Sitting in a pub in a marina I’d never visited before, tucking into a tasty roll and sipping a Coke, I’m not sure how the conversation steered onto education. However, I do remember our Powerboat Instructor saying something along the lines of, “If you make education fun, people learn without even realising it.”
On the way back to Suffolk Yacht Harbour, we had some time to kill and it was suggested that we try some more ‘man overboard’ drills. I took the helm first and opened up the 225hp Yamaha engine. The ‘man’ (a buoy) was thrown overboard and the crew alerted me. What followed then was almost a text book recovery. I was so pleased! Although I’d managed to recover the lost buoy each time previously, I’d never done it perfectly. It then dawned on me that I’d been having so much fun that I’d kind of forgotten that this was what I was learning. This is why I’d booked the course and this was what I wanted!
My two day course had started the day before, with the weather not looking good. It was windy, raining, grey and cold. Great! However, we weren’t here to mess about on the river and after a brief introduction to my instructor and my two fellow classmates, we got stuck into some ‘theory’.
We were told that the theory part of the course is kept to a minimum. However, there are certain things that all contribute to the overall safety of skippering a small boat that have to be taught in this way, so we’d start straight away with the ‘boring stuff’. Looking outside, I had images of us being stuck indoors for quite a while.
To my amazement, the instructor then told us to get our waterproofs on and we’d hit the water. I must admit to being a bit nervous. I’ve been on a few charter boat trips, but never anything quite like this. To compound my nerves, my fellow students were experienced sea-goers, albeit it mainly a life under sail, rather than in powered boats. Besides, it still looked miserable outside!
I needn’t have worried, the 27′ RIB, ‘RibEye’, that East Anglian Sea School use for this course is an awesome boat. She is light, fast, manoeuvrable and, most importantly, remarkably stable and safe! The RNLI wouldn’t use RIB’s if they weren’t safe – it’s just the idea of stepping into a ‘dinghy’ that a little wimp like me had to overcome. Within two minutes, I was loving it!
The practical side of this RYA course forms the bulk of it. That is, it’s pretty much ‘hands on’, which is what I prefer. I didn’t want to just read about things; I wanted to do them! The level of instruction in this regard was extremely high. Our instructor was relaxed, patient, yet very reassuring. When you’re out at sea, getting things wrong, you don’t want to look around and see your ‘saviour’ looking terrified.
We started with basic open water routines, but by the end of the course we had covered an immense amount of ground and were comfortable coming alongside in the harbour, performing tight slow speed turns with other boats around, navigating by buoys, rescuing ‘men overboard’ and a whole host more.
To my mind, this course has given me the confidence to take control of a small powerboat. In all honesty, I’d still like a few trips out with an experienced person before I set to sea as the ‘skipper’, and that’s exactly what I intend to do this year, having bought my own fishing boat.
East Anglian Sea School operate out of Suffolk Yacht Harbour, Levington, Suffolk and run about as wide a variety of training courses as you’ll see anywhere in the UK! Check out their website at http://www.eastanglianseaschool.com/ . I would not hesitate in recommending them to anyone and, judging by the other courses I’ve seen running when visiting the marina, nor would anybody else! That said, this review is on a North East website, so you may want to check your Yellow Pages, or ask on the forums, for a more local school!
Obviously, you may want to find a course local to you, and a search of Google or the Yellow Pages should throw up plenty of suitable candidates. That said, the couple that I shared the course with had driven down from Lancashire to Suffolk, so East Anglian Sea School must be doing something right! The current price for the course is Â£295 and this may vary from school to school.