23 January 2015

Living on a Boat and Learning to Sail

Caribbean Report - Part III
Back on land after a week learning to sail on board a 39 Lagoon catamaran. 
Even taking our exams on board. Four or five of them. Ouch. 

The difference between “lee helm” and “weather helm”, and what to do about it? Easy! Magnetic deviation on the compass, do we add or subtract to get our true course? Simple!
We had practical stuff, too, like - the mainsail wouldn’t come down. Now what? Climb up and yank it down? The generator has no coolant water. Doesn’t that mean it’s going to burn out? What to do? Turn it off! Some beeping “low voltage” alarm on the instrument board goes off in the middle of every night. How to stop it? Was that excessive water in the bilge? Were we going to sink? Why was there so much smoke on the dinghy outboard? It’s raining on me and the hatch leaks! My cabin is soaked! Why won’t the anchor come up? It’s stuck! We’re drifting towards that big boat and I can’t release the anchor! Somehow, it all worked out.

We plotted courses, did navigation, read charts, learned the parts of a diesel engine, dinghy maintenance, marine batteries, cooling systems, VHF radio use, reefing sails, docking. Passed all tests with flying colors.

We now have little stickers in our logbooks for 3 more courses: Coastal Cruising, Bareboat Charter, and Catamaran Cruising. Next: International Yacht Charter and Passage Making. But not yet.

There were only four of us, on a large and comfortable catamaran. Do I dare mention that our instructor put down a respectable amount of rum during the week?

Stan brings down the mainsail.
These charter boats are pretty incredible: Multiple bathrooms (ok, heads), all manner of appliances, and gear: Microwave, blender, toaster, oven, TV, air conditioning - it was like a huge RV on water.
But this comfort comes at a cost: the motor, or the generator, needs to run for several hours a day! To me, this defeats the point of sailing.

But catamarans are large, wide, and comfortable. 
They donheel, or lean over as much, and theres plenty of room for everyone. 
And it's hard to get lost in the British Virgin Islands.

Tomorrow, Stan and I get our “own” boat and take it out. No instructor to ask questions, it’ll all be up to us. Trish & Stan alone.