Well around my way anyone caught more than a few hundred yards offshore with no safety gear, would be escorted back to shore with a ticking off.
With all the safety gear, and knowing how to use, will come more confidence.
Life jackets, VHF Radio, Coastal Flare kit, (Only difference with offshore flare packs you get more rockets), anchor and chain with at least 50m rope, plus suitable clothing and refreshments,
Whilst assisting in a mayday call a few years back in a vessal with chanel zero, The importance of competent radio contact became all to clear, We were on passage with 12 passengers aboard at the time, As soon as i heard Mayday i pulled back rev's, listening to a very unsure,
" Mayday Mayday we've lost our diver's please help".
As we were considered as aux LB we let the Coast gaurd take control of trying to find out where exactly they where and how long diver's been down, Five minutes later we were travelling a full throttle in the general direction, listening to the finer details coming over the radio as to the diver's initial drop point and time.
After checking the chart and working out how far those diver's should have travelled with 7 reducing to 5knt tide pushing them, Ten minutes later we located two very cold frightened divers bobbing down the coast, with no decompression issue's thankfully, Their helms man who was suposed to be keeping an eye on their markers initially,
was searching himself over a mile away,
The point is if the initial vhf distress call would have been correct we could have got there even quicker,
so it's well worth learning and practicing with friends the correct procedure. even if don't get round to doing your test, least you'll learn the important bits,
With your eagerness to learn more, and your previous tiller experience, you're more than half way there, Don't be frightened of the sea, just treat her with respect and you'll love her.