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Bluewater Skipper Expedition

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Many sailors ask Paul Exner what it takes to become a successful bluewater skipper:

“I tell my students there’s no instruction scheme that guarantees they’ll become a successful bluewater skipper. A person’s confidence and leadership skill is different for each of us. Bluewater sailors have mastery of their vessel’s operation, they possess knowledge of many specific seamanship skills, and more importantly have the experience to combine skills and concepts into a sequence of actions used to react to any situation encountered while at sea.”

Paul Exner believes: Seamanship is NOT a collection of skills like “anchoring,” or “coastal navigation;” instead, seamanship is a management system used to operate a vessel at sea using practiced-methods that promote common sense decision-making and a general awareness. Without a doubt, specific seamanship skills are important, but it’s how we connect them in practice that keeps a vessel moving toward it’s objective.

Experience is a great teacher, and guided-experience provides the best bluewater sailing instruction. Paul Exner has created instructional methods that greatly improve a bluewater skipper’s success-rate leading a crew and vessel offshore. Exner’s methods also shorten the time required for a student to gain mastery of seamanship. “Methods” by themselves are not commodities, and instruction is not equally delivered. A student can pass a course by demonstrating individual skills, but completely lack awareness and decision making ability when it comes to applying their knowledge in the field. Exner’s bluewater instruction methods and coaching talent guides skippers to act soundly and safely as they apply their general understanding of seamanship to a real-life scenario so the applied skills make a sensical solution.

When students immerse themselves in the 11-day Bluewater Skipper Instruction expedition, they sail inter-island passages between the Hawaiian islands, and practice in coastal waters as they make landfall on the Big Island, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, and Maui. The passagemaking aspect of Paul’s instructional method is excellent because the passages are not easy to complete, and they’re long enough to encounter a variety of sailing conditions which warrant big-picture awareness AND demonstration of individual skills. When multiple passages are sailed within an 11-day period, the probability for challenge is the highest because the students get to experience ALL sides to a passage and repeat the entire process 2 or 3 times: (planning and preparation; coastal departure; passage; coastal landfall; debrief).

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Exploration is the essence of the human spirit.
— Frank Borman: Commander of the first mission to fly around the moon.

A multitude of weather patterns affects the Hawaiian Island chain … on expedition, we’ll prepare the SV Solstice to safely handle the dynamic changes in ocean currents and weather as affected by Hawaii's intricate topography. Trade Winds will meander around tall active volcanoes (Mauna Kea at 13,802'). Localized meteorological effects also play a major role as land and sea breezes switch diurnally; cold wind accelerates down volcano sides and may build to gale-force winds along coastal areas and within the bluewater passages (Alenuihaha Channel between Maui and Big Island).

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Students receive high-level coaching while participating in every aspect of the hands-on expedition; they will learn to manage themselves and be responsible for components of the expedition they’re tasked to prepare for and handle; they’ll receive advanced instruction, guidance, and debriefed coaching.

 The expedition departs from the Big Island of Hawaii. We’ll plan routes and sail them. Everything we do will be hands-on: weather forecasting; coastal navigation, sail handling, piloting, night sailing, and more.

 Paul's philosophy for bluewater instruction is rooted in belief that sailors gain mastery of seamanship by repeatedly experiencing a varied barrage of oceanographic conditions, under a multitude of hands-on scenarios, reinforced by good leadership, coaching, and routine debrief. Hawaii offers a challenging training ground for students of seamanship; for example: the National Weather Service cites 16 unique Coastal Marine Forecast Zones in Hawaiian waters alone! Also, Wave Forecasts for Hawaii shores are the result of storm events from as far as the Tasman Sea (5,000 miles away), and beyond. Sail training in Hawaii with Paul Exner offers the perfect hands-on, experiential learning classroom to advance your sailing skill.

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Every sail-training expedition utilizes the Modern Geographic Sailing Curriculum: developed over the course of Paul Exner's 40+ years of broad and serious exposure to "sailing." Using this curriculum designed for its flexibility to coach a sailor on their individual style and goal (not mandated by a rigid outline), Paul instructs and guides each sailor along their path to live aboard a sailboat on a bluewater passage, reinforced frequently by discussion with the whole team to ensure the information learned during the expedition is well found. Explore Hawaii as you advance your sailing skill.

Objective: Immerse oneself at sea while operating an ocean-going sailing vessel to make landfalls while sailing an inter-island Hawaiian itinerary, including channel crossings such as the Alenuihaha where serious offshore-conditions (wind, wave, current) could be faced. All passages (including over-night) will be sailed so students take responsibility for leading and keeping-watch aboard a vessel continually underway. Seamanship topics (as outlined in the Modern Geographic Sailing Curriculum) to be practiced frequently: anchoring (including landfall at night), hand-derived traditional navigation PLUS electronic chart plotting, route planning; mechanics of meteorology and weather forecasting (analysis of Surface and 500mb Reports by Ocean Prediction Center and National Hurricane Center); hand-steering by tiller and use of servo-pendulum wind-vane autopilot; piloting techniques; log entries; sail trim; sail-plan optimization; bosun & marlinespike practice; person-overboard recovery; emergency station bills; and more. Each team-member will learn how to use seamanship as a management system for making decisions at sea given the “real world” situations we will encounter … Aim for “full days” of sailing plus passages, reinforced by one-on-one coaching and theoretical discussion, and sailed via hands-on practice. Daily activities summarized via de-brief in log-book and everyone will participate in planning the itinerary’s route in conjunction with a detailed analysis of the weather. The ultimate goal for the expedition is for each team-member to greatly advance their skills and attain captain-level competency for vessels bound for offshore and coastal waters.


Earlier Event: September 22
Hawaii to Kauai