People take up dinghy cruising at all ages and with a wide variety of prior sailing experience - from ocean crossing in yachts to absolutely none. For some it's a gentle progression from one sort of sailing to another - for others new skills have to be learned, as they switch from yachts to smaller boats, from racing to cruising or from inland lakes to tidal waters.
Beyond the specifics of sailing, dinghy cruising skills have a lot in common with many other outdoor activities - knowledge of the weather, navigation, camping etc. Above all, what's needed are common sense, an awareness of ones surroundings, ones own capabilities and those of the crew and the boat.
The skills and experience you need to take up dinghy cruising will depend on your previous experience of boats, your skills in related outdoor activities and the places you plan to sail.
Regardless of your sailing experience, if any, a good place to start is by sailing with others: members with or without boats are welcome at DCA rallies and are also encouraged to link up with other members locally. Even if there are no members near you, if you ask around at your local sailing club you may find, hidden among the racers, people who enjoy our kind of sailing and who may well be happy to share their experience with you.
The DCA does not offer training; indeed, a great many excellent sailors have never had formal training. Courses can however provide a good introduction to sailing. In the UK, the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) oversees formal sail training. The courses most relevant to dinghy cruisers are:
When considering courses, take account not just of the syllabus but also of the types of boats the training is offered in - this varies between training centres and the experience will be completely different in, for example, a Wayfarer, as opposed to a more modern racing oriented boat.
Practising capsize drill
While courses can provide a good introduction, nothing will truly develop your skills and competence except time spent on the water. As you gain in confidence you will want to tackle more challenging conditions, once again, sailing with others at DCA rallies can provide great opportunities.
We'll leave you with Anthony's advice: "Start as soon as possible. You'll always regret not having started earlier."
To find out more about starting dinghy cruising read: