Structure of the Coastal Passage Making experience… Club Nautique

As I mentioned earlier, CPM is a complex series of educational experiences where you work with others and gradually demonstrate a number of proficiencies and an ability to lead a crew of sailors as skipper of a sailboat. In this post I will try to help you understand the structure of the experiences so that you may develop a set of expectations for yourself and also know what is expected of you throughout the course series as you certify to sail along the coast of California and gain knowledge that you can apply to sail along any coast on the globe.

There are five positions to learn in CPM. Generally, you will accomplish one position per sail provided that you pass that position. That means you will at least have five sailing adventures during this course. If you fail a class you will be required to make up a sailing session. If you do a five day class it’s possible to get two positions and, thus, only sail four times.

The positions are: crew, junior navigator, navigator, skipper, and skipper of what is known as a “tag“ boat. These positions must be accomplished or completed in this order. I will cover each of these in detail in subsequent posts. Suffice it to say that there are a great number of responsibilities and tasks that you must perform to satisfy the requirements to complete each of these positions. Club Nautique can provide the actual list of tasks to you in advance of the first sail. I recommend that you review them before you get on the boat and read to fill in gaps in knowledge prior to sailing because you will be expected to know these things. No one is going to stand around and teach unless your knowledge is really deficient and it’s best to sail prepared. You may also review your check list with the instructors to determine if you are ahead or behind in any position.

In addition to the responsibilities listed above, you will assume other responsibilities that ensure that you contribute to the overall operation of the sailing vessel. For example, there are three assigned sets of responsibilities associated with positions. These include: engineer, rigger, and purser. Usually, the skipper will assign these positions a week or two prior to the anticipated departure. My advice is to review the list of responsibilities in advance and prepare by reading, searching the internet for answers, and asking questions before you step on the boat so that you are prepared to assume your responsibilities. I personally feel that it’s best that whoever is listed as crew take on the responsibilities of engineer. The junior navigator should take on the responsibilities of rigger. The navigator should take on the responsibilities of the purser. The skipper might assist with any or all of these when able. Keep in mind that these duties are above and beyond those of the individual position that you are trying to pass.

Club Nautique will choose from a list of students who are trying out for the various positions and put together the crew for your boat. Usually, there will be one student at each position but sometimes there are two at the level of crew and junior navigator. So, it will be 4 to 5 students and one instructor per vessel. Should there not be enough students at a particular level Club Nautique will usually recruit someone who has completed the CPM program to fill in at a particular position. These individuals often provide great insight but they are asked to stay out of the way and allow the skipper to truly skipper the boat. It should come as no surprise that you may be assigned to a class boat with people that you know from previous classes or workshops. You may be assigned to work with people that you truly don’t really care to work with. You must keep in mind that, regardless of whether you know these folks, enjoy their company, or find them to be offensive you have to leave your preconceive notions and past experiences in the parking lot at the dock and begin to work together as a team. The skipper is responsible for ensuring that the crew members work together. Instructors may influence these relationships one way or another depending on the situation. I will address a couple of my observations regarding this situation in a later post.

A week or two prior to your CPM adventure, shortly after the team is put together and the skipper and the instructor have been notified, your skipper will reach out and start to assign tasks. This is usually the time to determine whether you will be engineer, rigger, or purser and to start your preparations. The navigator will assign tasks to the junior navigator such as daily weather reports, National Weather Service charts, buoy forecasts, etc. The navigator will plan the sail, develop a series of anchoring plans, etc. The skipper will usually plan the meal schedule and the watch schedule. The crewmember might be asked to assist. A few days prior to departure the instructor and the skipper will review the weather, the sail plan, and make a decision about the feasibility of sailing given the prevailing and predicted weather and they will also choose a destination. As crew, you should pay careful attention to everything that is going on as it won’t be long until you were the junior navigator and then the navigator. Watch how your leadership assigns and delegates responsibilities. Figure out what works and what doesn’t. Learn what is going to work with your personality when you are in a leadership position.

Here are some examples of checklists I’ve seen and employed.

In general, you will spend a Friday afternoon evaluating and preparing the boat for your adventure. There is a lot to do. You and your mates will depart sometime late Friday afternoon or early evening and then run a measured mile to ensure that the log is operating correctly and whether corrections must be made. Thereafter, you’ll swing the ship and develop a Compass deviation card to determine whether the navigator will need to make adjustments as he or she provides courses to be steered. Next, one of two things will happen. If you are assigned to the type 2 CPM you will likely anchor in Richardson Bay, have your dinner, and then set sail and travel overnight. If you are assigned to a type 1 CPM you will likely anchor in Richardson Bay, have dinner, and then sleep with a planned departure first thing the next morning. Typical destinations include to the outskirts of the Farallon Islands followed by a trip to either Drakes Bay at the Point Reyes National Seashore or to Half Moon Bay’s Pillar Point Harbor. The navigator will have planned for both contingencies. You might spend some time along the way working on crew overboard maneuvers and addressing other issues out in the ocean. You will spend the night in an anchorage either at Drakes Bay or Pillar Point Harbor. Skippers and instructors have some discretion. For example, if you are on the type 2 adventure, you may choose to sleep during the day and sail back to the SF bay at night arriving sometime at zero dark 30 and then sleeping at the dock or at anchor only to get back out on the bay on Sunday morning to work on skills. Generally, on the type 1 adventures, the class boats sail back on Sunday morning arriving mid afternoon. Again, sometimes exercises are held in the bay to ensure that skill sets have been acquired. I was fortunate to have a five day CPM adventure where I was able to accomplish two positions. I will write about this type of journey at a later time. At the conclusion of the weekend festivities, the instructor will meet with each student individually, review performance, and indicate whether you passed and are ready to proceed to the next position. They may ask for your overall assessment of the performance of each of your classmates. It is essential that you be objective and speak honestly about your observations and opinions. The ability to be constructive and “critical“ when necessary is part of it and, especially, if you are the skipper.

A word to the wise…… it’s easy to see potential trouble amongst the crew before you even meet in the parking lot prior to your adventure. The skipper should be proactive and intervene sooner rather than later if it becomes apparent that there is a skirmish, poor communication, or even lackadaisical approach to assigned tasks, etc. I would suggest that, if you are assigned to a class boat, ensure that you have the time and commitment to honor your responsibilities to your crew mates. Turn in your navigation plans on time. Check the weather forecast and report it daily. If you’re asked to do anchor plans do them well in advance and don’t leave it to the last minute.

As mentioned in another blog post, you should seriously consider sailing and practicing as a team within the week of your planned departure. Go over the boat. Take a few hours to do this. Learn the systems and where everything is located. Talk amongst yourselves to learn whether there are any particular personality issues that might need to be worked around in regards to the giving and taking of orders. Understand one another before it becomes a problem. Good communication is essential….and especially since you’ll possibly find yourself perhaps 25 miles offshore in deep water with large waves in a little sailboat.

Be sure to get plenty of rest the week prior to your sailing adventure. Prepare yourself mentally for the journey and the fact that you will spend at least two nights on the vessel with interrupted sleep in a class setting where are you are sharing sleeping quarters, responsibilities, demonstrating proficiency, and problem-solving. Anticipate sea sickness and prepare accordingly. Pack lightly. Bring only what you need. No one likes the sailor who beings double the necessary equipment and clothing that simply gets in the way.

I prefer this type of sail plan. In the right column I list potential opportunities for fixes, etc. Please note the calculations to determine apparent wind. You may be asked to do the math. It’s easy to plot it on a chart and use calipers to arrive at answers.
An example of an anchor plan.
Actual ships log from a CPM.

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