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Shearwater Sailing School

Woolverstone Marina, on the River Orwell, Suffolk

I was fortunate to run into Mark Lewis at a Clipper-Connect event at the Henri Lloyd showroom in London last February. After presentations by HL and winning 13-14 skipper Eric Holden, I got talking with Mark and expressed my ambition to turn my Clipper experience to good use and getting my RYA Yachtmaster certificates. He invited me for Coastal Skipper practical course with his school Shearwater Sailing near Ipswich. After the level training weeks up and around the Solent with Clipper, I thought it would be a good idea to try some other UK waters and I scheduled for the week of 9 - 13th of May.


The Coastal skipper course is a great opportunity to learn new elements of sailing. Experienced salty sailors, as we are now, on the ocean we never much came across shallow waters, tides, markings, traffic, positioning, signal, course plotting etc. etc. The ocean generally is deep, the course more or less is the same for days and other traffic would not be around for weeks. Sure, with Clipper, we touched upon everything required sailing a yacht; safety, engine, crew management, victualling, anchoring, navigation etc. But on a Clipper boat, these tasks are allocated. It's much different to do them all by yourself as a skipper on a smaller cruising yacht. So there is much to be practiced.


Sailing with Shearwater in Ipswich was a great pleasure. The Hallberg Rassy yachts are of great quality (though only 36' and much slower than a 70'). And it was nice to do this course with yacht owners, who bring completely other skills to the week. Clearly, as Clipper crew, there is little to be learned, as far as sailing is concerned. But for all the rest of it, it is an intense course. Manoeuvring in tight marina spaces, planning with the tides, handling the VHF, maintaining the engine, understanding the lights of working ships, practicing the rules of the road. The whole coastal skipper syllabus is covered within one week and the Suffolk coast line offers plenty of challenges to learn.


My experience sailing with Shearwater Sailing has taught me, that it is definitely worth signing up for any of the RYA courses to compliment the Clipper experience. It is my ambition to obtain Ocean Yachmaster and find work in the sailing industry. Mark Lewis and his instructors at Shearwater sailing certainly have helped me along that path in a professional and enjoyable way. Hoping to see you on the waters somewhere.


Eelco (Clipper 2015/16)

Food supplies were excellent with plenty of it. Vernon was a brilliant instructor and fantastic group to sail with which made the whole 5 days enjoyable.

The course went further than expected and I can't wait to get started sailing on my yacht.


Jason (Day Skipper May 2016)

I just wanted to say a very big thank you from Nigel and I for the 2 days Start Yachting course that we took part in. We thoroughly enjoyed both days and it was a pleasure to get to know you and the other members of the crew. We learnt so much and are both grateful for your calm and patience. I chose your school because it seemed supportive and a lot less intimidating than some of the others that I looked at and I was not disappointed.


Thank you once again and very best wishes


Sarah (April 2016)

Vernon was wonderful, cool, calm and collected. Extremely patient and instilled  confidence.I was also pleased that it was more relaxed than expected. I thought it would be Go Go Go.


Had a wonderful week.


Martha (Competent crew May 2016)

Hi Mark,


Just to say many thanks for a really enjoyable two days sailing. The added bonus was that of learning without really realising!

You have a really good approach to students and would be sailors - so thank you.


Cathy.  Training weekend. May 2016

Hi Mark,

Just wanted to say what a fantastic week we all had

Choosing a sailing school with no prior experience can be a risk, I need not have worried.

The boat was clean, perfectly maintained with not a single failure all week despite us pushing her at times and the food was good and plentiful.

Bev was brilliant! She knows her stuff and has that rare ability to balance stepping in when necessary whilst allowing us to make mistakes and learn from them. I think it fair to say all three of us wanted to carry on for another week. Your whole set up seems to have the right mix of professionalism and fun. I was delighted to be awarded Coastal skipper.


Dave May 2016

Just returned from 5 days sailing with Vernon. A fantastic course, felt that I was taken out of my comfort zone, and I have grown in confidence to take on the next challenge. Vernon should come with a health warning, as I have never laughed so much...!


Jason (Day Skipper April 2016)

Thanks for a great week's course, improved my sailing in so many ways.


Ian (Coastal Skipper own boat tuition April 2016)

Thanks Mark, it was a fab 5 days with far too much laughter. We have been playing card games all afternoon with our girls and love it. I didn't cheat this time.....


Thanks Mark again for your fab stories and tuition.


Caroline (Day Skipper own boat tuition March 2016)

I really enjoyed the couple of days. Tom was an excellent instructor and great company as well - a real "chip off the old block". Please reiterate my thanks to him. It was also fun to meet up with you and the boys down at Harwich. Hope you had a great afternoon.


Stuart (Own boat tuition March 2016)

Dear Mark


Many thanks from Abby and myself ‎for the session on Lobo yesterday. We both really enjoyed it and learned a lot.


Will be in touch separately about getting some own boat tuition and ideally a Coastal Skipper course. Also the radio course on 9th October.


Have a great week.


Simon (June 2016)

Hi Mark,


Just wanted to say what a great day I had the other day with Vernon. It was a delight to be on board Shanti with him and the rest of the students. I am now looking at the possibility of doing further courses with you.


Robert (ICC Course July 2016)

Hi Mark,


I had a FANTASTIC week’s course, and the responsibility for that must largely rest with Bev, who skippered and instructed in a seriously professional manner, whilst at the same time making the whole process seem like a week’s holiday!!  All 5 of us students had a ball from start to finish, whilst at the same time learning a whole mass of skills that we would have taken years to accumulate otherwise.


By the time that we had finished and been through the (small) stress of the wash-up and interview, I would happily have stayed for a second week if one had been available.  To have earned (I hope!) a Day Skipper’s ticket as well seemed like an extra bonus rather than the objective of the course, so well did we all get on as a team.


Please pass on my very sincere thanks to Bev, and thank YOU very much for the whole Shearwater experience.  I would happily recommend it to anyone wanting to improve their sailing skills and knowledge of the sea…


Best regards to all at Shearwater,


Terry Hawthorn (Day Skipper Sept 2016)

The following feedback is from the RYA Active Marina event at Woolverstone Marina and Ladies Day. (Sept  2016)

(E-mails are addressed to Sophie, at Woolverstone Marina)


Hi Sophie

Excellent evening.

Learnt lots even though I did the same evening last year. Things are very different at night!!

Mark is an excellent instructor and have been on many of his courses.

Thanks, Owen



Excellent first night sail experience.

Thank you



An excellent night Sophie. Thanks for the opportunity.

Please pass on my thanks to Mark the others.




Hello Sophie

I would like to say a big thank you to both Bev, Yourself and MDL Marinas for such a fun day,

I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Meeting new ladies and a girls Fun Day Together,

Bev was great and I really appreciate how she built up all our confidence with just little things without us realizing that she was doing it.

We all had smiling faces when we returned - sign of a good sail !!

I think we made a good team, it would be nice to do it again.

Keep in touch



Hi Sophie

thanks - was great to meet you

I thought the day was great. Bev is fab - she set the pace just right so that we all got to have a go and build confidence without it being stressful. Lovely to have a girls day out and meet new people.




Hi Sophie,

Last Saturday was very enjoyable, the weather was wonderful (well at least till 5 pm) and it could not have been a better day for practising sailing. The wind not too strong (Force 4/5) – ideal conditions all in all!

Personally it was only the second time I had managed to go sailing this year having had some problems getting started with my boat and I really appreciated going through some of the practices of hoisting sails, sailing, picking up a mooring, etc….Bev. was super and you could tell she is very experienced and confident. I certainly will remember some of her advice like not too get too close to a buoy and the rules of the river for ex.  She did not make us feel self-conscious at all, was very understanding and uncritical. She had to be with me as I  was really tired not having slept very well the night before!.

So all in all I would recommend this course to anyone needing a bit more practice and confidence on a really nice big boat or thinking of taking up sailing as a hobby.

Thank you again Sophie for having told me about this course, it was also nice to meet you and the other girls.




Thanks Bev ,

Had a great day skipper course . Everything was spot on , the weather was a lesson in itself . The food was plenty and excellently prepared and enjoyed the land navigating excursions to the pub ! Having Andy on the course with his experience was a bonus for me

I would highly recommend anyone to your courses and Shearwater Sailing

Wishing you all fair winds and following seas


Colin (Day Skipper Oct 2016)

Ahoy Mark,

Just wanted to touch base in order to thankyou for the fabulous five days of sailing instruction over the last couple of weekends. I expected to come away fully equipped with enough knowledge to be a competent crew member. What I didn't anticipate was the excitement of working as a team with other wonderfully enthusiastic crew members. It felt more like a holiday than a course. You also managed to order perfect sailing conditions.  Simply amazing!


Jacks (Competent Crew Sept 2016)