Day Skipper Tidal here I come. 87 days to start, 99 days until I’m qualified.
Day Skipper (Tidal) is an intermediate qualification which is better than a sailing qualification and more expansive than a “Competent Crew” certificate. But it falls short of the various Yachtmaster qualifications. The “Tidal” part is slightly better than “non-Tidal” especially if you plan to charter someone else’s boat.
I’ve been thinking about this for ages – something a little more advanced than my dinghy sailing qualifications and now, in 2016, after a pretty damn-awful 2015, seems to be the first hint of peace and the first opportunity to do stuff for me.
Being trained and qualified doesn’t mean that I need it to sail. The sea is a relatively lawless place for a boat owner, especially in UK waters. I’m confident that I could take a 25′ boat around the coasts of Northern Ireland and wouldn’t do too badly based on my experience sailing last summer. Taking a wide berth around rocks, keeping an eye on the channel and the depth-sounder.
Of course, I don’t even have a dinghy at the moment (sold it to close off one more loose end) but that’s not going to stop me. There’s some money in the boat fund account and there’s also a course in woodworking and furniture design and production that I’ve signed up to. I figure it’s the best way to learn how to construct or repair the interiors of a cheap boat, including upholstery.
This summer will be camping and sailing and caravanning. I’ll be looking at stand-up paddle boarding, maybe even try my hand at surfing. And I’d like to try sea fishing.
First meeting of the Bangor Coastal Rowing/Sailing/Boat-building Group was tonight. I think it’s a darned shame that towns and villages up and down the Ards peninsula have projects involving this sort of thing but where there’s a will there’s a way.
I’m going again on the 24th-25th September for the Level 2 sailing which will cover more about: rigging, ropework, sailing techniques and manoeuvres, launching, recovery, capsizing and an introduction to racing.
I’m still enchanted with the idea of a decent marina in Belfast. There are nice marinas in Carrickfergus and Bangor but it seems odd not to have one in Belfast.
Not only would the location be good for visiting sailors, but also a community amenity. The whole of Airport Road West is filled with office blocks and heaps of technology-related companies but, if you’ve ever worked there, you have to leave there if you want to eat – either through the entrance at Dee Street or Holywood Exchange.
My vision would be for a full service marina complete with an on-site chandlers and supplies. It would have a serviced bar serving pub grub as well as a proper restaurant. these facilities would be open to the many government departments in Clare House as well as the dozens of other businesses (CEM, BT, Fujitsu, Phoenix, Equiniti ICS, White Noise, Level Seven and more) which are along that road.
It would not compete in any way with B&Q, Sainsburys and IKEA (and Decathlon, NEXT or Harvey Norman) in Holywood Exchange but the presence of these retail outlets highlights what a great location this would be for visitors.
Being close to George Best International Airport would just encourage the development of a charter business which offered the coverage of the North Coast of Ireland and the Western Coast of Scotland and the Isle of Man. And the proximity to bus routes (Holywood is a brisk 1.5 miles away and Belfast City Centre is 4.5 miles away) and a train station passing by would make such a difference to the region.
It’s close to two nature reserves (both on Airport Road West), at the top of the Ards Peninsula, a couple of miles away from some nice hotels (Stormont, Culloden), a spa and gym or two within a stones throw away.
Now, all I need is an architect, a powerful alliance within Belfast Harbour Commissioners, a truckload of lawyers and marine architects and engineers and a couple of million quid. Simples.
It was a three hour sail on Ijselmeer or Markemeer in a Contessa 32 which convinced me that at some point in my future, there would be a sailboat.
We then returned to the Marina and were served bitterballs, chicken drumsticks and pork satays when we ordered some soft drinks. We didn’t ask for the food, it just arrived. We were also entertained by a travelling band from the West Indies which was just hanging around.
It was, quite honestly, a bizarre, unforgettable experience.
The real boost I’ve received this year towards getting some time on the water was on the 1st August which some may recall as being my wedding anniversary. My wife bought me a pair of sailing sunglasses and a hefty book on sailing.
I’ve read through most of the book but find myself now wanting to put some of it into practise. In the absence of time on the water, however, I’ve started to buy a couple of sailing magazines every month and also started contributing to their online forums. My contributions there have won me a Helly Hansen hat and also given me an idea for a cool app – the basics of which are on the Code4Pizza site.
So – what is Project 49?
Project 49 is simply a description and a journal of everything I’m going to do over the next 12 years (until I’m 49) to get myself sea-worthy and get my own boat. Ideally I will get a smaller weekender to practise with at some point and make a few friends who want to spend time afloat. The culmination, the finale of Project 49 is stepping off the pontoons here or in Belfast and disappearing around the world under sail.
I know it’s a little premature as I didn’t manage to clock a single hour on a boat this summer and I’m still not able to actually sail (though I’ve done the book-learning!).
I have, however, started to hack together a wee map of moorings which I plan to update and would appreciate any input others have. Green icons indicate free moorings, Red icons indicate pay-for moorings. A dot in the middle indicates whether the location has other facilities that might be useful to the intrepid sailor.
Last night I took a few more steps towards sailing by actually finding a sail training company that answered email. I had zero luck with the local training folk in Ballyholme with both email and voicemail but I lucked out and remembered an article in the August 2009 issue of Sailing Today (which is by far my favourite sailing magazine).
We don’t have the weather for sailing all year round and and this is never more apparent than when you drive past Ballyholme Yacht Club and see the smaller yachts being hoisted out of the water and laid up for storage during our “harsh” winter months. In other regions, especially close to the equator, sailing is an all-season pastime. Which brings me to AllAbroad which was featured in the issue of S.T. but also was very quick to email me back (turnaround time of around 8 hours – most of that overnight – which again sets them apart from other trainers I’d contacted.
As you can see, the AllAbroad Competent Crew course is £475 off-season and covers 5 days and 6 nights of accommodation on the yacht with a focus on safety and boat handling and giving you the opportunity to visit Gibraltar, Spain and Morocco. To avail, all you have to do is pay your ticket, bring along a little spending money and then get yourself a return flight to Gibraltar.
My costs would include a flight to Gatwick (£50-75 return) and then a flight from Gatwick to Gibraltar (£100 return) but even so, the trip seems very reasonable and as soon as I’m able, I’ll endeavour to get that booked.
The schedule of the course as laid out in the magazine was:
Sunday – Introduction to boat and safety briefing
Monday – Kitting out, exercises under engine in Gib Bay, Sailed up to Strait for look around
Tuesday – MOB exercises and passage to Ceuta
Wednesday – Ceuta to Smir
Thursday – From Smir, planned passage to Estepona aborted on rounding Ceuta – made for Gib instead
Friday – Sail across Gib Bay, exercises and dinghy drill in inner Bay.
All of this also included time ashore in the various locations including Morocco/North Africa and the historic regions abound (especially if you pay attention to your Templar lore) but among all of this foreign culture you learn the full RYA-approved Competent Crew syllabus.