Tied up alongside. Putting the days learning into practice.
What better way to improve your confidence than to undertake some own boat training. We started with Competent Crew, inviting another couple to experience it with us.
The thing about owning a boat is that for the uninitiated (like myself), one can completely take to sea without a care in the world. And, in doing so, put all and sundry at risk. Buying a boat is easy. It’s as cheap or as expensive as you care to make it. Yet, there’s no legal requirement to insure it or, get any training. The only “legal” requirement being to have a licence to operate the radio. You can literally buy and float away. For some this works. For me? I’ve had next to no sailing experience in yachts and SJ’s, (who has experience a plenty) was a fair while ago and we needed to awaken old muscle memory.
Despite appearances. We are actually pretty cautious when it comes to the boat. Mainly because we don’t want to do any damage to ourselves, the boat or indeed anyone else or their property either. Especially, when leaving a densely packed marina. It is (afterall) going to be our home. So we need to be cautious.
Despite a few successful departures and arrivals. It was always more luck than good planning that saw us safely if not prettily away from or back on the pontoon. Our aged Sadler has a very pronounced port prop walk and we’ve not learned the finesse to get her away, first time, everytime.
So we’ve bitten the bullet and asked East Anglian Sea School to help us, by putting together a package to undertake both the competent crew and the day skipper on our boat. It also helps that we invited our friends who (on the day we made the offer on the boat) were until only recently, complete strangers. So, there we were. Four very eager trainees awaiting the instructors arrival.
The good thing about doing it this way, is that it allows us to go at our pace and to really learn the idiosyncrasies of our boat. And she has a few. Well, what do you expect for a 30 year old? We’re also fortunate in that we’ll have the experience of two different instructors over two separate weekends to cover everything. It also helps to spread the cost of the training with the only additional cost we’d incur being the food which, we’d have to provide for everyone and any marina fees for overnight stops etc. Having it split over the weekends allows Stephan & Beth (our new friends) to continue with their respective day jobs.
So it was, that RYA instructor Nick pitched up on a Saturday morning and started to go through the competent crew syllabus. Trying to align our varied experience to what was needed to be done over the weekend to ensure that we covered the required topics.
As it was, we wanted to start with more boat handling. Mainly to improve our confidence when trying to manoeuvre in confined spaces (like the freeway of the marina). Or, coming alongside a pontoon.
Off We Go
We undertook a fairly lengthy briefing. Discussing what the plan was to get away. Discussing with Nick that the boat likes to reverse out to port After leaving our finger pontoon, we find a clear space in the marina and Nick takes the helm just to see if he can spin the boat within its own length and to acquaint himself with how she handles. Of course, the boat (as expected) behaves beautifully. Going exactly where he wants her to go. We can get her to turn within her own length and are eventually doing ‘donuts‘ in the marina, much to the amusement of onlookers.
Next up, we’ll try coming alongside. This involves reversing (mainly to port) into fairways and then driving back out onto an empty pontoon. Ultimately, it all comes down to taking ones time. With the odd dash of power to control momentum. We also give springing off a go, both forward and back.
This exercise takes some time as there are four of us, plus Nick. All taking turns at various roles. Most of the first day has gone and we’ve not even left the marina, let alone get the sails up.
And, I couldn’t have been happier.
Shall we go somewhere?
We manage to leave the marina and head out into the river to get the sails up. We tack, to and fro as we sail out towards the much larger ships in the docks.