What Navigation is Covered on the RYA Day Skipper Course

If you want to learn to sail, the most beneficial RYA practical course you can do is the RYA Competent Crew Course.  However, once you have some experience you’re likely to want to gain the skills necessary to actually skipper a yacht. For example, navigation and ‘the rules of the road’, covered under the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea (IRPCS).

One of the most important parts of the RYA Day Skipper Course is the navigation element. To gain the RYA Day Skipper qualification requires that you understand how charts work, the difference between True North, Magnetic North and how to apply things like variation, deviation and leeway.

You will need to understand how to read charts and understand chart symbols as well as knowing which almanacs to consult. You need to be able to plot fixes, courses to steer and estimated positions. You will also need to understand how to predict tidal flows and calculate tidal flow rates and direction. It’s important you understand how tides work and what effect they have on passage planning, and you’ll need to understand and be able to calculated tidal heights in various locations. 

Pilotage is an important part of the Theory Course and you’ll learn how to identify navigational marks, direction of buoyage and what to do if you are caught out in restricted visibility. You’ll also learn how to calculate distance run and how to use clearing bearings and position lines to keep you and your vessel safe. We address how to plot a visual fix or transit using physical characteristics around you, such as headlands, lighthouses and channel marks and the proper way to run a log.

The RYA Day Skipper Course is covered by two modules. The first, a shorebased module, requires 40 hours of structured learning and out of hours study / homework.  Many RYA Training Centres deliver this course over 5 days but some offer weekend modules as an alternative.  The course is taught in a classroom and allows students to concentrate on the theory.  At the end of the course there are examinations covering all elements of the syllabus including navigation and chartwork and IRPCS.  

The second module is water-based and is intended to both put into practice what the candidates have learnt in the classroom and also to introduce more advanced levels of boat handling and techniques required by any competent skipper, such as boat and crew management, anchoring and berthing techniques, sail selection and management, night sailing, close boat handling under power, sailing exercises and Man Overboard drills.

At Jolly Parrot our most popular course is the combined Novice to Day Skipper Course which includes the RYA Competent Crew Course, RYA Day Skipper Shorebased Theory Course and the RYA Day Skipper Practical Course. The entire course runs over two weeks, making it an ideal and productive way to spend two weeks in the sunny Mediterranean learning a valuable new skill and meeting new friends.

Related articles: