You are hereProject Retirement, ep 11

Project Retirement, ep 11

By Q-Bert - Posted on 08 August 2021

The one where I get more Zoom time in my life.

I already detailed that my wife and I received our Basic Cruising certification. That simply permits us to rent boats at marinas for the day. It's just enough knowledge to piss off the regulars when we head out and completely forget who has right-of-way out of the marina.

The next step is Intermediate Cruising. This course is necessary if you want to charter boats to go cruising for a few days, without having to bring a real captain along. Of course, the charter company will bring you out and test you anyways. Crashing the boat while they test you out will probably nix your chances of chartering any other boat while they pull this one off the rocks, but seeing some of these companies, I'm not so sure.

About this course: The instructor was completely overqualified to give this course. She is a career sailor, having done more races and Transatlantic crossings than the number of times I have died at Call of Duty. You could tell from her voice that she really hopes most of us in the class will survive the next 5 years, but that it was not a certainty. The course lasted about 5 evenings, using Zoom in this Age of Covid.

It focused on the systems present in sailboats, and logistics involved in sailing trips. Most sailboat systems are straightforward, such as navigation tools, and electrical panels. Then you have the more complex, such as fuel filtering, and using the water-maker. Then you have the downright esoteric, such as dealing with poop. There are so many steps in operating a marine toilet that I could not actually memorize all of them; and trust me, it's in the test. If you somehow succeed in using the toilet without sinking the boat, then you have to deal with "holding tanks", which is a fancy word for "shit barrel" (pardon my french). The instructor delighted in telling us stories of marine toilets backing up and basically transforming a high-value sailboat into a floating biohazard that should be "refitted" with a stick of dynamite on the bottom of the hull.


We were given a fictitious week of sailing to plan, including weather analysis, navigation and estimated time of arrivals, anchoring details at each anchorage, beach activities, VHF communication plans, passport handling and customs clearances, and quantities of booze to bring aboard to deal with the inevitable sea-sickness that was to occur (turns out drinking makes sea-sickness waaaaay worse).

We learned how to give diesel engines the "once over", to make sure they have a chance of actually starting up if you find yourself heading for rocks you didn't see or figuring out what a "lee shore" is. We were made aware that it is a good plan to check the level of diesel BEFORE you leave the marina; the intensity at which this "suggestion" was made leads me to believe that a number of new sailors may have not done so with a rather high level of frequency. If you head out on a body of salted water, it is usually a good idea to fill up your water tanks at the same time. We were given the task of calculating the amount of water necessary to bring for a group of 5 people on the sailboat, for the week. The math shows why a lot of sailors are sometimes.... odorous: showers are extremely expensive with regard to water consumption. Same with washing the dishes. It is highly recommended for both of those activities to first use salted water to get rid of the chunks and soap, and then use a very quick soft-water rinse.

Or, you could always wait for the rain. That's part of the "fun" of sailing: storms. They happen a lot. If you are on anchor, then you relax and take a nature shower, and put out buckets to collect rainwater for your dishes and perhaps to refill your water tanks. If you are out doing a passage and have to deal with a storm or a squall... you won't have time to enjoy a shower. Your whole focus will be on navigating the boat out of that drama, hoping that no lightning hits the mast and cooks all of your expensive electronics. Predicting the wind and avoiding storms by not being out there when one hits is 90% of sailing. Do *not* let yourself get caught by surprise by a squall while you have all of your sail out including your spinnaker. That will be a very expensive lesson when you bring in the tatters of your spinnaker, and your sailboat is going way faster than you are able to deal with, AND your boat is almost lying on its side while doing that insane speed. I hear that it's rare that a boat sinks because of too much wind in a squall, but breaking your mast is not as rare. Trim down your sail BEFORE a squall hits.

All of these details came into our brains via our instructor's stories and "good 'ol times".

The written exam was exhausting but doable. The next step is to do the "off shore" exam, and we are waiting for the government to tell us what is acceptable and what isn't, Covid-wise. When I do take that part of the certification, hopefully that episode won't be called "The one where I almost drowned".

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