Last weeks Yachtmaster prep week and exam has been as much a test of endurance as a test of knowledge with severe gales making wind and sea conditions pretty tricky for practising manoevres. Cornish Cruising had provided us with a Bavaria 36 which would have been a really comfy boat had it not been January and blowing a force 8 most of the week! Subsequently I have spent 6 nights living in a soggy sleeping bag.
One triumph was a bit of clever ebayage and the arrival of two sets of Musto thermal mid layers onesies. One resembled a Musto shell layer jacket construction with waterproof outer and woolly fleece lining. The other was a fleece windstopper. The shell version was great during the day when you weren’t getting rained on very hard and just needed a bit of wind and cold protection, the other pair fitted so comfortably under my MPX trousers that I practically lived in them all week!
My idea of doing my exam in an area which was totally unknown by me was inspired and I have fallen in love with Falmouth and the surrounding area. It must be stunning in the summer months. Our skipper for the week, Tim Hallowes was awesome! If I could pick an extra Dad then he’d be it! His banter and sense of humour quickly bound us together as a team and I laughed harder than I have in months. (He also explained the workings of a Diesel engine in a way that I could understand which was brilliant!). Awesome guy and I can’t recommend him enough. You can find him at Plymouth Sailing School as well as Cornish Cruising.
So after a week in which we crammed in pontoon bashing, attempted high-line transfers with the Royal Navy Search & Rescue helicopter crew, man overboard, anchoring and mooring practice while encountering huge swathes of RYA fog (blind pilotage) it was time for our exam.
I hadn’t quite anticipated the exam to run for such a long time (24hrs), but we all three of us needed to demonstrate our abilities in a range of conditions.
We were lucky enough to bag some good weather for the start of our assessment which was a minor miracle given that the forecast for Friday which was given earlier in the week predicted 51mph winds gusting to 62mph! But when it came my turn to take us to Falmouth harbour the wind had increased to F7-8. As we approached Black Rock, a nearby anchored tanker decided now would a good time to start engines and enter the harbour… With pilot vessels motoring towards the ship, now giving me 5 blasts of its horn, I was wondering what else could go ‘wrong’ when we were hit by a sudden squall and engine failure!
A bum-crushing approach to St Mawes in the dark ensued and by 11pm we were secured to a mooring buoy though still swinging wildly in the gale which was going on outside, all four of us with our head in the engine compartment trying to bring it to life.
Despite our best efforts we were defeated by what appeared to be a fault with the injectors. So we grabbed some much needed kip and set an alarm for 05:00 (oh-five buffs for Tim if you’re reading this)…
By the time we were ready to leave our mooring at St Mawes the wind had decreased and the darkness was lifting to reveal a pale blue sky specked with soft clouds with bright orange edges where the sun was lighting them up. It was how we would have liked the whole week to be, but I was glad to have such favourable conditions for my final trip back to Falmouth marina. With no engine I had to beat up the River and park us on a pontoon which left what nerves I had left totally frayed.
The week was all worthwhile to get a pass in my YM Offshore even if I did fall asleep in my VHF course.