Examples of Students sailing



Read what our students told the Open and distance learning quality council (ODLQC) below



"Very thorough training"

"Excellent service. Fully recommend it." Good value for money"

‘Very professional and committed to providing a first class service to its students."

Critical: none



A really interesting course

"I learnt a tremendous amount and I really enjoyed it!"

"As a result of this course I took a practical course [with Top Cat Cruising School] in the Spring."

Critical: none



"Thorough coverage of the syllabus"

"Well orientated to understanding what is of practical importance in the real live situation with a particular emphasis on practical safety."

‘It gave me a solid grounding in the skills I needed to subsequently navigate a yacht effectively"

Critical: none

"Involved lots of hard work - there was a lot more involved than I had anticipated."



‘Easy to follow, and in a language you could not fail to understand."

"Clear and concise"

Critical: none



"It followed a logical path with links to other subjects as and when required"

‘Plenty of relevant exercises to make sure that I thoroughly understood the material."

Critical: none



22 6 17

Hi Jim,

Thanks very much indeed. I thought the course was fantastic and your feedback was excellent.

As I mentioned in an earlier email, my wife Jane will do the day skipper course, so we will definitely get back to you about that in due course (realistically, she’ll probably do it over autumn/winter). The plan then would be for us both do the practical courses next year.

I hope you have a great summer.





Jim, Firstly thank you for your support and having the patience of a saint. I have enjoyed it immensely and hopefully its a start of our retirement goal and our objective. I'm taking my Day Skipper practical with a long standing friend - Annie O'Sullivan from Girls for Sail in late Feb 2014, but am keen to understand the next stage after that. However we would love to book a trip with yourself. Your dates are only to July 2014, so as soon as you release the dates for September this is a good month for me. My wife would look to come with me and she is at competent crew level(however 3 years ago). Lastly..... Testimonial Distance learning has its own special issues, fitting in the course work, working inconvenient hours and not wanting to phone to ask a question at strange times of the night, however Jim has the ability at whatever time or predicament he's in to answer his phone and explain and without frustration in his voice, and always gives you the answers to your question. Course work is returned with comments and humour, it does makes the difference. I have found him to be a great principal and am keen to further my training in the future. Regards Dave Clayton I have really enjoyed the 'Day Skipper' correspondence course. As a shift worker, the conventional classroom course was not an option for myself. Your course materials, teaching methods and course structure were excellent, however your prompt return of corrected exercises, ongoing support and constructive critiques really made the difference.

Having now completed the online course , I would have no hesitation in recommending 'Seanavigate' correspondence courses to anyone who is considering studying for a RYA theory qualification.



Jim that is great news - Thanks for being so patient!

I think I will be taking up your offer of more experience sailing, as I need to get some sea miles under my belt - my wife is vastly more experienced than me, and when the children are old enough to walk around a boat and swim (they are 4, 3 and 0.5 at the moment) we want to take a year off, buy a boat and cruise down the canals, around the med, to the canaries, across the Atlantic and potter around the Caribbean for a few months.

that’s the plan anyway!

I enjoyed the course and your help - I can see that doing it in class is always going to be easier as you focus on that alone, and having three little uns and a commute doesn’t help, which is why it was great that you were so patient.

Thanks Jim



Hi Jim

Here are my corrections... I found the course well written and easy to follow! I also found all the feedback to be given quickly and clearly...It has been a pleasure studying with you! I will of course keep you in mind when i get some time to do the practical courses.

Best regards


Thanks Jim!!! Another brilliant course...  I loved it!  the only thing I need to do now is keep practicing.  What I may do is just every so often do some of the questions again - especially the chartwork!  I can refer myself to the answers afterward!

We're saving up for Greece in the summer at the moment - 2 weeks in the Ionion - with the parents/in-law's the first week on a lovely big 45, and then the second week just Liz and I on a 36.... so I need to save the pennies for now - I think the practical may have to wait a bit - but I'll let you know!

Thanks very much again!  I loved the course - and the comments help tremendously!  Cheers!!


Thanks very much for your help and support through the written stage Jim,

I will say now (as I didnt want to make excuses earlier) that I am dyxlexic and have had a long term fear of written work and exams. This is the first modular / exam work I have dared to do in over 30 years!!! and only did this as I love the sea so much!
I feel that you have helped me through to a real achievement and am now looking forward to some practical fun on the water!!!
Unfortunately work is very demanding, so no chance of getting away in the near future but thanks for the offer.
very best wishes

Hi Jim

I got the certificate! THANK YOU.

About the course for me the main difficulty was the language and even with that problem I finally understand so it means it is well built!

Thanks for your explanations and dependability.

Best wishes

Sarah B.

Hi Jim,

Thanks for seeing me through the theory course of which I have
thoroughly enjoyed.
I have been able to learn more on a particular question through getting
the questions wrong rather than correct the first time.
After a little experience over the next few months should I decide to
take on a practical course I will be in touch with you.

Thanks again and all the best,

Nick Halepas


Thanks for the course... it was really useful.

I did the Practical a bit closer to home (Poole) last August as I
thought I could learn some nice day sails in my own cruising waters;
that was a good course too but I have to say, if I were to do one or
the other (the theory or the practical) I feel that I go tmuch  more
out of the theory - I certainly wouldn't have felt safe at sea on my
own without it.

Your feedback was always prompt and extremely useful. Some people (on
my practical course and at the yard where I keep my little boat)  have
asked with genuine incredulity how I could learn the day skipper
theory by distance learning, but your course notes and support have
made it all very accessible and enjoyable.


All the best and fair winds for 2012,

John .

Jim  Thanks for marking the exam so promptly (as always). I am really pleased to have passed.

 I have looked at the corrections and note your comments. The wind was my aberration and I know what happened.

 As for feedback, all positive from me. I couldn’t commit to a class a week at my work school and had to look for an online one. Yours was the one which attracted me most and it worked. You were available when needed and although I didn’t have to call re the content of the course, you were there when the computer blew me off course and helped to get it fixed.

 Your feedback on the modules was honest and made me focus and the course content was useful. I also thought that the way you put the modules together worked well in terms of the exam.

 It also seemed that you went into more detail than the exam needed which is why I asked if there were more questions. I think I was expecting a passage plan or something.

 Thanks again for all your support and help. I will recommend your school to others.


 Simon (two weeks till Greece ! ) P

Hi Jim

That is great news, I am half way to being a Day Skipper! I will certainly go through my mistakes and get back to you.

 I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed doing my theory with you, you have been so prompt in getting back to me which is so important whilst a subject is still fresh in the mind. I will certainly reccomend you to any friends.

 I will be in touch shortly.



Hi Jim

 Many thanks again for the additional information - you are certainly thorough !

 I have no hesitation in recommending you to others - this method of learning is so easy to fit in with busy lives.

 We are booked in to complete day skipper practical in Portugal in May - Mrs B likes her sun!

 I will keep your contact details so if we come down your way we may fit something in - I think we have caught the sailing bug.

 Have a good Xmas and New Year

Kind Regards


Dear Jim,

Just a quick note to thank you for a fantastic time on the Day Skipper Course last week.

I think your approach to teaching / training is just right and would not hesitate to recommend Top Cat to anyone. Kind regards, Max

Hi Jim

Thanks for your help - the CD was clear, and you guys were very quick and helpful by email. Very happy to recommend. My only suggestion for improvement is that the CD was sometimes hard to run - under google chrome for instance the weather module keeps playing the radio forecast and you can't navigate it.( I'm working on it) Since my new laptop doesn't let me open it with Internet Explorer, I had to use a different computer.


But I'm very satisfied overall. I would have been happy to do the practical course with you, but had to move fast and close by so I've gone with a different school. However, I will do more courses in future and will be interesting to do catamaran as well at some point. DO you also do monohull?

( jim here. I sail anything but we only have a cat here. I do own boat tuition anywhere on anything)


Dear Jim

Just a brief note to accompany my exam papers.

Many thanks for the course – I think it was really well put together, and I appreciated your prompt and careful response to my coursework. I’ve also enjoyed ding it, and feel I’ve learnt a lot – I hope my exam papers will prove this to be the case!

As we discussed, I’ll have a think about the 5-day course, and will contact you again if I decide to go for the February course (but confess that I’m also tempted by the prospect of some warmth in the middle of winter!)

Thanks again, and best wishes Michael Reynolds

I recently undertook some tuition both practical and shore based at one of the approved R.Y.A. sailing schools “Top Cat Cruising School” in Millbrook Plymouth.

I write to commend the high standard of this establishment, and commitment of the instructor and principal Mr Jim Duerden. Although an intensive course, Mr Duerden’s attitude made my period of learning an enjoyable one.

On a recent delivery trip from Portsmouth to Bangor (N.I) the knowledge acquired at “Top Cat” was put to the test in a life-threatening situation. In conclusion I can only say that R.Y.A. approved schools like “Top Cat” and instructors of the calibre of Mr Duerden are invaluable.

Yours sincerely Mr Dee Neill

Hi Jim

Thanks for the fabulous weekend on my Day Skipper Course!

Despite atrocious weather we had a great time learnt loads got merry on a few bottles of wine (sorry abut the quality of the Pinotage) and enjoyed the company of you and Greg and Steve. I do hope Greg eventually gets his YM ticket but I do not think his failure was anything to do with your tuition, rather that in no way was he properly prepared in that he had not done any pre-course revision or practice of communication skills that would have underlined his obvious abilities sufficient to convince a Naval Officer/Examiner operating in the Navy’s’ backyard. I did tell him that on Friday night in the bar and he agreed!

I think your course was brilliant and your teaching approach superb. No matter how frustrating our stupid mistakes in very difficult conditions you always were in complete control and never showed any annoyance or anger – a true Pro! Thanks very much. I look forward to my coastal skipper course! In the meantime our bareboat in the BVI awaits and I can’t!

With the best wishes of a successful year, Neil Burman

Dear Jim

I felt I must write if for no other reason to wish you all the best with your new venture. I would like you to know that when I came on my first sailing course with you as a complete novice I did not know quite what to expect. I can only say that the week was the most enjoyable and instructive I could have possibly expected.

I would not hesitate to return to you personally for any future courses/cruises I am lucky enough to undertake.

I am present trying to persuade my wife, Judy, that she would enjoy a week/weekend ‘on board’. If successful I will phone you soon. Please feel free to use my recommendation/comments in any way that you feel will help.

Once again all the best wishes for the future

Yours sincerely Richard J Ward.

Dear Jim

Just a line to let you know that I really enjoyed the Day Skipper Course. Your instructor was very experienced and a damn fine cook.

Everything you advertised was provided. The superb scenery of the Cornish coast, the challenge of entering picturesque harbours by day and night and of course a full range of weather and tides made your location ideal for serious training.

I would recommend the Top Cat Cruising School to anyone who was serious about learning to sail safely.

Thanks again,
R. Rice

Dear Jim

Difficult to put our experience last week into words. Suffice to say we loved and respected Pete, my kids – very hesitant at first and “do we really want to do it” – were completely won over and hooked on sailing (they were also much quicker on the uptake than Rosie and I were – fresh intelligence versus crumbling brains!), and it was FUN (if a bit scary when the wind blew 6/7). Top Cat Cruising School will be endorsed/ recommended by us to all and sundry as worth every half penny.

Back to reality: attached is the last part of Module 5 from a crumbling brain.

Best regards and thanks
David Gist

Thanks Jim

Comments on the course!

I’ve enjoyed it enormously though I don’t know whether my family feel the same sentiment given the time I’ve been shut in my study.

Firstly the pack and the service. It was incredibly efficient; the pack itself was comprehensive and arrived as promised. The marking was astonishing given that I presented you with the most marking over a weekend. Your comments were also rewarding for me to receive as a learner. The CD was easy to read with good diagrams and illustrations. I read outside of the CD and if you were to add anything that would have been useful to me it would have been a reading list. I used The RYA Book of Navigation a lot and practised on the RYA book of navigation exercises before attempting the module questions.

I will also attach a good American website download which I enjoyed playing with for collision regs, the buoys are of course the wrong way round. I will do the Coastal Skipper course after I have some sailing experience – though I’ll continue to read and dream in the meantime. I also hope to find the time to get down to Cornwall for some sailing – after all of this theory I feel I want to see the place in the flesh from the sea! Thank you so much Jim – I cannot comment on the promised telephone backup because I never used it – I’ll put the exam question in the post.


Dear Jim,

Further to our telephone conversation, please find enclosed a couple of prints from photos taken on our recent course.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for an excellent course from both the skills learnt and the pure enjoyment of sailing on Southway Twins under your control. As you may recall, I was slightly apprehensive when I first made contact with you due to problems with a form of rheumatic arthritis. However I can confirm that the car journey from Bristol to Plymouth gave me more problems than anything I have undertaken onboard.

I look forward to receiving the Day Skipper Practical Completion certificate and hopefully gaining more experience in the near future.

Again, many thanks and best wishes Paul Thompson.

Hi Jim,

This is to send you a quick thanks for a fantastic 5 days last week. I learnt a tremendous amount not least respect for the elements. I hope this will keep me from making mistakes with serious consequences.

You were asking for feedback and there is a little I can say other than please keep up the good work. Maybe, in retrospect, you, Susan and Andy might have benefited from the sail trim session at the beginning rather than at the end of the week. But then again we needed to make way west and other skills were on the agenda…

All in all, this was some of the most enjoyable sailing I have done and if you need to move the boat or want to take part in a race and need crew – let me know.

Best wishes, Stefan

Ps: maybe you can make instructing a little easier for you with enclosed throat pastilles.

Dear Jim, Many thanks for your excellent course. We both learnt a great deal and enjoyed ourselves. You were an excellent host and tutor. I have sent you my logbook for you to complete.

Once again many thanks Chris and Hannah

Dear Jim

Just a line to say how much we all enjoyed our recent holiday aboard Southway Twins. It was a shame we had so little wind, but how could we complain with all the warmth and sunshine! We thoroughly appreciated having Dave with us – he taught each of us at our own level of experience, was particularly good with the children and fitted easily into the family situation. We would recommend him to any other family wishing to broaden their experience of sailing.

Thank you for a great holiday!

Best wishes, Mike and Joy Irvine

Dear Jim,

Just a note to say thanks for such an enjoyable three days on “Blue Moon”. We had a great time and learned a lot. We appreciated the time you spend talking to us about the pros and cons of the different makes and models. My mother has not been well since we got back so I’ve been caring for her Gloucester. Andrew crewed on a monohull to Steepholm and back yesterday – he’d wished it had been a cat!

With all good wishes Elizabeth and Andrew Smith.

Dear Jim,

Great boat
Great company
Great instruction
Unforgettable holiday

Many thanks Reg and Sheila Chapman
Ps – Reg says great porridge also!!

Hello Jim

Thank you for sending our certificates and the booklet. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and are definitely hooked on catamarans.

Mark worked very hard; he is a very good instructor with plenty of patience and good humour. We wish him good luck on his next trip.

Our only regret is we did not take up sailing 30/40 years ago. Our very best wishes Mary and Reg.