Fast Times #
"Best! Day! Ever!" – My daughter at the end of Day 1 training
Summer is just around the corner and thoughts are beginning to turn to beach, sun and sea. For those so inclined, part of the fun of the season is getting off the shore and onto the water. There are few things that make one feel freer than being out on the open sea, wind in your hair. And whilst that’s great fun, wouldn’t it be even MORE fun if you were able to drive the boat yourself? Well here’s how you do it… and in just one weekend!
Day 1 #
My husband, daughter and I turn up at the Club de Mar in Palma to start our lessons at a civilized 9h30 on a chilly and overcast Saturday morning. After a quick briefing by Tony, our instructor from Deep Blue Sea Training, we head over to the boat. The boat we will be learning on is the same as the boats we will be using regularly as members of RIB Club. This type of boat is called…funnily enough…a RIB, meaning rigid inflatable boat. They are far bigger than I had imagined, 9 meters long, with a serious 250hp Yamaha outboard engine. The boat we are learning on was brand spanking new. Again, despite my preconceived notions, this boat also looks very stable. his is a huge comfort because the day is blustery, and the last thing anyone wants is to risk capsizing.
After going through some basic operational and safety features, such as how to turn the boat on, what stance to adopt whilst driving (one hand on the wheel, and one on the gear, eyes straight ahead) and where to attach the kill switch, Tony eases us out of our extraordinarily tight berth and into the channel. From there, he asks who would like to go first. I volunteer. Keeping the boat in the centre of the channel, even in the marina, proves to be quite challenging as we are fighting a pretty stiff wind, but Tony assures us these are excellent conditions to be learning in, as we normally would not be going out on worse days, and if we are able to handle the boat in these conditions, we can handle it anywhere. His presence standing next to me at the helm is decidedly reassuring, and we carry on. First, we practice how to manoeuvre a boat alongside a dock or pier. It is not the easiest, as the wind is blowing us off course, but we all manage to do it a few times without too much trouble. We then bring the boat back into the slip (I drive!) and stop for a quick bite.
When we reconvene, it is time to head out into the open seas. The swells are 2+ meters high. If you are not familiar with what that looks like, they look HUGE from a small boat, but perfect for doing man overboard drills, which we all do with success. We then practice mooring in smaller and smaller spaces and finish our day on high note with David putting the boat into the slip magnificently.
Day 2 #
The second day, we are greeted by Hugh, another Deep Blue instructor, who is tasked with teaching us both hands-on open water skills and classroom theory. The day is far less windy, but still cold and rainy, though we are lucky and have no rain whilst we are out on the boat.
The first thing we do is all have a go at piloting the boat as we would on a day out. In other words, we go fast! It is fun as the swells are spaced perfectly apart and it feels like a gentle roller coaster ride. We then take turns looking for spots to anchor, which is more of a skill than I realised. You have to find a protected area with shallow, but not too shallow, water and then drop anchor giving 4 times the amount of chain than the water depth. Hugh explains that to keep the anchor in place, you need a certain amount of weight holding it there. The chain lying along the sea bed provides that extra weight, along with your anchor, and ensures you stay put and not drift out to sea, or onto dangerous rocks.
We then practice more man overboard drills, some reverse driving, and how to get into and out of narrow channels. After this full morning, we take a break then get started on theory.
We learn a lot of useful and necessary information such as what the various harbour markers mean, who has the right-of-way in every conceivable situation, and how to plot a course. This to me is fascinating, as I always hated geometry and had no interest in navigation as a result. Turns out I’m an idiot, and navigation is really cool. We learn how to find our location using just land markers and a chart. We also learn how to figure out the duration of time it should take to reach our destination. This may not seem important, but when you calculate a trip of 30 minutes, and find yourself still en route 45 minutes later, you can be pretty sure you’ve overshot your mark, or have been taken off course by the sea. As we will rarely go far from the coastline in our current adventures, it’s not too big of a deal, but awfully good to know how to do if ever we decided to take a sea journey at another time.
After our lessons, we are presented with proper RYA Powerboat Level 2 Licenses. It is a nice moment! We are then met by the effervescent office manager of Deep Blue, Sammie. She congratulates us and takes some photos for us, then waves a cheerful goodbye as we headed back…
Looking Back #
The weekend was a great accomplishment for us all, especially our 12-year old daughter. Now we not only can go out on a boat anytime we please, we can do it knowing we were properly trained in skills and safety, making us sound and responsible boaters. See you on the sea!
For more information on RIB Club or Deep Blue, you can find them on their respective websites: www.ribclub.com and www.deepbluesea.training. The cost of the course is €220/person, including processing fee and license.
By Stephanie Horsman
6 June, 2019