Taking Online Sailing Instruction to a New Level

Online sailing school NauticEd joins forces with charter companies and other schools to offer a hands-on education as well. "Charter Briefing" from our March 4, 2010, CW Reckonings.

March 4, 2010

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Sue Fennessey, CW managing editor, takes the tiller of a Rhodes 19 she and her husband, Don, sail on Narragansett Bay out of the naval base in Newport, Rhode Island. Shelley Fennessey

CW managing editor Sue Fennessey is a woman of many talents, and it should come as no surprise that her role at Cruising World is but one of many she’s held over the years.

Sue, a Brit, comes from a career military family, and she herself was a member of the British Royal Air Force. When she met her future husband, American Don Fennessey, he was in the U.S. Navy stationed overseas; the rest is history. Their diplomatic careers placed them in posts around the globe, where they adapted to local lifestyles and continued learning along the way. Somehow they also managed to have four children, whom Sue home schooled.

A decade ago, Don’s career brought him to Aquidneck Island, specifically, to the Naval War College, in Newport, Rhode Island. Their family now calls the U.S. East Coast home, and the children, all grown, have thrived in the challenging and dynamic military environment, where self-discipline is de rigueur.


With such a busy life, raising the kids, hosting and attending formal military functions, and sticking to a marathoner’s exercise schedule, Sue never got around to sailing much, though she and Don had taken a few lessons and cruised aboard Rhodes 19s from the Newport naval base. In another of life’s serendipitous circumstances, Sue started working part-time at the editorial offices of Cruising World, which are also located on the island.

She was fascinated with magazine work and sailing, but the editors around her yammered on about indecipherable things like “being in irons,” Sue recalls. “That did it for me.”

After gaining her promotion to managing editor, she decided to take another stab at the sailing classes so she’d get more hands-on experience. Yet Sue still lacked confidence in aspects of coastal cruising such as when to yield right-of-way, trimming the sails, and reading the aids to navigation.


So, when autumn leaves gave way to the first snow falls of winter 2009-10, Sue decided to enroll in an online course called NauticEd (, founded by skipper and fractional sailing expert Grant Headifen. Headifen has developed partnerships with sailing schools and charter companies all over the world, and is always striving to find new venues and cruising grounds in which to offer the hands-on aspect of the web-based course.

Sue signed up and paid the fees for the skipper and bareboat charter courses. “They were both extremely in-depth courses which gave me a thorough grounding in all aspects of sailing,” Sue says, “and they helped me build courage for when I next go out on a Rhodes 19 from the navy base. Obviously, I need practical application to cement this knowledge, and I can’t wait to put new skills into practice when the boats are put in the water again this spring.

“Who knows,” she says, “perhaps after more time spent on the water I’ll be able to impress Don and persuade him to go on a chartering vacation with me-hopefully somewhere warm and exotic!”


Well, the Chesapeake isn’t all that exotic, but it’s a lovely chartering and cruising ground, and we just found out that Sue can bolster her learning with the hands-on program being introduced in time for the 2010 chartering season in this top U.S. cruising and chartering ground.

Joining the many companies already on board with NauticEd, Annapolis Bay Charters ( recently announced that it, too, has teamed up with Headifen’s operation, to launch a sailing school program in spring from the home base at Port Annapolis Marina.

As it is with other companies, the course theory is completed on-line before students set foot aboard the bareboat. The syllabus and study materials are all available via the NauticEd website and once attained, the certification is recognized by many charter companies. Class size is restricted to six students, maximum, aboard one boat.


For details about Annapolis Bay Charters and other sailing schools and charter companies offering the hands-on instruction, log on to (

Charter Chatter

Horizon Grenada Adds Services

Horizon Yacht Charters, which has operated for a decade at True Blue Resort and Marina on the south coast of Grenada, is adding yacht charter and management services from another office at Port Louis Marina, in the capital of St. George’s. Horizon staff will maintain yachts for owners and also offer a full yacht brokerage service at the marina. For more details log on to the company website (

Antigua Boat Offers Charters
Miramar, a crewed Beneteau Oceanis 400 operating out of Antigua, is available for both daysails and custom term charters. The yacht features three cabins, two heads, and a 13-foot beam. For details, consult the boat’s website (



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