• It’s about how you react to people and how you debrief – your natural ability to teach.
  • I didn’t really enjoy college and I looked at teachers and thought, ‘I could never do that’, but now it’s all fallen into place and I love it.

For some, teaching is in their blood; for others, it’s an acquired skill.

Becoming an RYA Yachtmastertakes time and skill, but once you’ve got your ticket, what’s next? One pathway is to teach others. The RYA’s Sara Mills finds out how you can make it happen.

Anyone who has taken their RYA Yachtmaster exam will know it’s a bit like running a marathon. You start fresh, dig deep in the middle and by the final sprint you’re totally done in. Crossing the finish line with a pass is exhilarating, but now what? Maybe you needed the certificate for work? To take your boat further afield? Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to teach …

For some, teaching is in their blood; for others, it’s an acquired skill. The RYA Cruising Instructor course takes four days and allows you to teach up to Day Skipper. Potential candidates should be Offshore Yachtmaster skippers, with plenty of on-water experience.

After taking the RYA Yachtmaster exam, a good season helming as many different types of boats as you can will stand you in good stead when putting yourself forward to instruct.

Before you start it is wise do your homework. There’s coursework and a knowledge check to pass before you can take the practical. Your training centre will arrange this for you.

But that’s not all, as RYA Yachtmaster Instructor, Trainer and Examiner Julie Proudfoot, 54, explains: ‘You need to have a good grasp of how to demonstrate things – like tying a fender on, throwing a rope, engine checks and maintenance, boat care and chart work. And that’s before you have untied the boat,’ she says. ‘You need to know your way around a boat and its systems. Some instructing practice can also help, so think about how you would teach these subjects to a student.’

So when she is assessing, what makes a candidate stand out? ‘Personal skills are a must. These people are going to be spending days at a time on a boat in their new role, so I look for people I’d want to go boating with, that I trust, people whose company I enjoy, and who can learn while doing all the above.’

Becoming an RYA Yachtmaster Instructor takes a higher level of skill again. Candidates need to have been working as a Cruising Instructor for at least two years. Then there’s another intensive three-day course of tuition and assessment, and a final day of moderation with a different trainer.

It’s not an easy gig, but the rewards are high. Julie’s advice to any Yachtmasters thinking of taking up teaching is to stay realistic. She says: ‘If you like people and want to see them enjoying boating as much as you do (while getting paid), then qualifying as an Instructor is a great way to do it. It’s not a job, it’s a way of life. You are unlikely to get rich, but you’ll have a fantastic office and meet loads of interesting people. Do it!’

Kieran Board is a freelance instructor with Mendez Marine in Hampshire. He explains what it’s like to go from messing about on motor boats with his family business to passing the Yachtmaster exam, and qualifying as a Cruising Instructor and Yachtmaster Instructor within just three years.

Chartering 60ft cruisers, delivering yachts and teaching on the water – Kieran’s certainly packed a lot into his working life already. At 21, he’s one of the youngest Yachtmasters to become an Instructor. Kieran has always been into boats – growing up on the north side of the Hamble at the family-run business, he spent his childhood buzzing about on little motor boats with his younger brother. He naturally progressed to RIBs, jet skis and wakeboards, and then at 18 he took the RYA Powerboat Level 2 course. This qualification would lead him to a skill that he didn’t know he possessed – the art of teaching.

Jon (Mendez) and his team took Kieran on and guided him through the levels. First he passed his RYA Powerboat Instructor course, moving on to become an RYA Advanced Powerboat Instructor so he could teach RYA Intermediate and Advanced Powerboat courses. He slowly started stepping onto bigger boats, sitting in on RYA Day Skipper courses and shadowing other Cruising Instructors. Then he went on deliveries, eventually skippering vessels himself.

‘Once I had enough miles under my belt and a certain number of night passages,’ says Kieran, ‘I went for my Yachtmaster ticket. I was getting good feedback in my evaluations and I was feeling good. It made me want to develop and go higher up the syllabus. Jon and his team sort of guided me up the ladder. I absorbed what I could and acquired skills from different people. I couldn’t have done it without them.’

Kieran believes the number one teaching skill is patience, closely followed by good people skills. But his age sometimes goes against him. ‘The first morning can be hard. Some people with greater life experience and who may have been on the water a lot already can be a bit difficult at first,’ he admits. ‘So I have to have a mature and level head on. After the first morning, when they realise I know what I’m talking about, they are usually fine.’

So what is it about teaching that inspires him? ‘It’s the enjoyment of sharing your passion, often with people who have never been on the water before. Even after a day spent with them they absolutely love it. It’s brilliant to see people taking on board the tuition and saying they’ve had a fabulous day on the water. And it never gets boring. No matter how much passage planning and preparation you do, the elements always throw up new situations.’

He makes it look easy. Surely anyone could be an RYA YachtmasterInstructor for motor[u1] ? ‘If they share the same passion for the water as any other Yachtmaster, if they are driven and focused, they have as good a chance as anyone,’ he says. ‘But you might be fabulous at driving a boat and not have the right interpersonal skills. It’s about how you react to people and how you debrief – your natural ability to teach. I didn’t really enjoy college and I looked at teachers and thought, “I could never do that”, but now it’s all fallen into place and I love it.’

To find out more about RYA courses and how to instruct visit www.rya.org.uk/coursestraining/coachestrainersinstructors.

How to: At a glance

RYA Cruising Instructor Course

  • Candidates: Experienced RYA Yachtmaster Offshore skippers
  • Skill: Up to the level of RYA Day Skipper
  • Duration: 5 days (sail) / 4 days (motor)
  • Preparation: Online pre-coursework and knowledge check before the practical course

RYA Yachtmaster Instructor Course

  • Candidates: Experienced RYA Yachtmaster Offshore skippers and experienced RYA Cruising Instructors
  • Skill: Instructing both practical and theory courses up to the level of RYA Yachtmaster Offshore
  • Duration: 5 days (sail) / 3 days (motor) organised centrally by the RYA.
  • Preparation: 7,000 miles of sea time, holding the RYA PPR

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