Take a Ride on the Dark Side (why powerboat training might be right for you)

I love sailing! I’m sure you do as well. There are times however, when sailing on Tampa Bay just isn’t the answer to my on-water needs. Sometimes the wind is too light or is blowing from an inconvenient direction to effectively go sailing. There are other times when I just want to get away from it all and relax on the water. Sometimes I want to do things like entertain family, friends, or business associates, and just don’t want to do the “work” that is involved with sailing. There are times when sailing just isn’t convenient. There, I said it.

Power boat training…Whaaat?! There’s something other than sailing?

There is an alternative to sailing that allows you to feel the freedom of being on the water “lazy style.” This alternative places you in the beauty that can only be experienced on the water. It provides an even better environment for entertaining and relaxing then sailing–at certain times. “What is it,” you ask? “Power-boating”, I say as I raise my hands to knock away the slap I know you’re going to throw at me.

I’m not talking about slamming across the water at 40 knots, getting pounded to death, spending a zillion bucks power boating. I’m talking about 7-9 knots, comfortable ride, fuel sipping power boating.sandollars_main_motor

At Sailing Florida Yacht Charters we have several powerboats in our fleet. We have recently introduced Cruising Florida Powerboat Academy (CFPA). Today, I want to speak about what CFPA has to offer you and why you should consider investing your time and money into the dark side–Power-boating.

Introducing CFPA

Let’s start by looking at what Cruising Florida Powerboat Academy is all about:

CFPA is a fully-accredited Recreational Power Boating Association (RPBA) training center. The RPBA is a sister organization to the American Sailing Association (ASA) and as such the structure of classes and certifications are very similar.

The RPBA utilizes the same Instructor Code of Ethics, and certification is processed through the ASA. The RPBA’s goals are to power-boaters as the ASA’s goals are to sail-boaters. There are strict standards that must be adhered to by both RPBA schools and their instructors.

There are several levels of certification that can be achieved by candidates, and those certifications are taught on the candidate selected propulsion system. Students who want certification utilizing particular propulsion systems must and will be taught using that system.

Certifications include:

Basic close quarters maneuvering

Advanced close quarters maneuvering

Open water boating


Class sizes at CFPA are limited to a maximum of 4 students per boat. Classes can be taken one at a time or in combination. Class durations range from one to five days, depending on the desired certifications. CFPA classes lend themselves to hourly sessions very well, and that allows us to further meet your scheduling needs.

Who needs powerboat lessons?

So, you might say, “I don’t need any stinkin’ powerboat classes! I’m a sailor! Sailing is way more complicated than power-boating! Any moron can do that!”

And, from your experiences on the water, you might be partially correct. After all, you can see plenty of those morons on the water every day. From the power-boating perspective, the same could and is said about sailors. Just as the ASA teaches sailors to be knowledgeable and safe, so does the RPBA with power-boaters.

You see, sailing and power boating are very different, and the techniques and thought processes to accomplish each are different. It is true that they share some common aspects. For example, a good working knowledge of weather is equally important to both activities. And, weather is weather, right? Well, yes!

However, what one does in preparation for that weather and how one maneuvers the boat in that weather are very different for the two activities. RPBA classes teach you the correct methods for dealing with weather IN A POWERBOAT!

Regardless of whether you are sailing or power boating, docking can be intimidating. It takes hours of training and practice to master how to safely and uneventfully get a sailboat into and out of a slip. And, I’m sure you think that there is nothing more cumbersome than a forty-plus foot sailboat; but let me assure you, there is. A single screw trawler with its huge freeboard (creating a huge amount of windage), small rudder, and different pivot point is very different and more cumbersome. Count on it.

A sailboat, with its engine engaged, is a powerboat, right? Yep, it is. However, a sail/powerboat and a powerboat are completely different under the water, and they respond completely differently to inputs from the helm. Under-water hull configurations and engine/propeller sizes have a huge influence on how boats behave.  The techniques for maneuvering them safely and precisely are very different.

Still not convinced?

So, the question begs to be asked. “Why would you want to learn how to powerboat?”  The answer is multi-faceted, but let’s look at some reasons.

First: For the challenge!   Anytime that you learn new skills on the water it is a good thing. Learning new skills expands your bag of tricks, no matter what kind of boating you’re doing. Taking on and conquering the challenge of close quarters maneuvering on a single screw trawler will give you a deeper understanding of exactly what is going on when you dock–any boat. There is always a sense of accomplishment with the mastery of a new skill set. Plus, as you become more confident you will learn that docking is actually fun. Yes, I said fun!

Second: Power-boating has its place. Entertaining family and friends is often much easier and relaxed on a stable powerboat. Ever try to serve nice drinks and hors d’oeuvres while sailing? Yea, well, it usually doesn’t work out all that well. Then there’s the relaxation of simply going out and cruising at sailboat speeds without having to do any of the work. There have been many times that I have wanted to be on the water and just chill, without having to trim, roll-out and roll up sails, coil and clean up lines, hold on for dear life, walk around while the boat is heeled, and pay such close attention to steering the boat. Many times our guests are not the salty dogs that we are, and for them the flat stability of a powerboat is just the ticket.

Third: Increase the range of your day trips on the water! A nice trip up to the Tampa waterfront for lunch or dinner is a great way to spend an afternoon. But wait, there’s a couple of problems with that. The distance to the Tampa waterfront is about 18nm. On a 40 foot sailboat cruising at 6 knots that’s three hours if the wind is out of the south and blowing fifteen knots. If the wind isn’t blowing fifteen or isn’t out of the south then the time is closer to 5 hours. Now, double that time for the return trip and you have between 6 and 10 hours of sailing time. That doesn’t leave you much time for eating or exploring–why we went there in the first place.  At the end of that day you will be pretty darn tired. But, if you make the same trip on a trawler like Sailing Florida’s Mainship 390, Sand Dollars, your travel time will be just over 2 hours each way no matter which way the wind is blowing! That leaves a lot more time to explore the waterfront and eat.

What about the costs?

Okay, I know you think you have an ace up your sleeve. You think the cost of operating a powerboat is through the roof. You boast triumphantly, “Those damn stink-pots burn more fuel in an afternoon than I use all year on a sailboat!” Ah, but you’re wrong. Sand Dollars, the trawler I just mentioned, will travel at 14 knots and burn about 20 gallons an hour. YIKES! But I’ll bet you didn’t know that if you drop her speed down to eight she only burns around two gallons per hour.

If you take a mid-forty-foot sailboat running on auxiliary power at 6 knots she burns around 1 ½ gallons per hour and takes you, well, 6 nautical miles. That’s about 4 nautical miles per gallon. Sand Dollars, burning about 2 gallons per hour will take you 8 nautical miles. Hey, will you look at that, that’s also about 4 nautical miles per gallon.

But you’re going sailing, you say. Not if the wind is north or northeast and you actually want to get to the Tampa waterfront. In that case, you’re going power boating on a sailboat. You’re obviously happy going 6, so you should be happy going 8 as well. In general, if you keep a powerboat traveling at displacement speed, the fuel burn is shockingly low. After all, isn’t that what sailboats travel at–displacement speeds?

I just did a two-day class (PB1101 and PB1102) on Sand Dollars, and after 13 hours of run time, 40% of the time spent doing close quarters maneuvers and 60% of the time cruising at about 8 knots, I put less than 18 gallons in the fuel tank. Even I can afford that!

So, to sum it all up, check out Cruising Florida Powerboat Academy. We have a great program and really nice boats. Learn to operate them. You will increase your boating knowledge and skills, find out that precise boat handling skills are challenging and fun, and increase your options for spending time on the water.

Don’t be scared! You will still be a sailor. I’m talking with Captain Dave about moving the powerboats to the other dock so our sailboats won’t see you leaving the marina on them. Remember, what happens on the water stays on the water. Take a ride on the dark side and expand your knowledge with powerboat training. Who knows, you might never go back!

In the end it doesn’t matter what kind of boat you’re on just as long as your ON the Water…With Captain Frank