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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Meet the Dayskippers

Whoooooo yeeeeeeeh, so we did it, we passed our dayskipper theory course today. We now are the proud owners of TWO certificates. It says,
SHOREBASED COURSE RYA/MCA day skipper for sail and power craft.
This is to certify that Colin Williams has attended a shore based course of instruction and demonstrated a knowledge of theory up to the standard of RYA/MCA Day Skipper/Watch Leader
special endorsements.................................
Signed John D Parlane Date 28/02/10, principal chief instructor,
RYA Training Centre, Morcambe and Heysham YC
and then there's a big red ensign in the corner that tops it all off very nicely.

Can you imagine, we're both highly delighted to say the least, in fact we've just popped a bottle of bubbly to toast our delight. Congratulations Skipper, said Jackie, congratulations Skipper I said to Jackie, and we both grin from ear to ear.
I honestly don't believe how much NEW stuff I've had to cram into my brain over the last six weeks.
Isophasing lights, Occulting lights, they're flashing lights on beacons, the light is longer on than off then it's said to be occulting. I thought this a bit odd as the occult tends to be about the dark forces. But then I thought no, hang on, I've studied a bit of the occult and although it maybe a bit esoteric in the end they're searching for the light. So that's how I came to give the right answer to question 5a in todays exam. Oh and isophasing, that's equal dark and light, just to show off.

We know how to plot a course over ground, using tidal vectors, plot an estimated position and dead reckoning. We know how to spot a rock of unknown depth that's a hazard to shipping, a rock that's awash at chart datum, and even wrecks.
Oh chart datum, that's the lowest recorded tide, ever.

I find charts absolutely fascinating, I've always liked studying ordnance survey maps and charts hold the same fascination. So I've really enjoyed the chart side of this course. Yesterday we had our exam on chart work, and I must say I made a few boo boos'. However the mistakes were stupid, and as we did the workings out right, John allowed me to redo the questions, not making stupid mistakes this time. In the end we both passed with flying colours.

Todays exam was mostly about safety, and although there was a lot to remember about bouys, lights, man over board, sending out a distress calls and a basic meteorology, we both scored over 90%, maybe even 95%.

So that's it we're now both theory qualified Day Skippers, next comes the practical course in four weeks time back in Largs. John, our brilliant tutor, who works for the same company that we'll be sailing with at the end of March said that the practical is much more mind numbing than the theory course, so be prepared. OK, thanks for the advice John, but I say bring it on, we're both enjoying this so much that I'm sure we'll relish the practical, and we will add the practical certificate to our theory, and become fully rounded Day Skippers.

We are the Daaaaaaaay Skippers, Sunday sailors yeh, what took us so long to find out, but we found out (with apologise to Lennon and Mcartney).

Thanks John, it was a pleasure to be your pupil, and if you're thinking of following in our footsteps I can highly recommend www.bayseaschool.com/.

Friday, 26 February 2010

It's my birthday

62 years ago I came into the world, and on Wednesday it was my birthday. You don't expect a lot of fuss when you get this old, and sure enough the postman brought me no cards. However I got one from my first mate, it had a painting of a yacht sailing beneath stars on a blue ocean, very evocative. And I had three prezzies, The first one I opened was a beautiful magnifying glass with a brass surround that looked like a miniature porthole, it's for chart work, and will come in very handy on our boat. Next up a book called Occupation Circumnavigator, and last, a real chart of the Caribbean. Just what I always wanted.

This weekend is the final couple of days of our Day Skipper theory course, and then we have some sort of test. Not looking forward to that but then again I think I'm fairly confident that we've got the general gist and so lets hope it's not too tricky.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

RYA Dayskipper Part 2

Back to school again yesterday, to the Morcambe and Heysham "working mans" yacht club and our tutor John, and this week there's just me and Jackie as the only other student Victor, has had to work.
We plunge straight into chart work but now we're plotting routes that include tidal vectors and leeway. We have to work out what's happening to the sea and our imaginary boat by correlating a load of data from books, charts, tables, and ocean diamonds.
All of this information is then translated onto the chart via a Portland plotter, I just looked that up,..............oh, and a pencil, that I must learn to keep sharp.

It's one thing getting your heading right, it's all too easy, for me at least, to have my boat heading south when the question tells me it's heading north. Just when I think I've cracked that one in comes the googly of tidal vectors. I'm having enough trouble with true north and magnetic north without the bloody tide about to reek havoc on my chosen route. If I want to end up at my chosen destination I'm going to have to factor this into my calculation, or I could end up on the rocks.

Ok, the tidal stream will push me off course, but by how much? Turns out that the speed of the tide changes every hour, and, changes direction. Amazingly all this information has been collected by someone sticking a "Superbouy" out in the ocean stuffed with electronics, measuring all these movements over years, and then someone has translated it all into a book called the almanac,for that area of the globe.

John attempts to teach us how we can use all of this info to find out which way we have to point our boat when steering by the compass. In effect what is suppose to happen is that you point the boat at a different place than where you want to end up, but you end up there anyway. That's 'cause the tide has messed with your true course, but if you can do the geometry using the stuff in the almanac then hey presto, you get where you want to go, magic.

But this is not easy, or at least not yet.

And then just as we start to grasp it we're told that we also have to include leeway.
That's when the wind blows you off course, the course you've just painstakingly plotted, and converted to magnetic from true, cause you've got that concept now.
Now I have to factor another variable, the wind, and my head is beginning to hurt.

Add to this the rules about rights of way at sea, power gives way to sail, except for very BIG ships, which is a bit obvious, and, add learning about lights on a myriad of different vessels, a bit about GPS and then lighthouses and that's my brain fried.

"I just wanted to go sailing", says Jackie with a perplexed glaze in her eye.

Never the less it is slowly beginning to sink in, I think; and although at times it seems overwhelming, hopefully after we've done all our homework, of which there is loads, we'll sail through the exam a week on Sunday. Then it's onto our Day Skipper practical, that's booked in for March 29th, back in Largs where we did our Start yachting course back in October, but with a different company this time. We've come a long way but my do we now know how far we still have to travel on this quest to sail our own yacht around the west indies.