New LateSail team member, Kyle, is back with an entertaining final installment about his quest to become competent crew on the Solent. In this despatch he gets thrown around below deck like a rag doll. If you missed part one, head to our blog to catch up on a first timer’s experience on a RYA competent crew course.
Day 3 The bad breath dilemma
We began the day with the usual porridge and Mac tasked us with getting the yacht ready on our own before 9am. This meant unplugging ourselves from the shore power, filling up our water tanks, prepping the sail and unclipping the halyard from the guard rails. As I mentioned in part one, at this point I was toothbrush-less, so I scampered into town to grab a new one. When I returned, the crew had already got the yacht ready to leave. I may have missed out on a bit of labour there, so apologies to the rest of the crew. In my defense, it was either help them with the boat or repulse them with my stinky breath. Tricky.
We got ready for our day of sailing ahead and Mac made sure the skippers were not doing all of the work. Everyone got a chance to man the helm and carry out different tasks. We were shown how to tie the preventer line by tying a bowline around the boom, running up to the bow of the yacht and back down to the cockpit. The line prevented the boom moving when we didn’t want it to. We also had a go at performing different manoeuvres when at the helm, such as crash tack, for example.
We made it into Newtown Creek around lunchtime and practised manoeuvring in the tight lanes. When we arrived, the water was as calm as I had ever seen. It made a beautiful sight and I sat with Trent towards the bow, watching other yachts elegantly glide by.
We left Newtown and headed down to Hamble, as I was undergoing a VHF assessment. This isn’t included in the competent crew course, but it was a chance to learn something else.
We had to cross the channel that leads to Southampton and the rare, fine weather meant the area was busy with cruising, racing and motor yachts, speed boats, jet skis and industrial vessels. I was at the helm at this point, and we glided through the wakes of the passing motor yachts and came into Hamble.
I met LateSail Sales Manager, Russell who was in Hamble for a weekend in the sun with some friends. We did our VHF course together that afternoon and, after he stopped laughing about my patchy sunburn, we completed and passed our assessments with flying colours.
As part of the Day Skippers course, you have to sail at night and all those on the competent crew course had the pleasure of doing so as well. After food that evening, we set sail out to sea as the sun set. Although the wind wasn’t really present, the night sail was still very enjoyable because of the peace and quiet. Well, we all enjoyed the peace up until the wind pretty much vanished and then we had to rely on the not so peaceful engine.
I had not seen the sea at night before and was amazed at the variety and amount of light. It was like staring at a fairground on the horizon, only 360 degrees around you. We had to look out for the southern cardinal, which (and correct me if I’m wrong) was represented by six individual flashes followed by a long flash. My eagle eyes spotted it instantly, and then my short attention span lost it again, but we eventually navigated our way towards Portsmouth and moored up in Haslar marina. You’re probably wondering what the showers in Haslar are like. Well, they’re great, like a private mini bathroom.
Day 4 The dance of the rag doll
After a bit of a dodgy night of sleep due to the passing ferries, we arose early on a slightly foggy morning. We spent a few hours around the marina and planned to practice how to pick up a buoy. On the way to the mooring buoys, we saw two, rather significant vessels. The first was HMS Victory, a delightful sight, and one I had not had the pleasure of seeing before. This was followed by the brand new HMS Elizabeth. My goodness, this thing was massive.
The day’s route was from Haslar back to Cowes and the weather had started to take a turn at this point. We went through a few more manoeuvres and tasks that we had previously learnt and you could see that we were becoming a lot more competent and cohesive as a crew. I saw a hovercraft for the first time, operating between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. And later in the day I saw a cruise ship for the first time too, which was pretty cool – they’re not small either. As you can tell, I haven’t seen much and on this trip was also the first time I had instant coffee.
Just before entering Cowes, the weather decided, as it always does in the UK, to do a full 180. The rain started to pour down and the wind picked up. Out to our right was a yacht race and the boats had put up or were putting up spinnakers just before the weather turned. I went down below deck to put extra layers on so didn’t see exactly what happened, but after being flung about in the saloon I made sure to ask. One of the yachts had made a bit of a mess putting up their spinnaker and started to head straight towards us. Being the stand-on vessel, we held our ground. After realizing that this other yacht was in trouble, we took some rather evasive manoeuvres and this is why I was chucked about like a rag doll below deck.
We ended up anchoring up to wait out the rain and, as it settled, we went back out to put the head sail up and take advantage of the stronger winds. In the rush to get the sail down, we hadn’t packed away the reefs very well. As the main sail reached half way up the mast, the mother of all knots presented itself. Eventually, Mac solved this ultimate puzzle and we set off. Of course, as we turned around towards Cowes, the wind disappeared again and we goose winged at around 3-4 knots. Typical!
We found ourselves at the foot of a thunderstorm and within an hour forks of lighting filled the sky and rain came down once more. I had the delight of experiencing this in the pub, beer in hand and a steak on my plate. I later found that Russell, who we met in Hamble, was using his newly acquired VHF license to contact the marina while out in the storm. So much for a weekend of sun.
Day 5 The big goodbye
It was the final day of the course, and now the storm had passed, the weather returned to being delightful. That morning, I enjoyed my brew on the bow of the yacht, taking everything in.
By this point, we had covered pretty much everything in the course and the day was spent with one big recap as we slowly made our way back to Hamble. We covered the preventer lines, direction of travel, tacking, gybing, man overboard and much more.
The mood of the yacht was almost bitter sweet. Everyone had and was still having a blast, but it was almost time to finish and return to reality. And though I was looking forward to my own bed, I, too, was sad to finish everything.
One last thing we had to do was allow the skippers to experience getting fuel for the yacht and we did this back in Hamble. We sat in line for the fueling station and pulled alongside a Lagoon 62, which was more than impressive. After the yacht was refuelled, we moored up for the last time, cleaned up and packed away our gear.
We all exchanged numbers and I’m sure we will be in contact again. That’s one thing you can be certain of when attending this course, you do meet some great people and you are forced by the environment to get to know each other.
My training experience was a great one and I would definitely do it again. I developed new skills, learned a lot, picked up some great stories and met some fantastic people. I am sending a massive thank you to Mac and everyone at Sailing Logic for hosting a great competent crew course. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone considering going. Just bring sun cream, and be wary of the showers in Port Hamble.
If you want to see what I got up to, I took over our Instagram account for the time I was onboard, just search for @latesailcharters on Instagram.