So I finished the last course I'm taking this year. I'm now certified for 30' to 50' boats in coastal waters (within 3 miles of the coast). Now if I can actually convince a chartering agency to let me out, that'll be the real test.
Anyway, some observations over the weekend:
1) A 36' boat does not stop quickly and is really intimidating under power. Under sail it is a lot more work than a smaller boat but things don't have to happen as fast.
2) This course was easily the most challenging thing I have done both mentally and physically in a long time. Sunday was both some of the most fun and most frustrating moments I've had. My instructor purposely was trying to get me overwhelmed and frustrated, and he did a very good job at it. There is a ton of crap to keep mindful of when skippering and lot coming at you at once. Its very easy to get confused and miss things, particularly when frustration sets in.
Apparently this is something instructors talk about amongst themselves. When the instructor is there, the student is torn between giving their own commands, trying to figure out the commands the instructor wants to hear, and trying to figure out what questions to ask. I know I kept feeling the first two in spades. I wanted to make my own calls and fail on my own, I learn faster that way. I was torn between that and trying to answer the question 'right', even though there isn't always a single way to do stuff. So the end result was just me getting angrier and more frustrated and throwing my hands up a couple of times.
In the end, though, it was a very good experience and I learned a lot.
3) Driving a little Jeep after driving a huge sail boat is very disconcerting.
4) 20 knot winds under full sail close hauled is awesome.
5) Even though there is more time to think through things on a bigger boat, it takes more people and a lot more elbow grease. Skippering is going to be interesting. I apologize now for anyone I get short with in the middle of a maneuver. It is going to happen. If something goes wrong (and it will, without a doubt) there isn't time for being polite, orders have to be barked out and followed to keep things from really going to shit. That was really driven into me over the weekend. Being on the receiving end sucks at first but once you understand why and that it isn't personal, it becomes fun. :)
An example, sheets or sails kept getting hung up on rigging and open hatches. I wouldn't notice and we would be half way through a tack or something and the next thing I know my instructor is barking out really short orders in a less than soothing way. The situation would be resolved and we could finish the maneuver. I felt beat on but it was necessary to complete the maneuver without damaging anything. I think this is an example of being too hard on myself, now that I think about it.
6) One of the jarring differences between big boat sailing and small boat sailing is just how complicated some maneuvers can be. For example, a gybe on a small boat can be executed pretty quickly. In a big boat, there are a bunch of things that have to happen with the sails before the helmsman can even begin. Even thought he maneuver takes longer overall, there is so much going on that you need that extra time to address all, particularly with only two people. Three or more will be a fair bit easier and less hectic I think.
7) Life aboard a boat isn't bad. However, if you are tall like I am, you spend most of the time hunched over so you don't whack your head. Cooking wasn't too bad. It was easier than camping. I cooked all the meals as part of my training.
I think I'll end it there for now. I am really looking forward to skippering some charters with whomever wants to go. I have a good idea of what to do and how to do it but I need practice to solidify it all.