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Getting my Yachtmasters (Offshore)

I sailed in here from Falmouth back in 1981 for my RYA Yachtmaster Offshore examination.

I had chartered a little 27 footer from a gentleman in Falmouth who came along for the ride to do his Yachtmaster Coastal exam. I had engaged an RYA instructor for a week in Falmouth, before the exam, to grill me on the questions that might be asked. I don't think I could have done it without Clive's intense tutoring. Clive organized the charter of the boat and sailed with us to Plymouth.

It was blowing a full force 8 gale on the morning that we picked up the examiner from the Millbay docks, and we set off, with the full (pretend) intention of sailing across the channel to L'Aber Wrac'h in France.

As part of the exam, we had constructed our own weather charts complete with pressure gradients from the early morning radio forecast  which we had recorded on a small tape recorder and then painfully transcribed the pressure readings to a chart and then joined like pressure points together to form a somewhat squiggly looking weather map.

So we set off, as instructed by the examiner, in gale force conditions, supposedly to cross the channel to L'Aber Wrac'h in France, and it wasn't until we had beaten our brains out  and almost made the breakwater in Plymouth bay that the examiner turned to me and asked if I would really go across the channel on a day like today. I replied that I would only do so if I had no other choice.

When asked what I would do instead, I said I would probably go and pick up a mooring off Mashford's yard and wait for the weather to improve. We had sailed by Mashfords that morning and had seen that there were moorings available and that it was well protected in that weather. I was relieved when he said, "Let's do that then".

When we arrived at Mashford's I asked if I should pick up the mooring under sail and he replied, "Whatever you want. You're the captain". So I did it under sail anyway, just to show that I could.

Once secured to the mooring, he sent the other fellow down below to do some sort of tidal calculation thing, and he and I sat in the cockpit and he quizzed me for about an hour on all sorts of obscure boating topics, such as:  the properties of synthetic fibre ropes ( what stretches, floats and wears, etc. ), and what to do in emergencies, such as losing a rudder (take the head door and strap it to the spinnaker pole) , or what to do when you discover the boat full of propane gas on the mooring and there is no wind (have someone tow you around the anchorage with the hatches open) and so on and so on.

Then we changed places and I went below to do the tidal stuff, calculating the height of tide over the sandbar and a bunch of other navigation dead reckoning, while the examiner grilled the owner of the boat for his "Coastal" exam. 

I have always placed significant value on my Yachtmasters certificate, because of what happened next. The examiner failed the owner of the boat for his Coastal certificate, because he had used the twelfths rule instead of tables for his tidal calculations. He said that tides were the basis of navigation in UK waters and he could not pass him. The owner of the boat was an experienced sailor, too. 

I remember the examiner telling me that he had no hesitation in recommending me for my Yachtmasters Certificate (I had logged about 50 000 ocean miles under the keel and 4 ocean crossings at that time).

We then sailed back and dropped him off at Millbay docks and headed back to Falmouth. The wind was so strong in the camber that we had to short tack with the engine running full speed, to get us out to open water.

Howard [ Just Imagine ] 05-Sep-1981

Mashfords yard (Mooring)