October 2019

Hello skippers and first mates, 

Another month shoots by with ferocious rapidity. It seems that everything is on fast-forward. 

I decided to take my Yacht Master theory last week with the aim to better myself and become more qualified just in case someone wants me to look after their boat in the Caribbean and to pay me for doing so; well we can all dream, can’t we ...

So the prerequisites were to have done a day skipper at least: tick. I did that about 25 years ago plus I have loads of mileage and experience, so how difficult could this be?  Well quite a lot more difficult actually.  One person dropped out after three days and another decided not to take the exam.  It was a complete eye-opener for me; I know how to plot a position, I know where I am in the Solent as I have been sailing that for years and with electronic gismos to hand it makes it quite easy.  But to work out the clearance of a vessel below keel at the next low water of a secondary port if it is currently sitting in 7.0 meters of water is another story. Or working out my water track if I have 1.5kts of tide @ 045 degrees (T) for first 30 minutes and 0.8 kts @ 040 degrees for the next 30 minutes. What is my course to steer magnetic - and allow 5 degrees for leeway? 

Suffice to say that the confidence I had when I started the course was soon replaced with anxiety and trepidation as I had to re-learn what I had forgotten, learn things that I have never actually known and dust off the old maths and English skills.  I can honestly say that my brain has never had to work harder.

When was the last time you read the highway code? Probably when you passed your driving test. The same goes for Collision Regulations, I expect.  Yes, we all know the port and starboard rule and that motor gives way to sail; unless you are a fishing vessel in the act of trawling, fishing or Purse Seine Fishing, then sail gives way, not to mention RAM and CBD vessels.  Then you have to know what night lights everyone should be using, and if it’s foggy and you hear 5 seconds of bell ringing followed by 5 seconds of gonging every minute what can you expect? (It’s a vessel over 100 metres at anchor - it's a slightly different sound if it’s aground). I confess at the beginning of the week, I really only knew the different bouys out there, not their light sequences etc. unless I was actually looking at a chart (Q VQ FL LFL Oc Iso blah blah).

The course was six days with about 10 hours of exams (they were not too harsh on finish times thankfully). Anyway, I have to retake my navigation and chart work in order to pass, which I will be doing again soon.  The Collision Regs and passage planning I passed quite easily. My dining room table is now officially the chart room where I can practice and avoid making silly mistakes.  Does anyone know an easy way to remember if you add or subtract leeway ... on an estimated position or any other position for that matter; please let me know.  

In summary then, always good to refresh your memory on the things you think you know, such as the highway code, collision regulations and while we are at it sailing club rules and etiquette 😊  What, you didn’t think I would forget to have a subtle dig at the members did you?

Take care, keep it tidy, and take your stuff home (have you seen the scran lately?)


Nigel Willis


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