During my week-long course with Fair Wind Sailing, Capt. Dave Bello lead me through hours of coursework a day to help me earn my ASA 101, 103 and 104 certifications. My fellow student, Patrick, and I spent at least five hours behind the helm each day.
We also made time for fun. Here, we visited a dive shack on Green Turtle Cay to see what kinds of activities the Abacos offered. With its lively reefs and crystal clear waters, the Bahamas are an excellent destination for diving enthusiasts.
A Bahamian sunset stretches across the the sky.
The waters of the Abacos are rich with conch, making for delicious food and delightful decorations.
Boats lie peacefully on their moorings in a typical Bahamian anchorage. You can see the entrance to the harbor on Green Turtle Cay. It's narrow, but the peace within is worth it.
Exiting Green Turtle Cay's channel requires a keen eye on the charts, the depth and the water itself. There's little room for error between these channel markers.
This nerve-wracking sandbar juts into the entrance at Green Turtle Cay. Like all of the Abacos, navigation here is tricky, but that's one of the things that makes it so ideal for a course in bareboat chartering.
Island Retreat, Fair Wind Sailing School's Island Packet 40, is a sound cruising vessel and an excellent teaching and learning platform. Over the course of the week on board this boat, we did 50 tacks, 50 jibes, 50 anchor sets, 50 mooring grabs, 25 dock shots and a series of heave-tos, MOB drills and maneuvering drills under power. We got to know her well.
We practiced non-verbal hand signals for both mooring and anchoring drills, learning how best to communicate between bow and stern while successfully setting the boat for the night.
As part of our course, Patrick and I also learned how to take a bearing on land for use both under sail and at anchor. In general, Capt. Dave did a great job of mixing traditional navigation lessons with more modern ones.
Fair Winds Sailing School operates out of Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco. In addition to being conveniently located near the airport, it's a great jumping-off point for a week in the Abacos. Marsh Harbour has plenty of spots for provisioning and dining before and after your trip.
Technically, we were "in school," but this was our classroom: Neon turquoise waters, a comfortable boat and pleasant company. Not bad.
When we weren't sailing, Patrick and I were busy studying for our tests. We completed three certifications over the week, which required reading two books -- "Sailing Fundamentals" and "Cruising Fundamentals"--taking three tests and completing an on-water practical. It sounds like a lot, but when spread over the course of a week, the content soaked in nicely.