You’ve completed Coastal Navigation and are ready to jump right into CPM. Hold on a minute. You’re not ready! Take some time to get out on the water and refine your sailing skills. There are plenty more opportunities at Club Nautique to further your education and prepare for the complexity of CPM. Remember, the goal here is to become proficient at sailing and safe out in the ocean along the coast. Keep that focus in mind and decide, based on your learning style, the preparation you need to do, and hours spent sailing when you’re ready to actually sign up for your first CPM sail.
CPM is different. There is some instruction but, by and large, the instructors are on the boat to evaluate performance and to ensure that you are proficient. They are, in essence, ultimately responsible for safety of the crew members on the boat but they delegate that responsibility fairly well to the designated skipper. There are checklists with innumerable tasks that must be accomplished prior to successful completion of the program. It’s best to be prepared before you even start on your first adventure in the course. Not convinced? Please understand that a fair number of people FAIL one or more of their “positions“ during CPM. So, you can either pay now ….and learn critical information prior to CPM or ……you can pay later and learn it after a failure. I will share my recommendations with you below. Pick and choose to fill in the gaps of your knowledge.
First things first. Review every course book for which you have obtained a certification. Try to understand everything within the pages of those books. Supplement your learning by a review of the Annapolis book of Seamanship.
Get out on the water and sail with your friends. Function as the skipper and learn to provide orders, direction, and instruction. Practice some of the things that you have learned. I was on the water for over 100 days from the time that I started basic keelboat classes to just prior to starting the CPM classes. There is no substitute for experience on the water in a sailboat.
Review the anchoring sections of the basic cruising and bareboat textbooks. It would also be useful to review the anchoring section of the coastal passage making textbook. I recommend the following book for detail treatise on anchors, anchoring techniques, etc. Club Nautique has an anchoring clinic supervised by an instructor. Take that clinic! It will count towards some of the credits that you must accrue prior to CPM. If you choose not to take the class then get out with your friends and spend the day anchoring until you are entirely confident and totally bored with the procedure. Then, do it some more. Practice anchoring both with and without sails, preferably in the wind, and maybe even when the tide is going out or coming in.
Review the relevant sections of the different books you have studied pertaining to docking and maneuvering in a harbor. Utilize Internet resources to further your education. Get out with your friends and practice. Use those spring lines! I can’t tell you how many times I have had to spring my boat from a dock since I completed my training at Club Nautique. Get some experience docking in the wind. Don’t forget to practice steering in reverse. The club offers a motoring and docking clinic. Take it! It will be money and time well spent to have another run through these maneuvers with an instructor on board the vessel.
Practice all the knots you have learned and learn to do the rolling hitch if you haven’t already learned it. Practice tying it both ways…..from both sides. You will use it to put a snubber on the anchor rode. In my experience, 70% of people on a CPM journey don’t know how to tie this knot. Don’t be one of those people!
Review everything that you learned in coastal navigation. Sign up for the coastal navigation on the water class offered by Club Nautique. This is another instructor supervised and directed course. Well worth the time and money. I firmly believe that it should be a prerequisite for CPM. Take it seriously and get your first inklings of how to obtain a fix, running fix, and more on the water. Swing the ship and determine compass deviation. Learn to steer a course and to account for a tidal current in order to achieve your destination. Afterwards, get out with some friends or others at your level and do it again. Ad nauseum.
You must learn to operate and interpret radar and radar images on a sailing vessel. Club Nautique has a tremendous on the water radar course taught and supervised by an instructor. I believe this should be a prerequisite before CPM. Take the class! Learn as much as you can through practical application and through additional reading. Turn the radar on whenever you go out sailing with your friends. Become accustomed to interpreting the radar appearance of land masses, other sailing vessels, and buoys. Try a few radar fixes using the EBL and VRM features. Make sure that you have a working knowledge of radar before your first CPM adventure. Well utilization of the chartplotter is not permitted on CPM, it also behooves you to learn as much as you can about this particular instrument and display. The following books are highly recommended. They review basic theory, interpretation, pitfalls, and advanced features the radar and other navigation assist devices.
Club Nautique requires attendance at a CPM seminar. It’s usually extremely well done. It’s a nice overview of what is expected during the courses. I understand the seminar has changed somewhat since I sat through it more than two years ago. I believe that some of the things that students are required to do might be templated. That’s fine. However, as I will discuss later, one of the most important things to do when planning a sailing adventure, as a navigator or skipper, is to DO YOUR OWN WORK! For example, some of the sailing plans have been passed from navigator to navigator to navigator and people simply copy those course headings directions, estimated time of arrival, etc. Don’t do that! Do your own work. This is the only way you’re going to learn to do it and to be prepared when you are sailing on your own. Remember, the purpose of these exercises is to provide you with the tools to be successful as a sailor independent of the club and any instruction. Don’t take shortcuts. Do the work yourself. Get out the chart. Figure out how you’re going to get from the docks in Sausalito to the Farallon Islands. From there to Drakes Bay. Or to Half Moon Bay. The courses to steer. Where you are going to do your fixes. Whether you might have to account for current. And so on. Don’t let anyone else do this for you. Do it yourself!
I strongly advise, as mentioned before, a mentor. Hopefully, by now, you have a mentor who has completed CPM. I recommend working with your mentor, and others, so that you can crew on a voyage outside the gate. Get out there as many times as you can before your first CPM. You will learn a lot. You’ll become accustomed to the ocean environment. It will serve you well. For your first trip, go out on a day when I high-pressure system is offer on shore and the swelling will be relatively flat. You’ll soon know whether you will require seasickness medications prior to venturing out the gate. I do recommend scopolamine patches but others have experience with similar useful remedies. I tend to only use scopolamine if I’m going on a long journey outside the gate. Usually, I don’t use any preventive measures for day trips outside the gate even with huge swells. Any rate, get some experience in the ocean with those who have been certified to be there. Recognize that, for plenty of good reasons, you don’t want to be out there unless you have experience. There is wisdom in the fact that Club Nautique will not allow boats out the gate unless a skipper on board has a CPM certification. It’s not just insurance. It’s safety backed by skill.
There is so very much to learn about sailing in the ocean. You can’t do it all through the CPM classes. You must get out there and do it after you are certified. That’s where the real education starts. However, I believe that you can prepare yourself by reading. One of the things I will talk about later is the fact that, even when there was heavy weather during a CPM, there was no instruction on how to sail through it. So, you’re going to have to learn the skills yourself…. by reading and doing. The books recommended below are well worth your time.Read about heavy weather Sailing. When are you going to tack? What’s going on with the wind and the sails in the trough between two large swells? How do you steer through the swells headed up wind? How do you do same heading down wind? How do you avoid a broach? What are the dangers of accidentally gybing? When is the best time to gybe headed down wind? When should you heave to? You need to know all of this and more. Some of you might learn on the CPM. It would be best to take some time to prepare and get in your mind what you might do if a situation arises so that you know what to do when presented with a particularly dangerous situation. I will address some of these issues in later blog posts. For now, think about reading these books before your CPM journey begins. And, if you’re fortunate enough, perhaps you’ll get some practical experience as crew sailing out the gate with your mentor.
Study the weather. The information in the CPM textbook is excellent. However, you should attempt to learn more. I have also posted a weather book that I recommend. It is full of useful information. Some of it is rather complex and not pertinent to coastal sailing but the things you learn in this book are invaluable. Also, familiarize yourself with NOAA charts, buoy data and forecasts, and National Weather Service forecasts. There are several good websites and plenty of apps that prove to be quite useful to gain information that you will use when planning to sail offshore. Find the resources that work best for you and your crew.
To further prepare for your CPM adventures, I recommend getting together with one or two others who are planning to enter the CPM program of education, charter a vessel, and spend at least four hours at the dock together going over every inch of the boat. Review the systems. Learn the parts of the diesel engine.The cooling system. The fuel system. Do you know where the fuel shut off valve is located? The electronics. Locations of the batteries and battery switches. The head and plumbing. The location of all seacocks, their function, and the location of fire extinguishers. Inspect every aspect of the rigging. Learn to comprehensively evaluate the sea worthiness of a sailing vessel. Review boat systems in each of the prior text books you have used in your courses and especially review the relevant sections in the CPM textbook as well. Once you begin the CPM program, and are assigned to a boat, I recommend getting together with the team members, in advance of each of your CPM adventures, and spend the day sailing together. Give 3 to 4 hours at the outset to review the boat that you will be using on your journey so that you know where things are in advance. This will also provide the team with an opportunity to learn to work together before you’re on the boat with an instructor.
I also recommend reviewing the following link and doing additional research regarding the sailing tragedy that occurred several years ago at the Farallon Islands during a race. There are important lessons to be learned as a result of the accident and loss of life at sea. It’s humbling and reminds us the importance of proceeding cautiously with confidence every single time we step onto a sailboat.
Lastly, read and review the CPM textbook now, and prior to each one of your CPM adventures.
I know this is a lot of information to digest. The recommended tasks might even seem daunting at first. Follow the advice and learn as much as you can. I guarantee that if you do so then you will have a successful program of CPM and that your eyes and your ears will be open to learn even more than you could have ever imagined.