Any training provider delivering a shorebased course for the RYA, whether online or in a classroom, will give you access to all the materials you need. There’s a lot to be said for reading around a subject, though, so here are our recommendations for books supporting the Yachtmaster theory programme.
The Complete Yachtmaster, Tom Cunliffe
This should be required pre-course reading for all aspiring Yachtmasters. As with his Day Skipper and Ocean Skipper books, Tom Cunliffe covers everything you need for the syllabus and does it in warm and amusing style. Less like learning lessons, more like a chat over a pint with a fascinating old salt. He makes secondary ports easy, too.
Modern Marine Weather, David Burch
The essentials of meteorology can be learned quite quickly, but it’s a subject that takes many years of practice and observation to master. Success probably relies on the depth of knowledge you can acquire at the early stages, which is where David Burch’s book comes in. There’s a workbook to accompany this if you fancy testing the theory that you learn, but it’s really no substitute for staring at the sky and the barometer
Yachtmaster Exercises for Sail and Power, Alison Noice
Personally, I wasn’t so impressed with Alison Noice’s Yachtmaster guide. That’s a subjective judgment as there’s nothing wrong with the content, the tone was simply a bit too jolly hockey sticks for me. This book of exercises is a different matter, because there’s no noticeable author’s voice. It includes almanac extracts and comes with a chart to work on. You’ll need to be at your best to answer some of the quite challenging questions – which makes it a great way to prepare for the exam itself.
The RYA Navigation Handbook, Tim Bartlett
Every subject covered by the RYA Day Skipper and Yachtmaster theory programmes is presented clearly and simply here. Tim Bartlett’s book is such a handy reference that it would be as well to keep your copy on board once you’ve passed the exam, just as an aide memoire.
Wherever you are on the RYA training ladder, you’re going to find this a useful reference and checklist. All the information is available elsewhere, but not, it seems, in the same place. With this book, you can always check exactly what’s expected of you, and what you still need to brush up on. The logbook section is rather a let-down as there’s not a lot of space for notes and observations, but this isn’t so important as you’re under no obligation to use it; you can prove your sea miles with your boat or personal logbook, or even in conversation, as it will be clear to your examiner at any level whether you really do have the experience required.
And one to ditch…
This is a terrible disappointment. It tries to give the basics on everything, and fails to deliver because very few of the skills are properly explained. It’s also frustrating to fnd that there’s no index. You’ll probably be given a copy of this with the material for your course, whether in the classroom or online. Don’t bother reading it, but hold on to it in case you ever need to wedge open a hatch or the chart table or something.