Saturday, July 28, 2012

JK University

Back in April, when I was out in Savannah getting work done on Whispering Jesse and spending time with family, I took a few days to drive down to Fort Lauderdale for a blue water sailing seminar led by John Kretschmer. I planned to write an article about it for Cruising World magazine, and I obtained John's permission ahead of time, along with his assurance that he would contact the magazine for their approval. The idea was that John would benefit from the free publicity and I would earn another publishing credit. So I was surprised and disappointed when I received a polite rejection indicating that the magazine was aware of John's seminars and planned to write its own article about an upcoming one. I had been scooped!

Since it's not going to be published, I might as well post it here:

Caribe, a Beneteau First 456, is pulled over to the pier by John Kretschmer
JK University’s Blue Water Passage Making Workshops

Suppose you’re an experienced coastal cruiser looking to take your sailing to the next level, to blue water passage making. Where do you turn for instruction and guidance? If you’re like most sailors, you get started by reading books by such noted sailing authors as Jimmy Cornell and John Vigor. But books will only provide you with theory. What about practical, hands-on experience? It used to come only from taking the risk on your own by making an actual passage, or by signing on as crew for an experienced captain. More recently, there have been instructional passage-making trips offered by outfits such as Mahina Expeditions.

Now there is a new offering, mixing classroom instruction with practical experience to fill in the knowledge gaps of potential ocean-going sailors: JK University, named in tongue-in-cheek fashion after its founder, Capt. John Kretschmer. John is best known for the book he wrote about his delivery captain days, Flirting with Mermaids, and for the passage-making trips he offers through his outfit, John Kretschmer Sailing. He has partnered with Bob Pingel, a contributing editor to Sailing magazine, and Rick Thompson, a marine electronics expert, to provide four-day workshops designed to answer all the big passage-making questions, with an emphasis on safety and self-sufficiency: What are the best methods for avoiding hurricanes? How do I splice a rope for an anchor snubber?

John Kretschmer supervises a life raft launch in a swimming pool
JK University’s Blue Water Passage Making Workshops are conducted three times a year in John’s hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida or in Solomons, Maryland. Both locations are close to water for easy access to ocean-going sailboats. Firsthand inspection of a well set-up vessel or two is one of the key components of “field trip Saturday,” along with the actual deployment of a Switlik life raft. Here is a typical workshop syllabus:

  • Introduction: Myths and realities about passage making
  • What makes a boat a blue water capable boat? Slideshow of 25 great boats
  • Outfitting: Necessary, nice, extravagant – 10 important items for a serious boat
  • Hands on – Rope
  • Inspecting boats: Caribe, a Beneteau First 456 performance cruiser and retrofit project, and Tioga, a brand-new Hylas 56
  • Hands on – The bullet-proof electrical system
  • Hands on – Standing rigging, discussion of rigging emergencies at sea
  • Passage planning, pilot charts, safety, weather, watch schedules, crew management, food preparation
  • Communications at sea: Satellite phones, wifi, SSB, VHF, AIS
  • Life raft launch
  • What’s new in cruising sails? A plan for optimizing “manageable” downwind performance; sail plans for storm sailing; how to spend money on cruising sails
  • Heavy weather: Dealing with storms, gales and squalls
  • Chart work and celestial navigation in the digital age: Thinking like a navigator

John Kretschmer discusses the merits of Tioga, a brand-new Hylas 56
Workshops run from early Thursday afternoon through late Sunday afternoon to help make scheduling as easy as booking a long weekend trip. The late start on Thursday and early finish on Sunday allow out-of-town attendees to arrive and depart without the expense of additional overnights.

To reserve your spot at the next JK University workshop, scheduled for February 7 to 10, 2013, please visit the John Krestschmer Sailing website at and click the Schedule link. In addition to a calendar of workshops, you’ll find all kinds of passage-making opportunities designed to help you build your confidence and broaden your experience.

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