With even the hardiest winter regatta series drawing to a close as autumnal storms start to make sailing uncomfortable for complete sailing nuts, now is the time to put your boat ashore for the winter.
You don’t have to join a crochet class or get involved in your town council’s local politics to keep your mind active if you are a true water sports enthusiast – there’s always something to make or do with regards to life on the water.
The yachtsman may now start doing the jobs he or she has been putting off during the sailing months in favour of more enjoyable things such as cruising the coast or club racing.
Your engine may need an overhaul for example, as with your electrics – two jobs that you can do in the warmth while the freezing rain is rattling down on the deck. For those just getting serious about sailing you should also consider a coastal navigation course and a VHF license – let’s have a look at these courses in more detail.
The short range VHF certificate is unique in that almost all courses for boating types around the world are internationally accepted and once you have it, it is with you for life. They generally last a day including tuition and then you must sit a practical VHF exam to prove you know the conventions and protocols of proper VHF use.
Most national sail training organisations offer a VHF radio operator’s course – have a look at what the International Yacht Training scheme offers here.
Coastal navigation courses ensure that you can safely navigate in daylight into and out of harbours and up the coast in relatively comfortable conditions. These are ideally done in winter as they take around 20-30 hours and can be done in the evening either in a night school class or online with seminars to clarify any difficulties.
You will cover how to predict tidal flow and direction in a given location at a given time. You will look at the IALA buoyage system for your region of the world (there are two – the US runs on IALA B and Europe IALA A) and how to use buoys and marks to navigate your way into and out of a harbour and around dangers such as wrecks (marked with an Isolated Danger Mark).
You will look at the lights for ships, lighthouses and navigation buoys, as well as their daylight marks – fishing vessels for example will hang shapes to tell you whether they are trawling and therefore have right of way over almost everything else on the water.
You will also learn the symbols on charts such as datum depth soundings, channel markers, and other obstacles. Finally, you will learn the right way to plot a route between two points and fix your position manually during the passage.
Have a look at the ASA 105 Coastal Navigation course as an example, though most advanced sailing nations will offer similar schemes.
If you already own a boat you will probably have your VHF license and can competently sail up the coast. Diesel engines are scary things that can be useless if not properly maintained yet get you out of trouble if well maintained and ready for that awkward moment when the wind dies and you are crossing a 90,000 tonne container ship’s bow at too close a range…
Over winter it may help then to do a diesel engine maintenance course. The more you learn the less you have to pay to a marine diesel mechanic for even the basic jobs – as any boatie will know, you attach the word ‘marine’ to any trade and the price goes up by at least 20% immediately!!!
Again, every advanced sailing nation will offer a marine diesel maintenance course of some type. Here is an example of one that is offered in Canada, though if you Google ‘marine diesel maintenance course’ for your country you will find something to help you save cash or blushes – or worse!
As a youngster, marine electronics covered something sufficient to keep your running lights going, a lamp or two for seeing around below, your VHF running and start your engine if you didn’t have a hand crank starter. My current job as an online writer didn’t exist and no one even thought such as career would even come about!
Now, many people rely on computers to show their charts, position, true speed and direction and even use them to plot their routes. You will have a complicated marine diesel that requires electric start, and possibly AC power below so you can power your laptop or charge your iPod.
A marine electronics course these days is something that is almost essential to do unless you have a sheaf of cash to pay someone with the ‘marine’ prefix to their trade. Again, the more you learn the more you will save, and potentially save yourself when it does pear shaped at an inopportune moment.
Your turn! Have we missed any useful winter boating courses? Let us know by leaving a comment below.