train trip to work, and a half hour train trip to home. The perfect place to start learning things. So I downloaded a few apps, and decided which ones were going to suit my brain’s way of learning and started to read. And do tests. And repeat until I knew what the parts of the boat were called and what the various nav lights meant, and other things like that.

When I’d get back on the yacht, I’d go looking for the things I’d just learnt. Like following the outhaul from the clutch all the way to the main, where it did its job.

The apps I found to be most helpful were:

Sailing School, by Nautica SIA (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sailing-school/id500663978?mt=8)

This app doesn’t really teach you things, rather tests what you know. The ‘training’ part of it is multiple choice questions, which if you get them wrong, it tells you the correct answer. I like this because it can test you on one topic, or multiple. I found that this app was the one I liked the most. It does cost to buy this app. Although I can’t vouch for it now, as I don’t use it all that often, and I am not 100% sure that they have kept up with the iOS updates for the newer phones, it is/was worth the cost. It’s no more expensive than buying a sailing book.

Knots 3D, by Nynix (https://itunes.apple.com/app/knots-3d/id453571750?mt=8)

Knots still aren’t my thing, and the only way you can possibly learn them is to do them over and over again. This app is a good way of learning some knots when there’s no one else around to show you how. This one costs, but I think the animations are really helpful.

Knot Guide, by Winkpass Creations, Inc. (https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/knot-guide-free-knots/id399947682?mt=8)

Same as above – great way to find the right knot. This one is free but be prepared for the ads to drive you up the wall.

Of course, there are many videos on YouTube to help teach you the basics. Be judicious with them, as what you learn from one person could infuriate the skipper if you pick wrongly. Read the comments on each video. Although people can be harsh, you will get an idea if the viewers object a lot to the videos, or just to a couple of points within them. Sadly, you often won’t find positive comments, so don’t let negativity be the indicator. Just the strength of the negativity.

But what I’d like to know, what are your favourite LEARNING apps for sailing? We’ll talk about other sailing apps on other posts, and other learn-to-sail books, but I’d love to find some more apps to help the never-ending learning process. Comments below please!


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