The skills and experience you need to take up dinghy cruising will depend on your previous experience of boats, your skills in related outdoor activities and the places you plan to sail.
Regardless of your sailing experience, if any, a good place to start is by sailing with others. Members with or without boats are welcome at DCA rallies. Those with boats will find help with launching and recovery and all will have many opportunities to ask questions and watch what others do. Members without boats may receive an invitation to sail with someone but it is always up to the skipper whether he wants extra crew or not and this may well depend on weather and sailing conditions.
It is a good idea to link up with other members in your local area if you can. Even if there are no members near you, if you ask around at your local sailing club you may find, hidden among the racers, people who enjoy our kind of sailing and who may well be happy to share their experience with you.
The DCA does not offer training; indeed, a great many excellent sailors have never had formal training. Courses can however provide a good introduction to sailing. In the UK, the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) oversees formal sail training. The courses most relevant to dinghy cruisers are:
While courses can provide a good introduction, nothing will truly develop your skills and competence except time spent on the water. As you gain in confidence you will want to tackle more challenging conditions, once again, sailing with others at DCA rallies can provide great opportunities. Don't hesitate to ask the rally organiser if the venue is suitable for less experienced sailors.
To find out more about starting dinghy cruising read:
You could also borrow these booklets from the Library which include articles from past DCA bulletins and journals:
Len Wingfield is a DCA Elder Statesman. He wrote a booklet back in 1991 called Cruising the Leader which you can borrow from the DCA Library or download by clicking the cover image.
He says "These notes are not intended to replace any of the excellent text books published on dinghy cruising, but to provide material particularly relevant to the Leader dinghy." Len had sailed a very wide range of boats over fifty years or so but,
in his late sixties at the time of writing, had found the 14' Leader a convenient size. "It is large enough to carry four adults daysailing and provides room to sleep two large males comfortably on board. However it is not too big to be sailed single-handed by average or even light helmspersons, nor too heavy to be drawn out and manhandled ashore singlehanded by a lightweight woman."
Despite its focus on the Leader, this booklet provides any beginner at dinghy cruising with useful information on seamanship, living on board, training, first aid, self-rescue and survival. Beginners are earnestly recommended to take their training seriously, and to sail well within their limits as experience is gained.