Answer to an online question about Sailing

Here is an answer to a Quora question (if you don’t know it, it is a site where people with experience in different subjects offer, buy and trade advice. (Some with unsurpassed credentials). 

Here is the question:

How do I get the experience needed to sail around the world such as Josh Slocum or Jeanne Socrates?

Click through or read Capt Scott’s answer below:

I did what the first three sailors suggested; Sail, sail, sail and learn from those you sail with. That is part of what you need, but be aware cruising and racing are two different animals. I witnessed a large (and avoidable) accident where a bunch of racer anchored in a new port at the end of a particular race. During the night they got caught up on each other’s anchor lines. Then in the morning, a few sailors made some very poor decisions that caused boats to be damaged. On the flip side, many cruisers do not know how to efficiently make their boats go.

I went from a racing background to a cruising background and at that time took some ASA courses. Boy did I have some bad habits. Why? Because I had learned from sailors who had taught themselves. That is not to say they do not have some great tips and insights, but as a group, a well-rounded approach is often lacking. My suggestion is to start by taking American Sailing Association (ASA) courses. They have levels starting from beginner up to crossing oceans and celestial navigation. It is more focused, giving quicker results as you handle all aspects of the boat relevant to each level. Without that it could take three racing seasons before you are allowed on the helm.

Funny, I just got a call from a prospective student which reminded me… Taking lessons is all I said above BUT, Do Not go home after receiving your certification and not go back out on the water for two months. Go out ASAP (a week or two). It will reinforce and more deeply ingrain the new world you have just recently absorbed.

Best of luck, fair winds and always…. Respect mother nature. Cheers, Capt Scott

Able Seaman

After the Hurricane, time to help

the moorings after

Irma came through the first week of September. Jose was close behind, delaying the departure of Silver Lining from my hurricane hole in St Croix. I finally did leave at 3am that Monday, taking 16 hours to get to St Kitts.

Silver Lining came out of the water the following Wednesday. That Friday, September 15th I took a commercial flight back to the mainland. The following Tuesday, Hurricane Maria (now also a category 5) hit St Kitts, then St Croix and with particular cruelty, the island of Puerto Rico. But our little boatyard in St Kitts held up well. When I will return there on October13th, I will post photos of why we weathered Hurricane Maria.

I, along with a small crew will return to the VIs on October 22rd or 23th with both Silver Lining and Speculation. My #1 mission will be helping with whatever I can in the VIs (Both US and British). Their needs are changing as the situation develops, but currently there seems to be a lack of understanding about the situation on the ground, along with bureaucratic red tape… which does not exist for me.

Though I will be one of the first (if not THE first) sailing schools back on line, I will be overly provisioned and fueled up, with water-maker running and in contact with (communications willing) ANYONE I can raise in the VIs, and take it from there.

Anyone that has a line of communication with the VIs, please contact me directly. All help is greatly appreciated.


Capt Scott

VI Sailing School

805 850 8135

The day after Irma – St Croix USVI

   Day after irmaIrma passed us without incident. Top winds of 70mph, but I could have taken much more. I was tucked down in a channel of mangroves with no other boats in sight. Two anchors out, 6 points tied to the mangroves. All lines adjustable from the boat. When I could, I backed the cleat up with another cleat or winch & then cinched tight between them. The port side Mangroves had nearly 4” trunks, but the mangroves on the opposite bank had just two inch diameter trunks. So there I attached two or three smaller lines to a loop where the big line attached and ran back to the boat.

Mangrove Hurricane lines PTFrom the Port Side

Mangrove Hurricane linesFrom the Bow. Two lines from Mangroves to six attaching points on the boat. But on the starboard side I had two attaching points going to 5 mangrove tie-ups.

The following morning was cloudy but calm. I had a boat full of mangrove leaves and that was about it.

I had to get to town about two miles away to get both food and water. Being a runner, the three mile round trip distance would be no problem. But it was. Basically I had nothing in the tank. One good night of sleep was not going to make up for the adrenaline fueled prior two days. I got about a ½ a mile, before I dropped into a walk. I waved down an officer from the DPNR (Department of Parks and Natural Resources) driving by and told him my story. Officer Torrance was kind enough to call his supervisor and ask about my request for a ride. Not sure what his supervisor said, but Officer Torrance simply said, “Where do you want to go”?

St Croix had downed trees and power lines, but an open Wendy’s (breakfast) and then a market where I was able to provision as needed. Torrance then took me back to the fence I needed to jump to get into the area where Silver Lining was tied up. Thanks Officer Torrance!

I would have left the next morning (Friday), but now had to wait for hurricane Jose right behind Irma. For the next two days I caught up on sleep and a tour of St Croix from Humphrey.

20170907_083828Hurricane Ready Humphrey on Island Thyme.

We helped each other re-rig our boats as we watched a parade of C-130s, Ospreys then the ROAR of HUGE C5 Galaxies just overhead (we were at the end of the runway in our little mangrove channel) as St Croix was the airport (the only operating airport in the USVIs) bringing in supplies in support of St John and St Thomas.

F2oCyBHBig C-130 next to the monster C-5 Galaxy.

The next night I got on line and was able to see what I had run away from. A few photos:

2015-09-01_6269_Parquita-Bay-TortolaBefore: The Moorings/Sunsail Hurricane Storage. Tortola, August 2017

the moorings afterSame Bay….. AFTER Irma 

Then on Sunday, again at 3am, I left for my final trip, 110 miles to St Kitts where Silver Lining came out of the water and I got to head home, or so I thought until American Airlines canceled my reservations three days in a role due to havoc still being caused by Irma in the states (Miami is a major hub for AA).

To put this hurricane into perspective, according to the numbers; The Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) which is the total energy a hurricane expends over its life. Irma’s ACE was equal to the total of ALL Hurricanes in an average season.Caribbean Leewards and Irma

Currently, I am totally committed to getting back to the USVIs and BVIs with both Speculation and Silver Lining starting at the end of October. Classes are booked and I will make it happen. Simply put, our brothers and sisters down there need the business. And while I will not make much of a dent with a couple of boatloads of students a week, I will encourage others and show everyone that the VIs are strong and coming back.

#BVIStrong #USVIStrong

Cheers, Capt Scott

VI Sailing School

How We Survived Hurricane Irma


Irma came from the mid-Atlantic, mid-week. A mid-sized hurricane the first week of September.

But as of Thursday, it was starting to look like possible trouble for me in St Thomas USVI.

Silver Lining, Virgin Islands Sailing School’s 47’ catamaran was moored in Vessup Bay on the east end (most commonly known as Redhook), St Thomas. I had left her on a mooring three weeks prior in need of steering components.

When I awoke the next morning of Friday September 8th, the threat became slightly greater. When was Irma going to turn north? No one knew for sure. But it was likely to brush by the USVIs with a possibility (though not highly likely as of Friday) of going through the VIs.

Wanting the option to move the boat a lengthy distance, I worked Friday refabricating the broken turning blocks for the disabled steering, finishing by late afternoon.

Saturday was spent watching the slow progress of Irma, along with watching videos and reading articles regarding surviving a hurricane on a boat (something I had never done). Only knowing of Brenner Bay on St Thomas, I mainly used Google Earth to check out all the possible hurricane holes (shallow, inland, mountains around and full of mangroves) on the rest of the island as well as St Croix (Again, more options!).

Later that afternoon it was clear Irma was moving west more than north and I had to go. I bought a ticket to leave Sunday night, the readeye from L.A. to St Thomas. There was still a chance (though now slim) that Irma would turn north in time, meaning I may not need to go down after all.

Sunday morning brought reports that now made it obvious I was going. Being ready to go, I spent the day relaxing and napping knowing that I would be burning the candle at both ends with a red eye flight, repair and then sailing (between 4 and 40 miles) to a mangrove filled bay on St Thomas or St Croix, followed by 4-6 hours of setting lines and prepping the boats by removing all sails and tying down anything on deck that might leave or open (or ???) with a 140+ mph gust.

I took off that Sunday night around 11pm and got to St Thomas at 1:30pm Monday. I had the taxi driver stop so I could get a close-up look at Brenner Bay, a hurricane hole closest to Silver Lining’s current location. Irma was due to come by within 48 hours.

There I witnessed a bay crammed full of boats with additional boats just getting ready with anchor and lines. Having arrived so late I felt lucky to not have come in earlier and now being part of this overbooked, ill-advised circus. Since the short term forecast (40 hours away) had Irma passing just north of the VIs, I decided then and there I would head south to St Croix. So back to Silver Lining (my thanks to Melissa for the dinghy ride out) where I spent the next 3 hours installing the new steering components. Then… I found a dead starter battery (first time in 5 years… of course!). Luckily the auto parts store was open until 8pm that Labor Day evening. Taxied back and forth then installed said battery, then readied Silver Lining for the 54 mile journey. I was heading to the south side of St Croix to a spot I picked on Google Earth. Got to bed around 11:45pm.

Up at 3:30am. Started the motors, threw the mooring lines and I was off to St Croix. I ran on only the port motor as I had raised the main and the combination of sail and windward side motor equals good speed and a somewhat self-correcting helm, which I needed since I did not have autopilot.

map image_hurricane

Got to St Croix in the late morning and pulled up into a long narrow channel that I traveled up about a ¼ mile when, turning the one corner, saw one other boat, “Island Thyme” a Leopard 47 just like mine. Lucky for me…. as the owner Humphry offered his time to help me get Silver Lining ready as Island Thyme was already set. I am forever and thankfully in his debt.

Though I saw it in the videos, climbing through the mangroves was surely more suited for Spider Man than me, with all of the tight rope balancing, limb hanging and tight squeezing my way around. And the critters! Plenty of mosquitos, things swimming by just underneath and these fearless, ground dwelling, tree climbing crabs. Humphrey set me up with some firehose as anti-chaffing gear and had some great suggestions, the best of which was making all of my lines adjustable so that I could change angles and spread the line stress out as needed with changing wind direction. Humphrey was also good enough to feed me since I had not eaten, leaving St Thomas with a ½ a jar of peanuts and a bottle of Maker’s Mark. I slept really well that night and I needed it, with only 3.5 hours of sleep in 41 hours.

Irma stalled, but started showing herself midmorning on Wednesday. And as Humphrey said, when the wind slowly came up, the changes needed were obvious. So I added two lines and adjusted the others.

A few hours later Irma passed, 60 miles to the north of us, but as everyone knows now, right through the middle of the Virgin Islands with sustained winds of 185 miles an hour… for nearly three hours in any one location. But being where we were, we did not see more than 60 knots (69mph) of wind. But with the VHF radio on so Humphrey and I could be there for one another, I heard a bit of the horror; People being told to “stay in your bathtub” after most of their house had blown away. People with broken bones or other serious injuries being told, “We will get to you when we can…..”

Next post: “The Day after” and “Waiting for Jose”

Capt Scott
VI Sailing School



Sailors We Love | Hobie Alter and the Essence of Life

Hobie Alter_paddle out_OC Register

Image by Bruce Chambers, staff photographer, OC Register

To say Hobie Alter was a sailing legend is in no way hyperbole.  Following his death on March 29th at age 80,  he was remembered last weekend in a traditional Hawaiian paddle out. This article by the OC Register pays fitting tribute to his life as an adventurer and innovator.

As we see it, there are two traditional visions of ocean navigation: the European  and the Polynesian.

To European sailors, the ocean was something to be feared, and for good reason. Most crew members did not swim, and their lumbering monohull crafts performed ineptly in bad weather – the heavy cargo they transported and the rocks they piled in the bilge proved only somewhat effective in preventing their ships from rolling over and capsizing. As for motivation, it was not for reasons of adventure but of profit that they were willing to risk their lives: how much could you load up, take elsewhere and sell?

In contrast,  more than 1,000 years before Columbus made it across the Atlantic, the Polynesians had settled just about all of the far-flung pacific islands. They swam and dove and surfed and piloted their nimble outriggers and catamarans over great distances. They navigated using not just the stars, but by watching the marine animals that shared their courses, and by interpreting the patterns and angles of the ocean swells upon which they sailed closely. They were one with their environment, and there can be no doubt that they lived to explore new worlds.

Hobie Alter produced the first surf board and modern catamaran based on these relics of Polynesian culture. He did what he loved, and still the money followed. So when it comes to the sea, I ignore my European heritage, devalue the quest for dollars and embrace the Polynesian way of the sea.

“E hoa ma, ina te ora o te tangata.” My friends, this is the essence of life.


Image by Richard Graham, SHACC


Exploring | Spanish Virgin Islands

On a day when the wind is perfect, the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty. Today is such a day.

– Rumi

Indeed it is. With my family joining me on Silver Lining to sail into the New Year, it’s not just the wind that is perfect. We’re off to an early start on our crossing to the Spanish Virgin Islands, also known as the Puerto Rican Virgin Islands.  We motored into the channel, then sailed dead down wind for a good part of the way and made it to Playa del Rey in Puerto Rico in 5.5 hours; averaging 7 knots.

We will be exploring the area and will let you know what we find. One advantage: you don’t need a US passport, as we won’t leave US territories for the whole week. Also, Puerto Ricans know how to have fun in and near the water.

Here’s wishing you many rainbow-framed adventures in 2014.

Puerto Rico 1_Dec 2013

Puerto Rico 2_Dec 2013