Archive for June, 2011
June 22, 2011
Bradley completed his training and passed his exam for the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) Yachtmaster 200 Ton Offshore license. As he will tell you, his test was MUCH harder than mine. It was a longer course, lasting three weeks and encompassing both classroom instruction and a written test, plus on-boat instruction and a practical on-the-water exam. One example – while in a channel with several large ships around, the examiner threw the “man overboard” dummy into the water and Bradley had to execute the rescue procedure. He of course did this flawlessly. There was plenty to learn in a short time, but he passed with flying colors and we are now both certified – he with a British license and me with a US Coast Guard one. We’re both ready to be done with school and start the cruising life!
While I was back at the boat and Bradley was still in Florida, my friends Jamal, brother Jaylen, mom Dannielle, and grandmother Caroline came for a visit. We had a lovely time sitting on the flybridge and talking about upcoming cruising adventures and when they will come join us for some sea time! Jamal and Jaylen would make great deck hands, if we could just pry them away from their interest in horses (Jamal) and football (Jaylen) and Dannie and Caroline would be a real pleasure to have aboard.
Our good friend Neil, who is Australian but we met in New Zealand but who now lives in London, was in town with his significant other Suzy for a visit with Suzy’s friends. Neil came for a visit on Shear Madness and helped me to bring aboard our cow (vegetarians may want to skip to the next paragraph). A while back Bradley and I had bought a “Beef for a Year” package at a charity auction. It was advertised as 300 pounds of beef, equating to half a cow. However, it turned out to be an entire cow, donated by a beef farm. That’s a lot of meat! But fortunately we have plenty of freezer space on board, so we brought half the cow to the boat and the other half to our house in Virginia. We’ll be eating lots of steaks and burgers in the months to come! One more reason for you to plan a visit!
One half of our cruising partner couple arrived from New Zealand this past weekend – John Lovatt who has successfully executed his long term leave from the NZ Air Force. Our crew is now 3/4 complete and John’s wife Leanne is set to join us on August 11. Since John has arrived, we’ve been busy preparing the boat for departure from Solomon’s Island. This week, we had to have an evaporator on our Sub-Zero refrigerator replaced. We were a little concerned since the refrigerator is not movable, but Donnie the tech did a great job and the fridge is back in service. We’ve also diagnosed a problem with our inverters (power units) and ordered the part required to fix it, hopefully for arrival before we depart from here!
The biggest problem we’ve been facing is the dreaded Mayfly. A small little bug, it has become our most hated creature. There are thousands, maybe millions of them all over our boat where they leave an awful green residue, then die and bake on. For the past two days, Bradley, John, and I, along with our friend Susan, have been cleaning the boat. Yesterday we got half of it done – in addition to the Mayflies there was plenty of dirt – but today everywhere we had cleaned had been Mayflied again! Funny thing – as we’ve been trying to move more of our stuff aboard, we keep joking about needing a bigger boat. But as we are cleaning it, we are wishing for one just a wee bit smaller! It really is a lot to clean! But we’re confident that when we are all aboard all the time we’ll be able to stay ahead of the game! It seems nobody told the Mayflies that it’s now June!
Tomorrow we await the arrival of Bob, a generator/diesel specialist who will be onboard for several days of training, and then will join us on our journey south to Palm Beach, Florida where we will be doing an upgrade of our electronics systems, computers, and entertainment system.
June 9, 2011
For the past two weeks Bradley and I have been studying at the Maritime Professional Institute in Ft. Lauderdale. I was working on my US Coast Guard 100 Ton Masters (Captain’s) license while Bradley is getting the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) 200 Ton Offshore Yachtmaster certification (he has two more weeks to go). Both these certifications are intended to demonstrate a certain level of mastery and are recognized as maritime credentials, very similar in concept (though perhaps not as tough) to a CPA or Bar exam. My exam consisted of four sections – 1) Rules of the Road; 2) Deck General and Deck Safety; 3) Navigation and Weather General; and 4) Chart Plotting.
My class ran from 7:30am to 4pm each day for two weeks. There was a lot to learn and it was clear the class was solely a “test prep” deal. We were even told “we’re not here to teach you how to be a good Captain, we’re here to make sure you pass the test”. Having spent the past two years of my professional life in Education, this was a little disconcerting. We were not allowed to ask questions outside of specific topics that were included on the exam. We were taught techniques to help us pass the test such as “when in doubt, Charlie out”, meaning that if you have no idea what the answer is on a multiple choice test, pick “C” because that is the most common answer. Also, if ALL of The Above is included as an option, 90% of the time it will be the right answer. However, despite the “teach to the test” objective, over the course of the two weeks, we learned a lot and developed a good foundation.
In addition to the regular class, I also had several additional evening classes. A requirement for the Coast Guard license is a current First Aid/CPR certification, so that took up two nights the first week. In addition, a Captain is required to have a radio license issued by the FCC, which requires another night of class. Because I have so much time on a sailboat, I am also eligible to have a “Sail endorsement” attached to my license, which requires yet another class and test. So it was many long days but I obtained all the required certificates. I also had to pass a physical exam, which consisted of filling out a 9-page questionnaire, having a nurse take my blood pressure and asking “How tall are you and how much do you weigh?”, then recording the answers with no verification – not the most rigorous standard! I did have to have an interview with the doctor, which lasted at least 30 seconds. And I did have to pass a drug test.
The next step was filling out the Coast Guard application, including documentation of at least 720 days at sea which at least 360 days “offshore” (outside the boundaries of inland waterways). That is now complete and my application is in the hands of the Coast Guard.
So assuming the Coast Guard approves, I will soon be authorized to take up to six passengers out for hire on a vessel up to 100 gross tons, provide towing services to disabled boats and charge money, or work on a large ship (such as an oil tanker) as a wiper (wiping up oil in the engine room) or as a food handler. I don’t really intend to do any of those things, but our insurance company is happy and now believes I am qualified to operate our own boat! All in all, it was a good experience and I will soon be an official Merchant Mariner.