Sunday 10th February 19 – Boat Owners and Exams

Well, there had been plenty going on since our last entry – all of the paperwork for the boat was finalised, and we could now officially call ourselves boat owners! This would usually call for some sort of celebration, but unfortunately, at this point, I had been laid up in bed for a full week with the worst flu I’ve ever had, so any major celebrations were put on hold until I was over the worst of it.

We were then just waiting on the registration of the boat to be completed – this seemed to be a very long and drawn out process, which I had started to run out of patience with at this point!

We’d also begun our series of exams with the INSS in Dun Laoghaire. First up was our VHF radio course. This was run over four evenings, with three evenings to learn the material, and a final assessment on the 4th Day. We took on this course for two main reasons – firstly, we both needed to complete the course to obtain a radio operators license – this is a legal requirement, which means we both have the authority to use a ships radio. Secondly – we knew it was going to be very important that both of us were confident on how and when to use the radio on the boat, especially if we ever need to make distress calls from the boat. We also want to make sure we don’t offend any fellow cruisers with poor radio etiquette! Fortunately, we both passed, and spent a couple of weeks waiting for our licences to arrive in the post – eagerly anticipating our results so we could see who did better!! 

Throughout February, every Thursday evening and all day Saturday each weekend was spent with the INSS learning our Shorebased yachtmaster theory – our theory exam was rapidly approaching on 23rd Feb, and to be honest, I’d started wondering how on earth I was going to remember everything! This theory course is being treated as our preparation for our Yachtmaster Exam – a practical exam which takes place over a weekend on the boat. We would need to know everything included on the shore based syllabus for our Yachtmaster Exam, in addition to a large volume of practical boat handling skills. This is probably the part of our preparations I was most concerned about getting right – Marty has been doing all of the practical sort of thing for years – he’s been skipper for many offshore races, so much of this is second nature to him. While I’ve spent my entire life on and around boats, I’d rarely needed to act in capacity of skipper myself. So on the one hand, it was probably more valuable that I do this exam and get comfortable with how to do all of these things by myself – however, the chances of me not passing this exam seemed very high. Marty kept telling me (and I know he is right) that the exam is not the important thing – the most important thing is that I learn and know how to do everything myself. However – logic aside – the idea of failing made me feel very anxious, and was a source of added pressure for me.

The course itself was hugely valuable, and we covered topics like navigation, plotting courses, passage planning, lights and sound signals, position fixing, safety at sea, meteorology, and whole wealth of other topics. Much of this is information and knowledge that we use every time we go sailing, but it was eye opening to see it all formalised, and to see all the additional things that we (and others!) should be doing, but aren’t. I’d highly recommend this course to anyone, no matter what sort of sailing you plan to do. 

We’d also been learning all about our new sewing machine, and had completed a few sewing projects over the recent weeks. We started simple, and fixed a few tears in our fender skirt, and added in some re-enforcement to our lazyjacks, and fixed a few small tears. We then got very creative, and made ourselves a windscoop for our forward hatch, using the head of one of our old SB20 kites. We’d blown this spinnaker up a few months earlier, and even the sail makers didn’t think they could put it back together. For once, holding on to our old bits and pieces paid off, and we were able to give the old kite a new lease of life! We even sewed in some sleeves for a drawstring cord to tie around the hatch – then Marty really started showing off and made a little bag for it to live in. Overall, it seems to have been a great success – the real test will be to see if it actually works on the boat! 

We then tackled one of the larger tasks on our sewing “to do” list. The windows in the sprayhood were very tired, and needed replacing. We ordered some of the window material online, and set about replacing these ourselves. We traced out the window outline, leaving a good margin around the edges, and used this template to cut out the new windows. Using double sided tape, we overlaid the new windows over the existing ones. We left the existing windows in, with the intention of cutting them out once the new windows were in place – this meant that the fabric would all hold it’s shape and would make the whole task much more straightforward. Unfortunately, our sewing machine wasn’t quite up to the task – there was simply too much fabric to pass through our machine, so we had to ask a friend with an industrial size machine to run the stitching around for us. This was a bit annoying – we’d hoped to claim responsibility for the entire project, however at 10pm that Thursday evening, I was secretly relieved that we’d done as much as we could for the night.

In the meantime, the house jobs list continued to grow (Marty finally fixed the handle on the living room door!) and the clear out is an ongoing daily task at this stage. Planning and preparing for the trip had become constant feature, and we were now at the stage where every day has something boat or trip related that needs doing. We’ve also never ordered so much stuff – daily deliveries of various boat bits – hinges for the toilet seat, courtesy flags for each country we plan to visit, a hot knife and gooseneck fittings all featured during this week. While it is exciting and mostly fun, it started to feel a bit all consuming, and it could be a challenge to fit everything in with work, and the various courses etc. We were also really starting to feel the strain of having to save enough money each month – we had reached the point of tallying up our food shopping as we went around the supermarket to make sure we stuck to the weekly food budget! Although we had absolutely no doubt that it will be worth it in the end.

Until next time….

R&M xx

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