I am a freelance sailing instructor, what can I do during Lockdown, will I get paid and when can I work again?

As with many industries, we sailing instructors, often freelance and self-employed, find ourselves in worrying times. For most, at least half a season’s work was cancelled overnight when the Government announced Lockdown on 23 March 2020 with currently only speculation as to when we can return to work. During these times there are however a number of things we can be doing to keep our minds active and best prepare ourselves to return to doing what we love.

Will I still get paid as an Instructor?

The question at the top of most people’s minds, money! The nature of this industry means a large percentage of us instructors operate on a self-employed basis, something many of us love due to the flexibility during normal life, but a situation that now causes additional stress and worry. The Government has announced a Self Employed Income Support Scheme to offer financial support to the Self-Employed during the Covid-19 Pandemic. This scheme enables you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2500 per month for the next three months. It is likely we will see this scheme extended if needed. There is a set of eligibility criteria that can be found on the gov.uk website and HMRC have stated they will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme inviting you to apply online. For those who are new to the industry and may not have the required sets of Self-Assessments yet it is worth investigating the Universal Credits Eligibility which again, the Government have assigned increased amounts to. For those employed it may be the Furlough scheme that your employer uses in order to claim 80% of your wages with the option to top this up where possible.

When will I be able to work again?

With the UK still in Lockdown and a Government review of the exit strategy scheduled for later this week there are already suggestions of the Lockdown measures remaining in place, it remains the big unknown as to when we will be able to return to work as RYA Instructors. The RYA has taken the difficult decision to extend its current suspension of directly organised events and training until at least 31 May 2020. As the RYA is the governing body for RYA recognised training centres, it is common sense that most schools will follow this guidance and consider when and how training can recommence.

What does the future look like for Instructors and RYA Schools?

What impact with this pandemic have on the industry? A difficult question to answer so early on but it does open up a number of points worth consideration by both instructors and principles alike. How and when the lockdown measures are lifted remains an unknown but consideration and maybe some preparation can be made for when life starts to return to normal. For starters it may require some diversifying of what schools and charter companies currently offer. Potential students may be less inclined to join 4 other unknowns on a small vessel to undertake a sailing course for quite some time. However we may find that more customers are willing to pay an increased course fee for a lower ratio of students on board, potentially driving the industry standard course price up for the future and dare I say it maybe even the Industry standard pay for Skippers and Instructors alike. The general population may just want to get out on the water again without committing to a more formal course so Instructors may find themselves skippering more experience days and taster weekends. With all but essential foreign travel ceased it may also be the case that more people opt for more staycations next year seeing a potential rise in the UK charter market and as a result more skippered charter opportunities. The standard mile builder cross channel trips may also require some forward thinking, planning for different destinations whilst still able to fulfil the requirements for Yachtmaster Qualifying Passages. 

I am Shore-based Instructor, what does this mean for me?

With all recreational boating, afloat training and face to face classroom teaching ceased, the online shore based courses are the only element of training still operating. Whilst most of these allow the students to be self-sufficient most of the time the current circumstances and instructor availability certainly allows for some value added extras. For many years at the RYA Conference the topic of blended learning comes up for discussion, what better time to test some of these ideas. Students can still complete the usual online courses already approved and supported by the RYA but there is nothing stopping us as instructors adding extra value to these and trialling some other delivery methods as we do so. After this pandemic we may find the desire for face to face courses alter and as such be forced into coming up with different ways to deliver theory. Software such as Zoom offers a great platform for this as well as creating How-to videos and new material suited to this form of delivery. A chat with your Chief Instructor may well be worth having to see how you can explore some of these options further.

What can I do for Continual Professional Development?

It’s not all bad news though… we find ourselves with time on our hands presenting a great opportunity to undertake some continual professional development, something that if we are true to ourselves we probably don’t do enough of! This is an ideal time to update those teaching aids, rewrite training material and Power Points, create new material and work on our own skill sets. The 2020 Day Skipper and Yachtmaster Exams have just been published by the RYA so why not sit these whilst soaking up the sun at home preparing for returning to the teaching environment. For those who aren’t already, maybe it’s a good time to diversify into becoming a shore-based instructor. Although we are unable to attend the courses run by the RYA at present we can still get reading, undertake online courses in preparation to attend one as soon as we can. A chat with your school principle may result in you being able to complete an online navigation theory or VHF course at a reduced rate ready to attend a new instructor course. School Principles will be working hard in these worrying times on their businesses so I imagine any help and assistance will be greatly received by them. We all have areas we can improve on, whether that be within our instructor skill set or personal skills such as management and leadership, there is a huge amount of resources available on the web to assist with these.

Most importantly through these unprecedented times, stay safe and healthy. The Government guidance is clear, STAY HOME – PROTECT THE NHS – SAVE LIVES. Remember to keep in contact with your schools and share ideas between instructors.

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