Do I need to have any previous experience?

We welcome participants of all levels. In fact, many people often take our course without ever having been on a yacht before. If you have been part of a crew on a boat but haven’t fully understood what to do, then this course is ideal. Other students have done a lot of sailing but need reassurance that what they’re doing is the correct way to sail a boat with confidence and safety. You will be able to anticipate what’s happening next and broaden your knowledge base.

How many students are there in a class?

There are usually 6 to 12 people in a class as our 47 foot yacht “Endless Summer” can comfortably hold us all with plenty of jobs for everyone, plus an instructor. Students learn best in a group where they can learn from each other’s mistakes and have a bit of fun as they go. Much of the learning comes from hearing other people’s questions and the group discussions while we are sailing along.

How many hours are in the classroom vs out on the water?

The yacht is the classroom and 12 of the 15 hours of learning are out on the water. The 3 hour practical chart work class (usually the fourth lesson) is held at Penny’s home. During the course you’ll learn and make use of the pitchfork approach to sailing with its all-important 3 prongs – understanding the terminology, sailing and rigging the yacht, and knowing where you are and how to get back.

From our more than 40 years of experience teaching people to sail, we know that hands-on practical learning is ideal over classroom or textbook learning. In our first 3-hour lesson, we’ll be aboard the yacht from the outset and you will be rigging Endless Summer and sailing her within 40 minutes. There’s not a lot of sitting around time – you can start rigging as soon as you hit the deck or learn your knots. You’ll be given notes to read and review after every lesson and we’ll be discussing these and answering questions as we sail. So if you’re not a multi-tasker now, you certainly will be by the time you complete the course!

What type of yacht do we learn on?

“Endless Summer” is 47 foot long single mast and single hull keeler. If you learn on a big yacht like this you’ll have no trouble crewing on other boats, bigger or smaller.

Are lessons ever cancelled due to bad weather?

It’s very rare for a lesson to be cancelled as we can sail in all sorts of conditions. We sail in up to 30 knot winds regularly (good winds make for great sailing), so it’s usually the rain not wind that sometimes postpones a lesson.

It’s actually best to learn in a variety of conditions so you’re prepared for anything once you’ve completed the course.

How do I know what role on the yacht to do – will you help me decide?

You will have the opportunity to try every job on the yacht and don’t actually need to decide on just one. You’ll be rigging from day one and not long after will have the chance to take the helm and take charge.

For each lesson the white board will have your name and job for rigging the yacht and unrigging. While we are sailing you will change jobs every 5 to 10 minutes and also get some all important time to watch and learn. Enhance your enjoyment out on the water by understanding your role aboard.

What happens if I feel seasick?

Because you’ll be busy learning, talking, concentrating and working, it’s actually quite rare to feel sick on the boat we sail on. In fact, we can proudly state that we’ve never had a student sick on board in the 44 years we’ve been teaching (and that’s from over 33,000 students!).

What do I get a at the end of the course?

All students who complete the course receive a Certificate of Sailing Competence from the Penny Whiting Sailing School which is accepted by most charter operators worldwide. With this certification you will be competent to charter a boat and crew with others.

Will I be awarded a pass or fail at the end of the course?

We don’t assign a grade for the course, but we ensure that everyone who participates in the full 15 hours of course time is fully competent by the end. We’ve taught over 33,000 students and the only few who have not become competent and not received their certificate of completion were those who were not able to participate in the full duration of the course.

Do I have to complete a course or have any type of qualification to sail or charter a boat?

There are no legal requirements or licensing to charter a boat in New Zealand. However we strongly encourage everyone who wants to sail (or even just be a regular passenger) to learn the essentials of sailing, chart work and water safety.