Winter 2019, and Spring/Summer 2020 have been a mixed bag. What unusual times we have been living in! This blog has sat silent, but the reality for me has been plenty of sailing and lots of time on the water (in between lockdowns/tiers etc). In addition to that, I’ve achieved my Yachtmaster Offshore, Cruising Instructor, and YM Ocean Theory and have had lots interesting sailing adventures. So, to bring you up to speed and hopefully kick off my more regular blogging again, I wanted to do a logbook update…
I’ll start with my Offshore Yachtmaster Exam…
It feels like a distant memory, but last October I spent a week on the water prepping for my YM. It was an intense week, with excellent crew (fun, determined, passionate about sailing ). I’ve said it many times before, but sailing brings together people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Throw 4 of us together under the pressure of YM Offshore, and we had an absolute blast. Our instructor for the week was someone I’ve sailed with before a few times. He’s calm, controlled, professional… he supported us all very well.
The week put us through our paces, sailing on to a pontoon, a buoy, blind nav… everything you would expect from a prep week. The exam itself presented it’s own interesting challenges. It was certainly a week of high’s and low’s. 3 of us passed, 1 of us didn’t, but that was simply the pressure of the exam on the day. All of us have stayed in regular contact, and great friendships have been formed.
Over the last year and winter, I have got a lot of sailing in, and so in February, I felt ready to go for my RYA Cruising Instructor qualification (CI). The CI is a very different week to any other exam or training I’ve done before. It’s a week of continued assessment. The expectation is that you are at Offshore YM level +. The week focused on teaching techniques, and giving student feedback. It culminated with an independent assessor joining on the last day, and then the two assessors making a joint final decision and recommendation to the RYA.
That week we all passed. A great result, and for us all, it was the result of years of hard work.
Lock-down and beyond…
Pre-COVID, I had been sailing fairly regularly, often with my children. Then along came lock-down, and the time off the water was agonising. “What’s the first thing you’ll do after lock-down?” was a regular question… “Go Sailing” was, of course the answer. Luckily day sailing was allowed fairly early on, then overnights, and so being back out on the water was a welcome relief.
During lock-down, I also studied for my Ocean YM Theory. This was a challenging course, which centred around learning to navigate by the stars and planets (Celestial Navigation). As you would expect, it’s highly mathematical, it wasn’t uncommon to spend an hour or two (with 2 full pages of sums) to reach one simple answer. At the end of the course, I sat an 8 hour written exam… I passed, but it wasn’t without its stresses. I didn’t read one of the questions properly, and so hadn’t realised that the question gave me the time in UTC (instead of LT), I converted it back to UTC, which of course led to hours of frustration! Alas, I passed. What is it they say with exams… “Always read the question!” Lesson learned. Anyway, I was so pleased to have come out of lock-down 1.0 with my Ocean YM Theory qualification ticked off the list.
Since lock-down has eased, we’ve been out on the water a fair amount. It’s such an escape from the craziness of the pandemic, and all that it has brought. I’ve enjoyed some wonderful sailing along the east coast of the UK with my family, exploring places such as Burnham-on Crouch, Brightlingsea, Woolverstone, Shotley and Bradwell Creek.
Sailing in these waters is always a pleasure, on one trip we were lucky enough to spot a sand bank covered in seals, with lots swimming in the water. It was an incredible site. We also spotted 3 different pods of porpoises – something I’ve only seen once before. I think it’s perhaps evidence of sea-life flourishing when man stays away.
This Summer (before quarantine rules kicked in!) we enjoyed a fabulous sail over to Honfleur, France. The kids have loved the freedom that sailing brings this year, really learning the ropes, and starting to develop as sailors, which is great to see. I may blog about some of these trips in upcoming posts, so watch this space.
Kicking off my instructing career at the start of the pandemic, it has been an interesting time to be starting out! But I’m lucky enough to be able to freelance for a local sailing school. The weekends are long, and mentally exhausting, but are so rewarding – a great way to get out on the water, build the experience, and also help others who are starting out in this sport.
I’ve had some really interesting students, from all walks of life. Some who have absolutely flown, and others who have scared me slightly (like one student who tacked directly in to the path of a fast moving racing catarmaran unexpectedly!) All in all, it’s been a great experience though, I’ve learnt a lot from it so far, and awarding my first Day Skipper certificate was a proud moment for me. I’m very much looking forward to meeting many many more students over the coming years, and helping them on their sailing journey.