Day Skipper Practical – Where should I do it?

Posted: 25 September 2012 by Lou Barden in Training

A question many people ask themselves having completed their Day Skipper theory course :  with so many choices within easy reach, what will it be, that guaranteed sun in the Mediterranean  or that good old British spring, summer and autumn weather.

Well here’s my take on it. I love the Mediterranean, crystal clear water, beautiful bays to anchor in, if you chose the right spots virtually free mooring and if you’re lucky a decent breeze by the afternoon, (not to mention the food, ouzo and lemon !!). However the breeze is not guaranteed, you have spent hours in the classroom sweating over tidal height calculations, estimated positions and courses to steer none of which get a look in when cruising or taking your Day Skipper practical in the Mediterranean “point and go” and you will get there perhaps with a small allowance for leeway if you get the breeze.

I agree that the art of Mediterranean mooring is a valuable one to learn and I have had many embarrassing moments in my time being watched by French and Italian yachtsmen. However I believe that variety is the spice of life so how many different types of mooring are available to perfect (I use the term loosely !!) in the Solent. You can moor alongside a non-moving harbour, now I get to use that tidal curve I know all about to make sure I leave enough line so not to be the only boat hanging from the wall when I get back from my sojourn ashore. If the wall is full I can always raft up alongside another boat, nice, they have done all the hard work. Alternatively I could sail onto a hand pick-up or lasso mooring buoy, not to mention the joys of getting myself safely and securely onto the trots, although I have to confess I have never seen the benefit of being a stones throw away from the shore but still having to blow up your dinghy to get that 10 metres across the water.

In and around British coastal waters you must take tide into account if you want to successfully navigate to a destination and arrive at that place on a timely basis, the all important factor when trying to keep your crew happy.  You will need to check the depth of water in the area in which you are sailing, will I have enough depth over the bar to get into the river and when will I have enough depth to get back out ? Happy days, I spent hours learning how to do this in theory now I get to put it into practice and the whole thing starts to make perfect sense.

Along the way you will see many other sailing vessels (STARBOARD, STARBOARD), in the Solent you can add to that commercial passenger vessels of all shapes and sizes, vessels restricted in their ability to manoeuvre, vessels constrained by their draft, fishing vessels, military vessels and all manner of small sailing dinghies and other small water craft. This also results in a fair amount of radio traffic, and whilst the SRC VHF radio course is a separate one, as part of the Day Skipper course we have, to a degree, covered the DSC VHF radio and it’s use, so actually hearing a Mayday or a Pan pan over the radio is very often a new experience for Day Skipper candidates but unfortunately in the Solent quite a frequent occurrence.

Almost there, just two more areas I would like to mention the first being buoyage, from leaving the marina it starts, you will be surrounded by lateral buoyage, once in the main body of the Solent you will see every Cardinal Mark many special marks marks which incorporate tidal gauges, isolated danger marks and fairway marks. What’s left to see, ah yes that emergency wreck mark, you may get to see this, they carry one on the back of the Trinty House vessel which lays and checks marks around the south coast.

Finally weather, what shall I say, I have found that people coming back from having done their course in the Med have not perhaps experienced the very varied weather we have in the UK, trimming the sail correctly on all points of sail and knowing when and how to reef have often been found wanting. That is not to say that the weather we have allows for a perfect course here every time, my frequent gripe of “all or nothing” is often the case.

So I guess you know my feelings on the subject, suffice to say if someone offered me a space on a yacht in Greece tomorrow I would be on a plane in the next two hours !!! (If I was allowed the time off !!)

If you don’t see it in the Solent you probably won’t see it anywhere – what do you think?


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