Motor Cruising - Building confidence on the water

Justine Bowman is put through her paces on the RYA Helmsman course

Wide shot of fenland dancer on the water

Having spent her childhood on the water, Justine felt reasonably at home as she stepped onto Fenland Dancer, a 36ft motor cruiser, on the first morning of the two-day RYA Helmsman course.

“I’ve always spent time around boats, sailing in both the UK and the Mediterranean with my family,” says Justine. “But other than the occasional trip out on my dad’s motor cruiser, it’s not something I’ve pursued as an adult, and I’d never considered the need to complete any training.”

After joining the RYA training department as Cruising Schemes Administrator, Justine was keen to learn more about the courses she would be looking after. However, she hadn’t appreciated just how much she’d take away from the course on the Solent. 

“I knew what the content of the course was, but didn’t really understand what that looked like,” she explained. “I went in with a reasonable knowledge of boats but no actual boat-handling experience. It was intense and straight in at the ‘deep end’ but I really enjoyed it.”

Justine Bowman - RYA Motor Cruising Helmsman Course - Hamble, UK

Growing your skillset

The course itself is hands-on and boat-specific, encompassing both essential theory such as basic engine maintenance, safety equipment and rules of the road. Also covering practical skills like helming, berthing and how to pick up a man overboard.

“I learnt how to manage the boat in different conditions and situations” says Justine. “I really enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment as I manoeuvred the boat safely around the marina amongst some very large yachts! I also enjoyed the camaraderie with the rest of the group as we supported each other through each exercise.

“My confidence has improved, and I would now feel comfortable taking the helm more regularly, or in an emergency if required. I also think I’ll be a better and more active member of the crew when I’m out with my family.”

Justine on the motor cruising course

Future training

Justine is hoping to get in some more motor cruising practice and also plans to gain more knowledge with the RYA Essential Navigation and Seamanship course in the future.

“I’d recommend the course, especially for people that have experience on boats but have never really taken an interest in handling them. You never know if you’ll be in a situation where you’ll need to take over. It really does give you the confidence to step up a level and maybe even progress through the scheme to RYA Day Skipper.”

Justine’s top motor cruising takeaways

  • Take everything slowly and don’t panic
  • Get to know your boat, inside and out
  • It’s possible, even in the wind and rain!

The course

The RYA Helmsman course is a two-day, entry level course perfect for new boat owners, regular crew members and those with a general interest in motor cruising.

  • Required experience: none
  • Minimum age: 12

Justine inside her training boat

Recommended reading

For those planning to work through the RYA Motor Cruising Scheme or looking for an introduction to motor boating, the RYA Day Skipper Handbook Motor is a great place to start.  

With in-depth information and advice, it covers everything from safety equipment to boat handling, navigation, anchoring, cruising at speed and much more.  

Discover more

Whether you’re looking to brush up on the basics or develop your motor cruising skillset, RYA training courses can help you to excel on the water. Find your nearest training centre and kickstart your season on the water. 

Justine completed her training with Hampshire-based, RYA recognised training centre, Mendez Marine.