Join our mailing list

Help me choose!

Coastal Passage Making Course: Bay of Biscay

Coastal Passage Making Course: Bay of Biscay





A more advanced sailing course from England, across the Bay of Biscay, to NW Spain. Transform your existing sailing qualifications into real world skills.

Once you have your RYA or ASA qualifications, it is hard to take the next step into skippering your own passages with no instructor on board to guide you. Added to that, skills fade without constant use. For a great many sailors with their RYA Day Skipper or Yachtmaster, that jump has not been made and there is no obvious way to progress. The Rubicon 3 Coastal Passage Making Masterclass was designed to address this exact problem. You will spend two weeks with our leading expedition skippers refreshing your previous skills, learning new techniques and getting huge amounts of real world skills and experience on real life challenges.

Sailing location image
Route Map Image

These are the available dates and routes. To book your place, please select the dates from the drop-down above the ‘Add to Cart’ button.


  • Start date / place: April 25 2022. Falmouth, England
  • End date / place: May 06 2022. Muros, Spain
  • Full price: £1,899
  • Deposit: £475


  • Start date / place: October 03 2022. Falmouth, England
  • End date / place: October 14 2022. Muros, Spain
  • Full price: £1,899
  • Deposit: £475


  • Start date / place: March 20 2023. Muros, Spain
  • End date / place: March 31 2023. Portsmouth, England
  • Full price: £1,899
  • Deposit: £475


  • Start date / place: July 24 2023. Falmouth, England
  • End date / place: August 04 2023. Muros, Spain
  • Full price: £1,899
  • Deposit: £475


  • Start date / place: October 09 2023. Falmouth, England
  • End date / place: October 20 2023. Muros, Spain
  • Full price: £1,899
  • Deposit: £475


  • Start date / place: October 16 2023. Falmouth, England
  • End date / place: October 27 2023. Muros, Spain
  • Full price: £1,899
  • Deposit: £475


Please see ‘TRAVEL – GETTING TO & FROM YOUR TRIP’ tab for advice on start and end points.



All crew must produce a negative Covid-19 test result within 72 hours before the start date.

This is 40% of the trip price and is non-refundable. On making payment, your berth is guaranteed.

Paying the balance
The balance of the invoice can be paid at any time. It must be received by Rubicon 3 90 days before the trip start date or your place will automatically be cancelled. We will remind you of the date nearer the time.

Cancellations and moving trips
Our expedition sailing yachts only have between 7 and 10 berths on them. When you book, you are committing to take one of these places. Due to these very limited numbers, we will often have turned away someone else who would have liked the berth. Unlike many other holidays, please understand this gives us little if any flexibility to make changes or to move trips. We will always endeavour to assist you (& the earlier you tell us the better), but unless we can find someone else to take your place, we usually cannot move your booking.

This is a typical itinerary. What makes the Advanced Coastal Passage Making Course so special however is that there can be no fixed itinerary and no part of this is guaranteed. The wind and the weather ultimately shape what’s possible each day but everything is very flexible within that. This is a typical itinerary for the course.

COVID-19 Update

Due to the complete unpredictability of the current Covid-19 situation, the entire itinerary may have to change at short notice and all candidates must join this with an open mind and a willingness to adapt!


You need to join the boat promptly at 0900hrs on the start day. We will have a cup of tea and get to know each other and the skipper and mate will talk you through what to expect, find you your berth, help you get your kit packed away and issue you with oilskins, lifejacket and immersion/abandon ship survival suit.

cockpit briefing

Next, you’ll get a really thorough briefing on all the facilities. How to use the heads, shower, galley, gas, sinks and more. A thorough review of all the safety and navigation gear below decks follows. Fire extinguishers, CoB equipment, flares, immersion suits, VHF, Sat C, Nav software, Navtex and much more. Make sure you bring a pen and paper pad as you’ll be asked to comment on and review this at some stage through the course.

sailing course safety briefing


The Advanced Coastal Passagemaking Course running on the ‘Bay of Biscay’ route is an absolute classic.  This famous route is known to all sailors, many of whom have grown up with tales of its challenges. Yet, with the right approach and planning, the sea remains the sea and this stretch is just like any other. The route has strong tides, open water, lots of commercial traffic, foreign ports, anchorages and… the Bay of Biscay itself! A truly superb training ground to supercharge your competence.

sailing chart work


The objective of this course is that you leave it feeling far more confident and capable to skipper a yacht on a more complex and demanding passage than you have been used to. This requires a board knowledge base and we have a great deal to fit in to the two weeks. Get ready to get busy learning! The syllabus covers the following:

Basic sailing skills

  • Can describe true and apparent wind, understands which we refer to, when and why.
  • Can describe the key sailing forces using diagrams. Can show where to find the center of effort and center of resistance of sails and keel.
  • Knows the causes of lee and weather helm and how to correct them.
  • Understands when and how to effect sail shape and sail interactions using:
    • Luff tension
    • Outhaul
    • Leech line
    • Boom bang
    • Backstay tension
    • Headsail car
    • Sheets
    • Mainsheet Traveller
    • Downhaul / Cunningham


  • Knows when to use a barometer and a thermometer and why.
  • Recognises cirrus, cirrostratus, altocumulus, stratocumulus, cumulonimbus and cumulus clouds and the weather expected to be associated with each.
  • Knows the difference between gradient and localised winds and what effect to expect on the weather.
  • Knows when and where to get reliable weather information and understands the limitations of the various sources.


  • Can helm a boat effectively both upwind and downwind and in light and strong winds.
  • Cam trim sails effectively in all conditions
  • Is competent in anticipating when and how to reef on all points of sail.
  • Can prepare a yacht and crew for heavy weather, including:
    • Preparation of crew (clothing, food, rest, watch system)
    • Stowing of all equipment down below
    • A thorough check of yacht systems
    • Timely sail change
    • Use of safety harness
    • Use of drogue / sea anchor
    • Heavy weather meteorology: wave heights, wind strengths, dangers to look out for, the rule of 8.
    • Storm tactics such as heave-to and lie ahull
  • Anchoring: finding a suitable anchorage and anchoring effectively
  • When and how to have an anchor watch, including responsibilities.
  • Various anchor drag alarms
  • Anchoring etiquette
  • When and how to use two anchors/lines ashore.
  • How to recover a fouled anchor
  • When and how to use an anchor buoy/trip line.
  • Med mooring: use of anchor, bow line, approach and departure techniques.
  • Know how to prepare a towing bridle
  • Understand the technique to pass a tow to another boat
    Safely be able to get underway with a tow and know which speeds to use
  • Know how to avoid fouling the propeller
    Understand the danger of the towline parting under stress
  • Know and understand the practical implementation of the key colregs
  • Has a full range of emergency techniques to include when:
    • The boat is dismasted
    • The boat runs aground
    • The boat is in trouble on a lee shore
    • The boat is on fire
    • The boat is flooding
    • Crew injuries
  • Knows the skipper’s responsibilities and actions for the following common courtesies and customs:
    • Permission to board
    • Permission and entitlement to come alongside
    • Permission and entitlement to cross adjacent boats when after
    • Rights of the first boat at an anchorage
    • Keep clear of boats racing
    • Offering assistance to yachtsmen in trouble.
    • Flag etiquette: National flag, Courtesy flag, Burgee/house flag, dipping flag
    • The importance of a clean, tidy, ordered yacht.
  • Knows the documents required and the procedures followed when leaving and entering territorial waters.


  • Has basic engineering knowledge, including:
    • Theory of how to fix fuel supply problems
    • Theory of how to fix electrical problems
    • When and how (theory) to service an engine
  • Describe when and how to carry out an oil change.
  • Understands the basics of:
    • Through hull fittings
    • Electrical systems
    • Corrosion
    • Antifoul
    • Pre-season / annual inspections
    • Spars and rigging
    • Lightning conductors
    • Swimming safely while the boat is at anchor.
    • The danger of overhead power lines.
    • Portable radar reflectors vs active reflectors


  • Demonstrated they can perform the duties of skipper and crew on a passage.
  • Knows the correct methods of towing a dinghy.
  • Can recover a casualty overboard while sailing at night.
  • Can anchor, weigh anchor, pick up and cast off moorings while acting as helmsman and/or crew.
  • Can take a depth sounding using two different methods.
  • Can keep a watch and navigate effectively.
  • Theory or preferably practical understanding re hoisting, setting, trimming, jibing, dousing and packing a spinnaker.


hauling up sail


The course ends at 1200 on the last day at which time you will need to disembark.

Join the boat promptly at 0900hrs on the start day.
It is important you are not late as the pre-trip briefing will start promptly at that time. You will probably need to arrive at your start point the day before your trip begins and get a hotel or B&B.

Disembark by 1200hrs on the end day.
We ask you to stay on board until then if possible to help with packing away the boat but recognise sometimes due to flights you may need to leave earlier that day. Please just let the skipper know in advance.



  • The course will start and finish in Haslar marina, Portsmouth.
  • The closest train station is Portsmouth Harbour.
  • From there, you need to take the green ferry across the harbour (5 minutes, £3.70) and walk along the shore to the marina.
  • Portsmouth harbour station is about 90 minutes on the train from Gatwick airport (IATA code: LGW). It is also possible to take a 90 minute taxi costing about £60 from Heathrow airport (IATA code: LHR)


  • There is an hourly bus between Muros and the nearest airport, Santiago de Compostela (IATA code: SCQ)
  • You can see the bus timetable by clicking the link here


This course is open to those aged 18 – 70 years. As this is an Advanced Coastal Passage Making Course, all candidates must have at least RYA Day Skipper / ASA 104. It will be very useful to all candidates up to and including RYA Yachtmaster.


We provide the foul weather clothing, life-jackets and all other technical equipment you will need. You need to bring a sleeping bag and some waterproof boots.

See more information and the full kit list here


We believe that as many people as possible should be able to head out to sea and have a great adventure. However, it is essential for everyone’s safety that you are in a fit enough state to be on board. Ability to complete the five exercises below is a pre-requisite for joining as a crew member. They are not designed to be physically taxing and almost everyone should be able to complete them. Rather they are in place to check that you have the stability and basic physical condition to be on-board. If when you join the vessel the skipper believes you are not capable of completing these exercises, you will probably not be allowed to embark. If you have any doubts at all about your ability to complete these exercises safely, you must contact your doctor before attempting them.

Fitness to sail


Four weeks before your trip start date, you will be sent final joining instructions. At this time you will be asked to complete our medical declaration. At the time of booking, it is your responsibility to be sure that you will be able to pass all the criteria at the start date of your trip. If you cannot pass the criteria you will probably be refused permission to board.

See the Medical Declaration here


  • All crew must have adequate travel insurance in place for your sailing holiday.
  • We strongly recommend that you arrange insurance as soon as you book. This ideally will cover you for any mishaps, medical or otherwise, in the build-up to your holiday so that should you have to cancel, you can reclaim your fees.
  • Please note we will not refund your money or cancel your invoice due to medical issues that disqualify you from joining your trip.
  • For our latest guidance on travel insurance, please read here.


For a full explanation of what to expect with the various trip ratings please click here.


  • Top quality foul weather clothing to keep you dry in any conditions.
  • Fladen immersion suits. These will keep you warm in even the coldest, windiest conditions.
  • Ocean-spec lifejackets. These are the best on the market.
  • All on-board food and snacks.
  • Daily sailing lessons and tuition from two highly experienced instructors.
  • RYA sailing qualifications where applicable.


  • Your travel to and from the start and end points.
  • Travel insurance (see our travel insurance page here)
  • Any alcohol – but feel free to bring your own or buy some along the route
  • Any meals you eat ashore


Everything’s included except for flights, travel insurance, a sleeping bag and some waterproof boots. There are no hidden extras.

  • These expeditions have small numbers of people on board. When you book, you are committing to being a part of the crew.
  • These are genuine adventure sailing holidays and you will be helping sail the boat, planning where we go, navigating, cooking and keeping the boat clean and tidy.
  • When you book, the deposit is non refundable. It is possible to cancel subsequently, however you may still be liable for the balance of the invoice, depending on how close you are to the start date when you cancel.
  • Please ensure you  have read and agreed to the T&Cs and read the Trip Notes before booking.

    Terms & Conditions

    What do you do with a rusty Day Skipper? After a year or so has passed, the skills you had begin to fade and suddenly you find you haven’t sailed for a few years and the confidence has gone. Alternatively, you may have got to Coastal or Offshore Yachtmaster. These are great qualifications to have but 90% of those who achieve them still have very limited real time experience. The Passage Making Masterclass is all about getting you a rapid increase in skills and experience, so that you can pass those higher level  sailing qualifications or go off and charter yachts and take on more challenging passages with extra confidence. The syllabus includes














    Most yachts these days have radar but few amateur sailors have the skills to use this invaluable tool properly. As part of your Passage Making Masterclass, you will look at how to set up the radar  and how to use it both to aid collision avoidance and for pilotage in poor visibility.














    Pilotage is both technique and art form. Entering a foreign port late at night in bad weather when the crew is tired can be a very taxing exercise. Similarly weaving one’s way through rocks to a small anchorage. We will show you the techniques we use to produce simple, easy to follow pilotage guides that work.














    Helming is so much more than holding a steady course. With every slight change in wind speed, apparent wind direction changes and you need to be wise to these shifts and have some techniques for how to gauge and react to them. More than anything, you need to learn to minimise your inputs.














    Anchoring is a skill that many people are nervous to try which is a great shame as it completely transforms one’s cruising range and a night at anchor can be  a truly special experience. We’ll explain what size anchor you should be carrying, what type of anchor, how much chain and rope and what sea beds to anchor in. You’ll also learn how to anchor and how to ensure you stay safe through the night.














    Should you file paperwork before leaving your home country and if so, what? What is one expected to do on arrival in a foreign port and when? What paperwork needs to be carried or shown? We give you the detailed low down on what is required and when.














    There is a world of difference between a classroom exercise on  a Day Skipper course and proper, good quality passage planning. We will bring you a level of practical techniques that will help you sail safely from A to B.














    Dealing safely with commercial shipping is an essential skill. Cargo vessels are big, fast and dangerous. Yet, they are only 1-200metres long and 40 metres wide. There is no need to end up in front of them! We will help you translate collision regulations learnt by heart into practical skills.














    We’ll help you get to grips with this so that you can maximise the performance of your sails. Which sail do you trim first, is twist important, what do those cars do? Lots of questions and we’ll explain everything in clear, simple lessons .














    Previously you may have been taught about how low pressure systems form and that’s great. What we’ll teach you is really up to date, practical weather skills. You’ll compare weather apps, learn about their strengths and weaknesses and get familiar with the various official weather sources, too.



    Yes. For our Passage Making Masterclasses we ask that you have a minimum of RYA Day Skipper or ASA103. It doesn’t matter if they are very rusty – this is what this course is all about!


    Almost everyone comes alone. Couples and groups are very welcome and we do get them. On the whole, however, most crew join solo and so if you are coming alone, you will be one of the crowd!


    Except in exceptional circumstances, we limit the crew size to 9 (except for Atlantic crossings) plus two instructors. This means that there are enough people to sail the boat safely and you will still have lots of time helming, navigating, trimming sails and such like.


    Absolutely. First and foremost, we are here to ensure everyone has an amazing time. Sailing is about having fun, experiencing nature at its most majestic and gently pushing yourself to try and learn new things. Rubicon 3 voyages are a unique mix of sailing and training and you will get far more involvement and training than on any other sailing holiday you may try!


    We have a remarkably similar group of people who join all our trips. They come from all around the world, are an even mix of men and women and with an average age of 35-65. As we said above, most come alone and experience varies from none at all to Yachtmaster. Most of the crew would describe themselves as having a rusty Day Skipper.


    Go the ‘BOOK NOW’ button near the top of the page. This will take you through to our booking system, and it will ask you for a deposit of £400. As soon as this is paid, your place is reserved. The balance of the trip must be paid by 60 days before departure.