Before leaving, Mum asked if I was excited about my courses and the truth is I wasn’t. I need to sit them before being allowed to work on a super yacht and I viewed them as something that needed to be done. I was looking forward to getting out of Maidstone and seeing somewhere new but I certainly wasn’t excited. The trouble is since getting back from New Zealand I haven’t had any commitments or things I’ve needed to do so I’ve gotten complacent and a bit lazy.
I caught the train to Southampton and then a Ferry to Cowes. I was nearing the end of my current book The Game and was engrossed in that so the train journey passed fairly quickly and before I knew it, I was on the ferry heading for Cowes. Before boarding the ferry I thought to myself that I should have a look around and I take in the sights as I’ve never been to the Isle of Wight before. Unfortunately the view from the ferry wasn’t great as the weather was overcast and as is it was approaching early evening time the backdrop looked grey and moody so I gave in.
The first person I saw on the Isle of Wight was Ben, who I’d met when working for Explore NZ. He worked on the America’s Cup boats and as soon as I saw him, I remembered him saying he was heading to the UK to spend the summer sailing. I couldn’t believe I’d bumped into him and thought to myself what a small world. We swapped numbers and said we’d meet one evening for a beer, unfortunately that didn’t happen. He txt me that evening but as I was starting the course tomorrow I wanted to be on form and when I txt him on Friday night he was in London, visiting a friend.
|The cottages (from the brown door to the water's edge). |
They look much better in the photo.
No one was about so I decided to have a little look around and walked along the sea front to the esplanade. I was shocked at how many pubs I passed on my way. Cowes is a pretty small place, I only walked for about 10 minutes but saw at least as many pubs. During my walk I got a call from my parents and Granny. It’s the first time I’ve been away since my accident and returning home so anticipated a few calls. After them both calling at least three or four times during my trip (8 days) I smiled to myself and thought do they realise I’m a 27 year old man? At least my trip to Cowes let them get used to me being away again because they aren’t going to be able to call every day when I’m at sea!
The course didn’t start until 10am so was nice and relaxed. We all meet in the outside court yard then went up to the class room. There were about 12 people taking the course. 5 of them had been in Cowes for 6 weeks sitting other certificates; there was a group of ex army guys that were going into marine security to combat the threat of pirates on container ships and one other fella who wanted to pick up some yachting work before joining the Navy. I really didn’t understand why the guy who was joining the Navy was paying for these certificates as the Navy finance you to do more in depth training than we were doing, still, each to their own.
As soon as the exam paper was handed out my mind went blank and I thought here we go. I tried to relax and flicked through the questions until I saw one that I definitely knew the answer to and started from there. In the end it all came back to me and I found the exam fairly easy and straight forward. After Angus had marked my paper he told me to look at question 5 again, no wonder he has never had anyone fail the exam before.
Elementary First Aid.
This was the first day of the STCW95 course so we had 6 or 7 new faces join the group. Our group was pretty cool, it was made up of people in their early twenties right up to late thirties possibly even early forties and from all different backgrounds. I no longer felt like the only one struggling to grasp all the sailing terminology so was much happier.
|The class room.|
The course was more in depth than I imagined, covered a lot of topics and I found it really interesting. This time we were given a course book to take away that covered all the topics. I felt much happier that we had the book as it meant I could pay more attention to the lecture and read up on the subject on my own time. I was determined to pay attention and get as much out of this course as I could as I think having a decent knowledge of first aid is a good life skill to have.
At the end of the class we had another exam, this time he didn’t tell us if we had answered questions incorrectly but did allow us to use the course book to answer the questions.
I was really looking forward to this part of the course as it was practical and sounded good fun. The course was taken by Richie and Richie, both ex Navy and now working as fire fighters.
For the first half of the day we were in the class room covering theory. After lunch we were taken to the local swimming baths and had to prove that we could swim two laps of the pool in overalls. I decided to dive into to the pool and instantly didn’t feel right. I felt disorientated and had a slight head ache but didn’t think anything of it and started swimming. As I was turning round for my second lap I twigged that the reason I wasn’t feeling too good was the impact of the water on my head. This brought back the reality that I’m still healing and need to slow down a little and be more cautious.
|A life raft. The inside is blue to boost morale.|
We then got two life rafts out, had to get on board without any help (which is trickier that it sounds), learnt how to flip it over if it’s blown on its side and piled in and had a little chat about sea survival. To finish the day we paired off into two groups, entered the water in our life jackets, swam two lengths in a line connected together and then enter the rafts. Richie and Richie whispered to people to act as if they were unconscious at different points to see how the group would react and if the casualties were rescued.
I didn’t enjoy the day as much as what I thought I would. Ever since my accident I’ve felt the cold considerably more and was uncomfortably cold in the pool, which ruined the day for me. I was also a little concerned about my head after the dive and I didn’t feel comfortable in the raft with everyone piling in and swinging their arms and legs everywhere, as I was worried I’d get a whack to the head.
Personal Safety and Social Responsibility.
This part of the course was supposed to be the worst because it was so boring, but I actually enjoyed the class and found it interesting. I learnt a lot and it made me realise that you need to have your wits about you. I was always a little naïve when thinking about working on a super yacht and only thought about the travel and life in the sun. This class made me realise that going to sea can be dangerous and made me aware of what can happen.
Fire Prevention & Fire Fighting.
The fire fighting part of the course is covered over two days. We started the first day in the class room and learnt about different types of fire and how to tackle them. The theory side only lasted a few hours and then we jumped on the bus and drove to the fire station.
We got kitted up then had a go using fire extinguishers. When putting out a fire you don’t aim the extinguisher right at the fire, you’re supposed direct the hose at a backboard or shoot up into the air so that fluid splashes or drops onto the fire. We were also shown what happens when you use water to try and extinguish a fire caused by burning liquids, the result was frightening.
We then broke into two groups, my group was shown how to set up the breathing apparatus (BA) and put it on. I was surprised that fire fighters rely on verbal communication and don’t know hand signals for back up. I suppose that when you’re fighting a fire it’s dark and smoky so you won’t be able to see hand signals. Before going home we were shown around hot house where tomorrow we would be fighting a real fire.
The next day my group was shown how to set the hose up, do the fireman shuffle, how to move around a burning building and open doors. Everyone’s coordination when doing the fireman’s shuffle was awful. You have to put your weight on your back foot while stamping your front foot on the ground to make sure it will take your weight then shuffle forward and repeat. While doing this you have to move your arm from the top of your head to the front of your face in a circular motion, with the back of your hand facing out to protect you from falling debris.
|The Hot House.|
Before leaving the hot house we had to work our way back up the stairs coiling the hose back at the top ready for the next group. Someone accidentally kicked the branch on and water started spraying out. I found this funny as we couldn’t see anything and didn’t know where the branch was. Richie wasn’t so amused as the more water that was sprayed in the hot room the hotter it would get through out the day.
Power Boat Level II.
As the STWC95 course finished yesterday most people had gone home and only Dave and I was left. We were joined on the course by another guy who had previously done the course and wanted to do it again as a refresher. We started off in the class room to cover a little bit of theory then we changed into wet weather gear and headed out to the rib. The rib was much bigger than I expected, had four seats, enough room to fit 6 people comfortably in behind the seats and two outboard motors. The weather was miserable and I had to squint so I could see where I was going through the rain. Even though it was cold and wet I loved driving around on the rib and it reminded me how much I enjoy being on the water and how badly I want to work on a super yacht.
|Resisting the urge to go for a joy ride.|
The navigation side of things was pretty easy and I now know how to follow the bouys to where I need to get to. We also got to practice the using the radio as we had to ask the harbour master for permission to cross the channel and to berth temporally in Portsmouth Harbour.
On the way home I drove the whole way, and had to restrict my self from doing 360’s and generally messing around. I had to be a good boy with the teacher sitting behind me and it took all my will power as the boat can turn on a six pence and has some serious power so is just asking to be taken for a joy ride.
I really enjoyed my time in Cowes and the courses, more importantly I’ve got my drive back to get on a super yacht. I learnt a lot and I can see why you need to have the certificate before being allowed to work at sea. I definitely feel more competent, aware of the risks and confident. All I need now is a job.
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